Restrictions For The Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert National Monument - ArizonaThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released for public comment a plan that will determine what lands within the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM) will be closed to target shooting.

Sonoran Desert National Monument is located south of Goodyear and Buckeye and east of Gila Bend, Arizona. Created by Presidential proclamation on January 17, 2001, by President Bill Clinton, the 496,400 acres monument is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System. The BLM already manages the land, however under monument status, the level of protection and preservation of resources is enhanced.  Sonoran Desert National Monument protects but a small portion of the Sonoran Desert, which is 120,000 square miles, and extends well into California and the country of Mexico. The North Maricopa Mountains, South Maricopa Mountains and the Table Top Wildernesses protect the richest regions of desert habitat from any future development.

Sonoran Desert National Monument - BordersSonoran Desert National Monument is open to target shooting, with the exception of 10,599 acres temporarily closed by a court order in a lawsuit filed against an earlier BLM plan that would have kept the entire SDNM open to shooting.  The lands closed are on the north side of the Sonoran Desert National Monument along the El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline right-of-way that parallels BLM Road 8000. It also extends along both sides of BLM Road 8001, adjacent to the wilderness boundary, before terminating at BLM Road 8006.  The court order also requires the BLM to complete the management plan by September 2017.

What is Unique About The Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert National Monument - Diversity of plants and animals.The Sonoran Desert National Monument is unique among monuments in that it’s establishing Proclamation specifically mentioned the impacts of livestock grazing on Monument "objects." The Proclamation mandated the closure of all grazing allotments south of Interstate 8 at the expiration of their permits.  The BLM was charged with determining compatibility of livestock grazing and resource protection for the grazing allotments north of the Interstate, which it has thus far not completed.  

The Sonoran Desert is thought to have the greatest species diversity of any desert in North America, and that diversity occurs over relatively fine spatial scales. The Sonoran Desert is home to at least 60 species of mammals, more than 350 bird species, 20 amphibians, some 100 reptiles, and about 30 species of native fish. More than 2,000 species of plants have been identified in the Sonoran Desert, and each of the three physiological groupings of vascular plants dominates one or more major biotic communities.

Why Are We Restricted On The Sonoran Desert Monument

We ask the question, “What is the federal definition of temporary?” as the closure will soon have its 10th year anniversary.
The team at SRT has reviewed the law suit, the allegations and statements from the Department Of Interior that WAS NOT in favor of any recreating shooting restriction to begin with, and we now find BLM has once again failed in their NEPA and EIS filing that lacks an effective management and enforcement plan of the their very own.

Once again the force of the envirolitigants is dictating to the American public what it can or cannot do and where we are free to roam.  The restrictions imposed by the United States Forest Service are commonly known as “Travel Management Plans” and referred to as “Travel Restrictions” by the outdoor community.  Management by restriction is the only method available due to limited or no federal funding for enforcement of violators.

Those violations are committed by irresponsible OHV riders and recreational shooters that violate the law and trash the landscape.   They leave the miles of established primitive roads blatantly destroying vegetation, littering the landscape with bullet casings and leaving remnants of targets.  The problem does exist. The common denominator also exists that federal agencies don’t have funding to manage or control the problems we face and the result is “Management By Restriction”.