TUSAYAN, Ariz. - The designation of the Grand Canyon Watershed as a national monument can occur either by an executive order from President Barack Obama or by an act of Congress. In a unanimous vote, members of the Tusayan town council officially opposed the creation of the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument April 22.
Mayor of Tusayan Greg Bryan said the decision by the town to oppose the designation was in response to a letter sent by an Arizonan delegate that asked the president to sign an executive order designating it as a national monument.
"We're not initiating it (opposition), we are simply responding," Bryan said. "A congressional delegation sent the letter to the president asking for it - that's where it initiated. If we don't respond then our silence can be taken as concurrence."
Earlier this year Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) signed a letter to Obama requesting an executive order for the creation of the national monument. However, according to Bryan, during a recent stakeholder meeting, Rep. Kirkpatrick said a decision had not yet been made in how or if the designation would occur.
During the meeting Bryan asked for clarification from Kirkpatrick and stated his confusion over Kirkpatrick's initial letter.
"I said, 'Well, Congresswoman, I'm a little confused, you said you haven't made a decision but you signed that letter asking the president to create the national monument. So if you haven't made that decision okay, but the letter has been issued, the invitation - the request has been made and no one talked to us about it,'" Bryan said.
Council members said they oppose the monument because of the many unanswered questions that have been raised by stakeholders and the town of Tusayan.
"Nobody has come in and given us any assurances that grazing won't change, that wildlife habitat won't change, that our ability in the forest won't change in how we can use it - the recreation component," Bryan said.
A meeting hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGF) and attended by Senator John McCain (R) and over 30 stakeholders in the area was held earlier this month where these and other concerns were discussed.
During Bryan's recent trip to Washington D.C. he attended four of five appointments with congressional delegates and spoke briefly with them about the monument.
"There's no question in mind that Senator McCain is opposed to it," Bryan said. "The impression I got was Senator Flake was as well as Congressman Gosar."
During the town council meeting, all attending council members voiced concerns on the impacts the monument could have on the town and the surrounding areas.
"Our action simply says, 'No, Mr. President, we are opposed to your creating this by executive order, we believe there needs to be a great deal of conversation and dialogue and interaction with the stakeholders and the entities that are involved,'" Bryan said.
According to Bryan, if the designation does occur by a congressional order and if there were assurances in the language of the legislation that could guarantee protection for grazing, hunting, recreation and any other concerns, council members might consider not opposing the monument.
"But if it is an executive order, we have no say in it," Bryan said. "The question really is if this is an appropriate use of the Antiquities Act (which gives the president the power to give national monument designations). The Antiquities Act is not intended to be huge parcels of land."
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