Sun, Jan

Kill monument idea now to prevent disaster


On Jan. 4, we received word that the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Permanent Protection of the National Forest in the Sedona Verde Valley Red Rock Area — yes, the SCCPPNFSVVRRA’s group’s name is 20 words long — “submitted their [sic] proposal for designation” of the Sedona Verde Valley Red Rock National Monument to office of the president.

“Their” is the operative word because it is not supported by an overwhelming majority of residents. The proposal  was rejected in a 6-1 vote by the Sedona City Council and no other elected body in the Verde Valley would even discuss it.

There were so many errors, problems, misstatements and flaws with the proposal and the organizing effort back in 2015 that I had to write three sequential editorials listing them all, and that was after shortening the list. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Monument status will increase tourism, yet is designed to protect the area from the impact of tourism. It can’t do both. There is no additional funding source. More tourists, same money.
  • Proponents chief argument is a rhetorical fallacy of logic known as the politician’s syllogism. “We must do something / this is something / therefore, do this.” By the same logic, if you have a hangnail, cut off your hand.
  • Monument status will not protect American Indian sites. A name change does not stop vandalism and without additional funding, no working archaeologists have supported it.
  • Proponent’s say Amendment 12 to the Coconino National Forest Management Plan isn’t working, yet haven’t listed a single reason proving so. In fact, they used the amendment to draft the monument. If it works well enough to copy it, why change it?
  • Amendment 12 by design can be amended — hence “amendment” — but no such avenues will be available with a national monument. Organizers want to throw out a tried and well-tested framework in favor of a dangerous proposal threatening property rights, water rights and one that offers no funding nor specifies the forest sites that are apparently under threat.
  • Another layer of government gives locals less say in how we use our lands. It’s easier to work on land problems with forest rangers in the VOC, or their supervisors in Flagstaff and Albuquerque, than to negotiate with 435 members of Congress, especially one expected to be the most divisive in American history. Do we really want a new trail hinging on the whims of a congressman from backwater Florida who has never been west of Tallahassee?
  • Tour companies employ hundreds of Verde Valley residents who cannot afford to be out of work due to theatrics in Congress.
  • National monuments close during a government shutdown, most recently for three weeks in 2013, right during the peak of tourist season, killing business.
  • Other than Media Relations person Peggy Chaikin who emailed the press release, the group has never provided names of its chief organizers, board of directors nor committees, so we have no idea what secret cabal is pushing this proposal or what their ulterior motives are. The only contact is a website form and an anonymous post office box.
  • The protection of property rights and water rights is a single sentence — wholly inadequate. Federal officials could shut down private wells far beyond its boundaries if they affect the monument’s water table.
  • It is narrow-minded for a handful of residents to dictate what should happen to our forests, but it is myopic to not include the concerns of all Verde Valley residents especially in relation to their homes and properties.

The submission was timed to reach President Barack Obama’s desk before he leaves office but it is doubtful his meticulous administration would sign off on a last-minute, poorly-written, widely-opposed proposal with 16 days left in his term. We should all be outraged the organizers are even trying to do this in the 11th hour

The proposal was reduced to 80,000 acres after public outcry, but it’s not clear where. The website “map” doesn’t identify the reduction but states: “This is not a detailed map of the proposed monument. The approximate outer boundary of the monument is shown in red.”

“Approximate?” There’s a word that should never be used within earshot of a government agency, local, federal or otherwise.
Write the president, your local officials and urge them to reject the scheme wholly and in part.

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