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Debate Continues Over Proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

Shane McDermott/Arizona Highways

The most recent group to enter the debate surrounding the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument is the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The proposal is designed to protect nearly 2 million acres of old-growth forest and other land near the national park. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the agency says the plan would involve too much federal regulation.

Game and Fish says the monument would diminish their ability to manage wildlife, and would limit hunting and recreation. They also say it would delay projects, boost costs and expose the agency to increased legal challenges.

“From the department’s perspective we believe there’s sufficient regulatory structure to deliver good conservation for game and non-game species alike. There is not a demonstrated need to add another layer of regulatory burden, which would come with a monument,” says Craig McMullen, the Flagstaff regional supervisor for Game and Fish.

But supporters of the monument say management and access to the area will generally remain as it is now. The goal of such a designation would be to protect old-growth forests surrounding the Grand Canyon.

“The North Kaibab has the largest remnant old-growth ponderosa — Southwestern old-growth ponderosa — left on the planet. Old-growth forests tend to be the most resilient to impacts, but particularly in the context of climate change,” says Kim Crumbo, the conservation director for the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.

He says about 40 percent of old-growth trees in the area are now gone.

President Obama can create national monuments as part of the Antiquities Act. Though he hasn’t addressed the possibility of a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument publically, the president has declared 16 such monuments around the country during his time in office.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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