On Wednesday the House defeated an amendment by Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva that would have removed a provision sponsored by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar included in the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which prohibits funds from being used to make a presidential declaration of a national monument under the Antiquities Act where there is significant local opposition.
On June 15, 2016, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Gosar-Stewart amendment that blocks the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed and Sedona National Monuments. Additionally, the amendment prohibited the president from designating new national monuments under the Antiquities Act in other counties where there is significant local opposition and was successfully included in the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The amendment passed the full Appropriations Committee 27-22.
“Today, the House sent a clear message to Congressman Grijalva and far-left special interest groups: the American people reject deceptive efforts to lock-up land through unilateral National Monument designations. Local communities deserve to have a voice in this process before President Obama bars them from even more land with the stroke of his pen,” said Gosar in a statement released Wednesday.
“Instead, Congressman Grijalva would rather silence the 71% of Arizonans that oppose his National Monument designation of 1.7 million acres in the Grand Canyon Watershed. Arizonans overwhelmingly reject this misguided land grab because they have witnessed firsthand the harmful consequences that unilateral land designations have on grazing rights, water rights and wildfire prevention.” Gosar concluded, I’m proud to stand with the people of Arizona, as well as a majority of my House colleagues, in defeating government land grabs in counties where there is significant local opposition.”
“This Grand Canyon Watershed proposed monument is more concerning than most proposed monuments in that it would include the Arizona Town of Tusayan enclosing private property and businesses under a federal blanket of regulations. It also ties up water from the Colorado River which has far reaching ramifications. I am grateful that Congressman Gosar is leading the charge in Congress to stop this federal land grab,” said Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen.
Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe stated, “I’m thrilled that Congressman Paul Gosar is fighting back against expanded control of Arizona by the Federal government. Most of Arizona land is under the control of the Feds. Only 17% of our land is private, providing the scarce and greatly needed property taxes that pay for the educations of Arizona children. More National Monuments have been created in Arizona (22) than any other state. Due to the creation of these National Monuments, Arizona has already lost 100,000 acres of State Trust Land, with the possibly of losing 30,000 more acres if the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument is unilaterally created by Obama, without the permission of Arizona citizens. Each lost acre of Trust Land further reduces the much needed money for our kid’s education.”
The Gosar-Stewart amendment language was included in Section 453 of the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. Grijalva amendment #41 attempted to strike this provision. Congressman Gosar led the charge to defeat the Grijalva amendment which included circulating a dear colleague in opposition, speaking against the amendment on the House floor and recruiting opposition from stakeholders.
In Arizona, the Gosar-Stewart language prohibits the designation of any national monument under the Antiquities Act in Coconino, Maricopa, Mohave and Yavapai counties. Designations would still be allowed in these counties if authorized by Congress and signed into law by the president.
Arizona already has 18 national monuments, more than any other state. Only about 18 percent of the land remaining in Arizona is privately held. National monument designations under the Antiquities Act typically have significant consequences that negatively affect grazing rights, water rights, wildfire prevention, and other land management activities. These declarations also result in some of the most restrictive land-use regulations possible and also greatly impact hunting, fishing, Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) and other recreational activities.
In November of 2015, Congressman Gosar introduced H.R. 3946, the Protecting Local Communities from Executive Overreach Act, legislation which updates the 1906 Antiquities Act in order to protect property rights, water rights and jobs from presidential overreach.
Congressman Gosar has also passed another amendment and submitted an appropriation’s rider to prevent further abuse of the Antiquities Act. In February of 2015, Congressman Gosar led his initial effort that was supported by 24 members of Congress to oppose declaration of the Grand Canyon Watershed under the Antiquities Act.
Congressman Raul Grijalva has claimed that the 1.7 million acre proposed Grand Canyon Watershed came from tribes. This proposal was put forth by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Wilderness Society because they specifically want to prevent mining, retire grazing permits, close roads to OHV users, and prevent forest thinning activities.
There is widespread opposition to the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed Monument and the Americans for Responsible Recreational Access issued a press release on a scientific poll that found 71.6% of Arizonans are opposed to the proposed Administrative designation of 1.7 million acres in Northern Arizona as a National Monument.
Gosar argues that this proposed 1.7 million acre “land grab” would undermine the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Program and make Arizona more vulnerable to wildfires. Attorneys have testified that this proposed monument could tie up future surface water use and future groundwater use. The proposed monument also includes 64,000 acres of Arizona State Trust lands and almost 28,000 acres of private land.