US rejects proposal to expand national monument

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm •  Published: February 5, 2014
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials are saying "no" to a proposed expansion of Walnut Canyon National Monument outside Flagstaff.

The decisions by the National Park Service and the Forest Service to forgo expanding the 3,600-acre monument or placing a protected status on the 47-square-mile expansion area have left expansion supporters hoping for congressional action, the Arizona Daily Sun (http://bit.ly/1fQER2W ) reported.

Federal officials concluded that cultural resources in the proposed expansion area don't meet federal requirements for natural significance.

Results of a federal study were presented to Flagstaff and Coconino County officials on Monday.

The area studied touches residential areas and includes several mesas as well as archaeological sites and popular areas for rock climbing and other outdoor activities.

Most of the expansion area is national forest, but some is state trust land and private property.

Designating the Walnut Canyon Study Area as a National Conservation Area would preserve all current activities but protect it from land swaps.

"Now is the time to protect this entire 30,000-acre parcel," said Alicyn Gitlin of the Sierra Club. She added that the threat of development has become greater as 4,500 homes are being proposed on the study-area boundary.

Tom Mackin of the Arizona Wildlife Federation said he would support a designation as a national conservation area if it allowed all current uses and stopped development, but he did not believe an expanded national monument was warranted.

The current monument, located in pine country east of Flagstaff, includes a trail for viewing cliff homes inside Walnut Canyon.