Last Friday WWP won a reversal of a previous court decision that would have held that Presidents have the authority to designate – but not direct management of – national monuments.
Preservation and the President: A Positive Development in the Sonoran Desert – Ti Hays, PreservationNation
Last Friday, in a positive development, a federal district court in Arizona reversed a previous decision that held that President Clinton had exceeded his authority by including management directives in the proclamation for the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
The case began when an environmental group — the Western Watersheds Project — filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had taken too long to prepare a resource management plan and grazing suitability analysis for the Sonoran Desert. President Clinton created the 486,149-acre monument in 2001 through a proclamation authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
WWP sought to enforce very explicit conservation directives that then President Clinton had included in designating the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The judge’s previous interpretation of law could have rendered many national monument designations largely impotent from a conservation perspective. Fortunately, the judge thought twice and reversed that decision.
BLM has maintained livestock grazing on the Sonoran Desert National Monument even after designation. Public land ranching is ecologically & economically irresponsible on this desert landscape and is resulting in excessive abuse to to the wildlife and native species character of the monument that President Clinton explicitly sought to preserve with his designation and directives.
More specificially, when the Sonoran Desert National Monument (photos) was established by President Clinton in 2001, the Proclamation specifically identified the rich biodiversity of the Sand Tank Mountains, and attributed this richness to the long-term absence of livestock grazing. The Proclamation also stated that this management should be extended to the other areas of the Monument “to the fullest extent possible.”
Our public lands and this fragile National Monument are worth more than cheap forage for feedlot operators. Our public lands- and the imperiled species such desert bighorn sheep, Sonoran pronghorn, Sonoran desert tortoise, and many other birds, reptiles, and plants that rely upon these places as habitat – deserve more than denuded moonscapes.