TUCSON, Ariz. – After extensive public involvement over several years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Tucson Field Office today released the Record of Decision (ROD) and the Approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Ironwood Forest National Monument. The ROD and RMP provide a balanced, adaptive approach that encourages public use of the land while protecting the area’s irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.
The 128,400-acre Ironwood Forest National Monument is recognized for its dramatic mountain backdrop, the Tucson basin’s last remaining population of desert bighorn sheep, several endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and abundant rock art sites and other archaeological objects of scientific and cultural interest. The National Monument receives more than 24,000 public visits a year.
“The Ironwood Forest National Monument is a biological, cultural, botanical, and geological treasure for Pima County and for our nation,” said BLM Tucson Field Manager Brian Bellew. “The resource management plan represents the BLM’s balanced approach to encourage public use of the land while providing protection to the wonderful natural and cultural assets of the Monument that belong to all Americans.”
The Approved RMP will guide the BLM in its long-term management activities and includes adaptive measures to respond to changing conditions and public demand. The BLM held more than 30 meetings, open houses, and workshops to gather public input into how the Ironwood Forest National Monument should be managed. The agency received about 12,000 comments in response to the draft management plan.
The Approved RMP includes the development of a travel management plan that limits off-highway vehicle use to designated routes on approximately 117,520 acres and closes 10,880 acres to all motorized vehicle use. The route network includes 124 miles of roads and primitive roads to provide motorized access and travel; 118 miles of routes to accommodate administrative use of motorized vehicles and for public non-motorized and mechanized forms of travel, such as hiking, equestrian and bicycle use; and 90 miles of trails to accommodate non-motorized, non-mechanized travel, such as hiking and equestrian use. Seventeen miles of routes damaged by previous use will be closed and restored.
Hunting will continue to be allowed in accordance with Arizona hunting laws and regulations. Based on the analysis of environmental impacts and public safety issues on the Monument, and consistent with the State’s management of adjacent lands, recreational target shooting will be prohibited. Bellew noted the importance of this action for ensuring proper management of the rare and sensitive resources that the Monument was designated to protect.
“We are committed to continuing to work with sportsman groups and other government agencies for recreational target shooting opportunities on other BLM-managed lands in the area,” Bellew said. “The BLM Desert Peaks area, 30 minutes from the Monument and Tucson, is open to recreational target shooting and we will continue to seek to offer opportunities for these activities.”
The Approved RMP for the Ironwood Forest National Monument is required by Presidential Proclamation 7320, which established the Monument in 2000. The Monument is located about 25 miles northwest of Tucson and contains a significant system of cultural and historical sites covering a 5,000-year period.
The ROD and Approved RMP are available at http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/planning/ironwood.html. They are also available on CD. To request a CD, email BLM_AZ_IFNM_RMP@blm.gov or call the Tucson Field Office at (520) 258-7235. A printed copy is also available for review at the Tucson Field Office at 3201 East Universal Way, Tucson, Arizona 85756.
The Proposed RMP and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were released in September 2011. Federal law establishes a protest period after the release of an EIS and eight protests were registered. Over the past year, those protests have been evaluated. All were ultimately denied or dismissed.
People or groups adversely affected by specific travel route designations in the Approved RMP may still file an appeal by March 27, 2013. Information on the appeal process is available in the ROD or by calling the Tucson Field Office at (520) 258-7235.