Sonoran Desert National Monument finalizes resource management plans

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PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arizona announced today the issuance of Records of Decision (RODs) and Approved Resource Management Plans for the Lower Sonoran Field Office and the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which set a framework for the management of 1.4 million acres of public lands located in south central Arizona in parts of Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, Gila and Yuma Counties.

Major decisions include keeping both the Lower Sonoran area (930,200 acres) and Sonoran Desert National Monument (486,400 acres) open to recreational target shooting. The BLM will implement administrative actions and best management practices to promote responsible recreational shooting, minimize adverse impacts, and manage these activities in partnership with stakeholders and partners.

In addition, about 830,000 acres of the Lower Sonoran area and 157,210 acres of the Sonoran Desert National Monument will remain available for livestock grazing.

The plan for the Sonoran Desert National Monument Decision Area is required by Presidential Proclamation 7397, which designated the Monument. The Proclamation allows grazing north of Interstate Highway 8 only to the extent that the BLM determines that grazing is compatible with the protection of the biological, scientific and historic objects of the Monument.

The Proclamation also requires the BLM to prepare a management plan that addresses road closures or travel restrictions necessary to protect monument objects.

Regarding off highway vehicle (OHV) use, the plan makes specific route-by-route designations for every mile of the 615 miles of OHV route in the Sonoran Desert National Monument; about 411 miles are designated open while 204 miles are to be closed, decommissioned and rehabilitated to protect monument objects and other natural resources.

Travel in the Lower Sonoran area will be restricted to existing routes until further travel management planning is completed and specific routes are designated.

Of the 418,173 acres determined to possess wilderness characteristics, 107,800 acres in the Sonoran Desert National Monument and 91,200 acres in the Lower Sonoran area will be managed to protect their wilderness characteristics. BLM will not manage for the protection of wilderness characteristics on the remaining areas due to factors such as the areas’ manageability, quality of wilderness characteristics, and the importance of other resource values and uses.

Management decisions also provide for hunting, wildlife habitat, and sitting utility-scale renewable energy and utility corridors.

On September 14, 2012, BLM Arizona State Director Ray Suazo released the RODs electronically to the public. The documents are available at BLM.gov/AZ

The Draft RMP and Environmental Impact Statement were released on Aug. 26, 2011, for a 90-day public comment period. The Proposed RMP/Final Environmental Impact Statement was released for a 30-day protest period on June 15, 2012.

Nine protests were received, all of which were carefully considered, though ultimately denied or dismissed, clearing the way for the Approved Resource Management Plans. The BLM appreciates the engagement of the public on these important issues throughout the development of the plans, including the 10,000 letters and e-mails received and the public’s participation in meetings.

For more information or to request the plans on Compact Disc, call the BLM at 623-580-5500 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday or send an email to blm_az_ls_sdnm_plan@blm.gov.

Paper copies of the plans will be printed later and will be available in the beginning of November.

To comment on this article and others  visit the Copper Area News Facebook or send us an email at CBNSun@MinerSunBasin.com 

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