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Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar Hosts Grand Canyon Monument Bashing Session

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It’s no secret that Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar thinks the proposed Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument is part of a conspiracy put forth by “radical environmentalists” to “lock up 1.7 million acres of land” and kill local business, but if a three-hour event he hosted this week is any indication, he’s not alone in this belief.

As part of a listening session titled “Government Land Grab: Exposing the Truth,” Gosar invited 20 speakers to discuss the monument proposal, though much of what was said could be summarized as a rant against the Antiquities Act (the law that gives the President the executive authority to protect important lands by declaring them national monuments).

"The Antiquities Act is unconstitutional," said Tyler Carlson, CEO of Mohave Electric Cooperative, “because nowhere in the Constitution does it give the president authority to seize land for the federal government, which is what you could argue this is.” (In point of fact, much of the land potentially slated for monument designation already belongs to the federal government and is managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.)

And while Gosar likes to talk about the radical environmental interest groups supporting the proposal, his list of speakers included a fair share of interest-group representatives, as well: The Arizona Mining Association president, the Coconino County Farm Bureau and Cattle Growers Association president, the Wiita Mining and Exploration president, and many others affiliated with the ranching, farming, and mining industries.

Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives David Gowan and State Representative Brenda Barton – two other leaders in the fight to force the federal government to turn over all federally managed land to the state — also stopped by to testify.While terms like “federal overreach” and “executive abuse” were thrown around, other themes of the day included fear about the effect land restrictions could have on industry and recreation, fear that the proposed monument would destroy the local economy, and comments about how unpopular the monument is among Arizonans.

“Monument designations have a significant economic impact because they entail restrictions, limitations, or outright bans on land use, including commercial development, grazing, timber production, mining, and the use of off-road vehicles,” Glenn Hammer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce stated in a written testimony. 
But for all the talk of how devastating the monument would be, no mention was given to the fact that many of these doomsday scenarios appear unlikely if the monument bill proposed by Gosar’s Congressional colleague, Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, is passed.

In an interview late last year, Grijalva said Gosar’s “opposition is based on myths,” and that he “needs to own up to the fact that he’s on the fringe of every public-land argument we have in this country.”

Grijalva takes issue with Gosar’s claims that the monument isn’t popular, since public opinion polls show that 80 percent of Arizonans support it, and he’s clear to say that his bill contains specific language protecting recreation in the area and most industry uses – the one big exception being a permanent ban on uranium mining.
As for economic impact, an independent research firm found that the monument would bring $51 million to the local economy of northern Arizona every year . Most revenue would be from tourism, but a sizable portion would come from continued land-management operations, grazing, mining, and forestry.

Still, these facts haven’t stopped Gosar from saying the monument is a terrible idea, and they didn’t appear to stop him from saying that the testimony presented at his event makes it “clear that countless Arizonans reject using the Antiquities Act to create a new 1.7 million acre national monument in a watershed,” and that the monument “will kill jobs, prevent mining, retire grazing permits, close roads to OHV users, reduce access for sportsmen, steal water rights, and harm 4FRI.

“I call on the White House to listen to the people of Arizona and reject this misguided land grab put forth by environmental extremists with an agenda,” he added, because “the only way we’re going to block this terrible proposal is by standing shoulder to shoulder and continuing to demonstrate significant opposition.”

Watch Gosar's Full Event, part 1 and part 2:

Want to learn more about the issue? Film Bar in downtown Phoenix is hosting a free film series Thursday, April 14, about the positive aspects of the Grand Canyon Monument proposal. Films include:

  • Martin’s Boat by Peter McBride: A celebration of the life and activism of Martin Litton told through the story of a dory’s maiden voyage down the Colorado River. Film will run approximately 24 minutes.
  • The Land We Defend by Ian Shive: A story of seven military veterans who were strangers before connecting in the wilderness of the Grand Canyon region. Film will run approximately 8 minutes.
  • North Rim Notes by Ed George: A stunning showcase of the landscapes of the greater Grand Canyon and the people who have worked, studied, and lived in the Grand Canyon who support the proposed national monument. Film will run approximately 14 minutes.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and will include a speech by Havasupai Tribal Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi about the politics of uranium mining in the region and efforts to protect the area. 

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