Thursday night the Bureau of Land Management held public comment on the plan for southern Arizona's only free-flowing river, the San Pedro.
In a buzzing room, the BLM invited critique of any angle it may have missed when analyzing four alternative plans for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
"The current management plan is 25-30 years old and really doesn't have clear objectives. So the public doesn't really know what we are managing for. So the outcome of the RMP will be very clear, scientifically-based objectives on how we are going to manage the resources in the future," said Scott Feldhausen, the BLM Gila District Manager.
The plan will also set allocations for the types of recreation allowed in the area and, a big concern from the public, livestock grazing.
"I think that the whole notion of opening the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area to cattle grazing is ludicrous. Cattle have done a tremendous amount of damage," said Randy Serraglio, the Southwest Conservation Advocate for the Center of Biological Diversity.
There was an overwhelming response against the BLM's preferred Alternative C, because of the grazing concerns. Alternative D, without a grazing option, was the popular choice.
"I think its a slap in the face to the people who have worked so hard to heal that damage for the last 30 years, to suggest putting the cows back out there," said Serraglio.
The BLM hopes to come to a conclusion that's best for the land and that's something citizens will support.
"It's been great. There's a lot of passion with the San Pedro. A lot of people really feel strongly about the future of the management, and honestly that's a good thing. From a public land manager standpoint, public land management has been challenging, but when people care about it, it gives everyone something to focus on. We may not always agree about where we're going, but at least we're at the table," said Feldhausen.
The draft evaluates the environmental impacts of each of the alternatives.
- Alternative A
- A continuation of the existing management
- Keeping the existing public access, restorations will stay on a case-by-case basis, and livestock grazing will be allowed in current allotments
- Alternative B
- Increased use all around
- More public access, broadest array of resources for restoration, livestock grazing allowed across the entire area
- Alterative C
- The BLM's preferred option
- Mixed recreational opportunities, livestock grazing only allowed in the uplands
- Alternative D
- No livestock grazing allowed, resource protection and a lighter restoration approach
Copies of the Draft are also available at the Tucson Field Office and Hereford Project Office. Comments may also be submitted by fax to (520) 258-7238.
Public comment will accepted until September 27.