KSB a private, special interest group, and their President O’Halleran, a former Senator of AZ, is working around the clock, meeting behind closed doors, seeking approval from various incorporated city and town council members to obtain their support. Current KSB meetings have taken place for the purpose of creating a Letter of Intent, which has now transformed into a “Management Recommendations In Support of the Monument Values.” KSB is moving rapidly to submit their plan to the US Department of the Interior in conjunction with the Coconino National Forest for their consideration in implementing it into the final Management plan of these proposed lands which will affect everyone who lives here. KSB has taken on the self-proclaimed role as representatives for the voice of the public, approximately 80,000 people who reside in the entire Sedona-Verde Valley region. Their focus and thrust is to complete this process so that President Obama will sign these lands into a national monument, prior to the time he leaves office, very soon.
It would seem that “no time to waste” is their motto, and no time to answer a lot of important questions on the minds of the property owners and professionals, posed in these public meetings and elsewhere in the Sedona-Verde Valley. Many people, including those in public office, still have unanswered questions and want to be clear before making their decision because they know that there is no going back once these lands have been signed into national monument status.
Property owners in the Sedona-Verde Valley want to know how the designation of national monument will affect the Sedona-Verde Valley private lands which surround the proposed monument. They want to know how the boundaries will affect these private lands and the vital water resources originating on these lands which provide water to the Sedona-Verde Valley and beyond. Folks also want to know how the present designation of national forest will change if these lands become a national monument.
The biggest question from residents has been Water Rights and how the Sedona-Verde Valley water rights, now under the adjudication process for next couple of decades will be affected by national monument status. Even though the Arizona state courts will be the ones who adjudicate the water rights and will be making the determination, there seems to be a larger more important question about how that will change if these lands become a national monument. Some of the primary headwaters originate on these lands to form our surface waters, streams, rivers, creeks and artesian water areas that make the Sedona-Verde Valley such a wonderful place to live.
How are National Monuments Created~
The Antiquities Act, passed in 1906, authorizes the president to single-handedly designate any federal public lands as national monuments.
The Antiquities Act is, as its name suggests, “a 100 year old law in desperate need of reform,” says some of our US Senators. WASHINGTON – U.S. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, Arizona, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Utah, introduced a bill Thursday, S. 1416, aiming to prevent the President from changing the existing water-rights designation, of lands declared to be national monuments, to federal senior rights.
When the President federalizes land by declaring it a national monument, he can both limit public access and change the water rights associated with the land. In short, the President can unilaterally expand the federal-reserved water rights associated with existing federal lands simply by cloaking it as a National Monument.
“It is unimaginable that the president can expand federal reserved water rights simply with the stroke of a pen,” Flake says. “It’s time to veto the presidential water right – and safeguard private property rights – by limiting this kind of unchecked authority.” More HERE.
How will national monument status affect one of the oldest businesses (ranching) in the Sedona-Verde Valley? What will be the affect on the forest and BLM Lands? In talking with one of the oldest families in the Cottonwood area who has ranched here since the early 1900’s, Mr. Andy Groseta states, “if the monument is passed, that will be the end of ranching as we know it and it will potentially cause ranchers to close up shop.” Cattle graze these lands by permit from the Forest and BLM; under The Antiquities Act, that will be prohibited. Grazing is a natural way to manage the forest lands for the control of vegetation which can get out of hand and create forest fires.
The valley is a great place and environment for farming. Cornville, Camp Verde and Rimrock are rich in surface water rights. Farming is ongoing now and planned for the future. Our farming community and special interest groups are already planning on creating a food source right here in the Sedona-Verde Valley and water rights and ranching are a big part of getting that very positive job done. This too may be greatly affected, or no longer an option, if the Federal government declares that the water is theirs under national monument rule and ranching is no longer allowed. Local residents realize we need industries other than tourism to have sustainable and positive growth for the future of the Sedona-Verde Valley.
Roads, Easements, Utility Extensions, 404 Permits needed to access private lands~
In talking with engineers whose business is to create plans and apply for permits for these things, it is stressful to know that the extra layer of government as Monument Lands will make it even more difficult to go through the process to provide utilities, roads and extensions needed to serve private lands.
As they put it, “you will have more environmental studies and NEPA studies than already exists as Monument Lands. It will be another deeper layer of Government Rules that will limit or in some cases stop this process through the years of environmental studies that will keep being requested or denied. “
Private lands bordering National Monuments are looked at, by the BLM and Forest Lands, as areas to limit growth and density.
Agua Fria National Monument in Mayer, AZ is a prime example of this. With over 800 acres of private lands that have been blocked by the Forest Service and the BLM. They have turned down applications for access and utilities to these private lands. Their vision is for no growth or very limited growth on those private lands to not impact their Monument and the Management Plan in place. While the BLM states that they want to acquire these private lands, they have no funds to do so. Meanwhile private property owners cannot sell their land for anything but grazing or ranch land because of the limited access, lack of utilities, no emergency vehicle access, and only narrow dirt private easements over floodway land of the Sycamore Creek. Private Property owners are hurt and the value of their land is diminished by the Monument Plan in place and the Forest Service following out that plan for their intended purpose. These private lands are just 300 feet off of a county maintained recorded road. None the less these obstacles exists.
Protecting of Antiquities and the history of our beautiful Sedona-Verde Valley~
Let’s take a look at this aspect. Certainly we all want to protect our heritage and history of these beautiful forests and wilderness areas we live on and around.
Do we not already have laws that prohibit the taking of antiquities or disturbing Indian Ruins? We most certainly do. The current laws prohibit and protect from such offenses already. It is redundant to add another layer of government regulations and enforcement in this regard. The Verde Valley Archeology Center presently has three grants for site Protection. Read more here.
The limiting of any forest service trade on Monument land~
If our lands become a designated national monument, it would remove the option for trading forest land for private lands. However, let’s take a deeper look. The Forest Service already has a management plan in place. Amendment 12 has been worked on and recently finalized. With Amendment 12 in place they are most likely not going to allow these lands to be traded. Click for Frequently asked questions about Amendment 12.
The Forest Service works in conjunction with the county, cities and towns. Collectively they will only trade properties that are up against private lands that are needed for growth per their management plan. The forest service desires to acquire in-holdings of private land completely surrounding Forest Lands.
In years past a substantial amount of existing private lands in Sedona were created in this manner, by forest service trade. For example, the Miller family was a big part of this positive growth and developed some of the nicest subdivisions in Sedona proper, such as Foothills South and North. The Forest Service acquired lands that were inholdings in exchange for lands against private lands with a good plan in mind prior to the consummation of these transactions.
Let’s take a look at current existing Sedona-Verde Valley Groups with management and positive guided interests to protect, preserve and plan for a wonderful Sedona-Verde Valley
We have the scenic Green Preservation for the Verde River – this is funded by Grants already to go in and make these water ways healthy and there are areas that are put into preservation lands limiting development on these areas all over the Sedona-Verde Valley where it is applicable to do so and property owners have elected to go through this process.
The Sedona-Verde Valley is growing in a positive and exciting way to promote a clean eco-tourism through growing of crops, grapes, embracing art, culture growth and development; providing a centralized trading center, tourist and promoting educational growth.
Having a national monument to bring in additional funding is questionable based on funding history of existing monuments that Obama has put in place. Congress has been blocking funding because of the aforementioned concerns, on monument lands. One thing is certain however, national monuments add another layer of Government and may limit the citizens rights which they have enjoyed for several hundred years on and surrounding these lands.
Are we not already working together to build and preserve a wonderful Sedona-Verde Valley?
Let’s look again and answer that question each and every one of us.
While we continue to protect our lands, both private and federal let’s not, in the process take away more than we are hoping to receive.
Let’s think big and hard about what we are doing and what we want to wind up with. After all, we are the people and we are the government. Do we need an overseer to tell us exactly what to do and when to do it or, can we be united and do it ourselves?
You make the decision. Do not let someone else do it for you! Speak your own mind and heart. Don’t be silent; be united. It’s up to you: the people. We are a group of around 80,000 people and we need to be heard.