Tucson, Ariz. (June 8, 2020)—On Friday, June 5, Archaeology Southwest submitted formal comments to the Lower Sonoran Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the agency’s draft resource management plan to open more than 255,000 acres in the north unit of the Sonoran Desert Monument (SDNM) to livestock grazing. The comments were prepared by William H. Doelle, President and CEO; John R. Welch, Landscape and Site Preservation Program Director; and Aaron Wright, Preservation Archaeologist.
Read our comments in full here (opens as a PDF).
In addition to detrimental effects on the natural Sonoran Desert landscape protected by the monument, livestock grazing would have significant adverse effects on the cultural landscapes protected by the monument. Those landscapes are among the ancestral lands of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, and Tohono O’odham Nation; other Tribes have ties to them, as well.
Grazing is contraindicated not only by studies Archaeology Southwest has done for the Lower Sonoran Field Office in recent years, but also studies undertaken by other researchers in similar dryland settings. Moreover, the proposal makes claims that are not supported by reported field research, and it fails to address other published findings.
Finally, there are a number of administrative and procedural missteps, not least of which are failures to adequately comply with provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Most fundamentally, BLM has failed to establish any management need or foreseeable public benefit from allowing grazing on the monument. The impacts to SDNM in general, and cultural resources in particular, although overlooked and discounted by BLM, are many, varied, incompletely analyzed, and almost certainly significant,” said Welch. “This one is a ‘do-over.'”
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at archaeologysouthwest.org.
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The comments are available in their entirety here (opens as a PDF).
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