William Thornton will be the guest speaker at the Democratic Club of Quail Creek meeting on Saturday, August 19, 3:00 pm, at the Kino Conference Center. He will discuss President Trump’s executive order to review 22 monuments over 100,000 acres created after 1996 that could result in downsizing or outright elimination of Arizona’s Ironwood Forest National Monument. The public is welcome to attend.
Thornton is a second-generation native Arizonan and life-long desert plant lover. He joined the Friends of Ironwood Forest after participating in several workdays removing invasive buffelgrass from habitat of the endangered Nichols Turks Head cactus in Ironwood Forest National Monument. He is an active member of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society and frequent participant in cactus rescues that have saved nearly 60,000 plants from sites scheduled for development.
Monument land was carefully selected after an exhaustive review of years of on-site studies of natural and cultural resources. Monument declaration was the catalyst that brought together hundreds of volunteers from a multitude of organizations to remove trash, eradicate invasive buffelgrass, restore native vegetation and maintain trails and water catchments for wildlife. “With limited resources available, it’s not likely that the Bureau of Land Management could have accomplished these critical tasks,” he said.
Real progress has been made toward controlling buffelgrass. A seriously degraded site has been cleared and re-planted with native vegetation, greatly reducing the threat to an endangered cactus and providing forage for wildlife. A ban on recreational shooting has encouraged bighorn sheep to return to historic habitat in the Waterman Mountains. The travel management plan leaves many miles of two-track road open to Off Highway Vehicles while protecting fragile desert soils.
“Interior Secretary Zinke is scheduled to report his findings and recommendations to the president by August 20. During the comment period, which closed July 10, more than 2.5 million overwhelmingly positive comments on Arizona monuments alone were received by Regulations.gov. In a letter to Secretary Zinke 14 members of the Congressional Western Conference (including three Arizona Congressmen) recommended total elimination of Ironwood Forest and three other Arizona monuments,” he said.
“The Avra Valley route for I-11 is a less immediate but extremely serious threat not only to Ironwood Forest but to the Tucson Mountain unit of Saguaro National Park and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. If constructed, the highway will pose an insurmountable barrier to wildlife migration between the Tucson and Waterman Mountains,” he added.
Next meeting September 16: Margaret Regan, author of Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire. For more information about the DCQC, visit www.qcdemocrats.org and Our View of the Nation blog.