Celebrate 10 years of Ironwood Forest National Monument this Saturday

This Saturday, I’m headed down towards Tucson for what is sure to be a great event. The Friends of Ironwood Forest are hosting a celebration marking the 10-year anniversary of Ironwood Forest National Monument and the National Conservation Lands (also known by its more cumbersome name, the National Landscape Conservation System).

There’s still time to get in on the event—you can even register online.

Ironwood Forest National Monument is one of those places that you may not have been to—or even heard of, for that matter—but which protects important aspects of what makes Arizona great, from the classic Sonoran Desert saguaro forests to rugged desert mountain views to prehistoric ruins and historic artifacts.

So come join us on Saturday. You’ll learn more about makes Ironwood Forest National Monument worthy of protection and you’ll hear about some inspiring work the local Friends of Ironwood Forest are doing.

Here’s the event press release:

Local Volunteers to Mark 10th Anniversary of Ironwood Forest

Congressman Grijalva and Noted Author to Take Part in Celebration

Wednesday, June 2, Tucson, AZ — Friends of Ironwood Forest will host the official 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Ironwood Forest National Monument on Saturday, June 5th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m, with special guests Congressman Raul Grijalva and noted Sonoran Desert author Gary Nabhan.

The Monument is part of the National Landscape Conservation System, a collection of some of the country’s most scenic, historic, natural and cultural sites known as the National Conservation Lands.  Friends of Ironwood Forest, a local volunteer-based, non-profit group, provides critical support to protect and promote the Monument while working to educate the public about its extraordinary natural treasures.

Ironwood Forest, located 25 miles northwest of Tucson in southern Arizona, was created in 2000 to protect the amazing cultural and biological resources found in the area.  The Monument contains more than 129,000 acres of Sonoran Desert habitat and includes the Silver Bell, Sawtooth and Waterman Mountain Ranges.  Named for the unique desert Ironwood tree, the site has an astounding diversity of plant and animal life.

Ironwood Forest NM is an example of the many places within the National Conservation Lands that are home to rare plants and animals and Native American sites.  These lands offer a national connection to the last places where one can experience the history and beauty of the American West.

Ironwood’s 10th anniversary celebration will be held at the Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, 4949 W. Heritage Club Blvd., Marana, AZ 85658.  For more information on Friends of Ironwood Forest and the anniversary event, visit www.ironwoodforest.org.

Restore a native grassland and an historic trail this weekend

There are two great volunteer opportunities this week in National Conservation Lands here in Arizona. If you have some time, please consider getting involved. Check out the Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona to register.

Las Cienegas NCA Road Closure and Restoration Weekend

Feb 19 – Feb 21

Experience a lush desert grassland just an hour southeast of Tucson in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. We will be out there closing and re-habilitating roads identified by the BLM in the Resource Management Plan for closure.

Work will include using hand tools to break up and re-vegetate the road surface. There are a variety of tasks available from light planting work to heavy lifting and shoveling. Sky Island Alliance will provide the training and materials needed to do the field work. You will need to bring everything you need for 2 days/nights of car camping. Everyone is responsible for his or her own meals and you are welcome to use our stove set up and/or grill. Don’t forget the basics such as food, water, rain gear, tent and a sleeping bag. Another option is just come out to help for one day (Saturday). Please send a response email for further information. Schedule: Friday -meet in camp in the pm, somebody from SIA will be there by 5pm Saturday -work all day, campfire at night Sunday -work through the afternoon and then head home by 2 or 3 pm.

Difficulty Rating: Moderate
Minimum Age: None
Age Group: All Ages
Max Group Size: 1
Volunteers Needed: 20
Contact Person: Sarah Williams
sarah@skyislandalliance.org 520-624-7080 x23

Historic Anza Trail Restoration in Sonoran Desert National Monument

Feb 20, 2010

Anza Trail Coalition, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Wilderness Coalition and the Sierra Club are sponsoring this event to have volunteers restore a portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail that was damaged by off-road vehicle use within Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Volunteers will restore areas damaged by off-road vehicle use. The restoration work will include digging, scraping, and raking to breakup compacted soils and obliterate vehicle tracks. The work requires the use of basic hand tools designed for trail maintenance—Pulaski, McCleod, steel-tined rake, and shovel. Work difficulty ranges from easy to challenging. There will be some native plant relocation activities. Volunteers are advised to wear sturdy shoes and dress appropriately for working outdoors. Please bring work gloves and a water bottle or canteen. There will be campsites available for those to choose to camp. A volunteer information sheet and map are available.

Difficulty Rating: Moderately Easy
Minimum Age: None
Age Group: All Ages
Max Group Size: 10
Volunteers Needed: 50
Contact Person: Thomas Hulen
thom@sonorandesertfriends.org (602) 619-9717

A short guide to park passes

When someone hears about my national park quest, they often ask me if I’ve visited a particular place that they have enjoyed. As often as not, the location they mention is not part of the National Park System.

That’s not particularly surprising. There are a wide variety of land management agencies at the national, state, and local level—each of which have different purposes, rules, and fees. Unless you’re really paying attention, it’s easy to get confused.

If you’re inclined to buy an annual park pass—which I hope you’ll consider doing—it’s important to understand what you’re getting. I’m using metro Phoenix as the example here, so your local passes may vary.

So in the interest of clarity, here’s a quick rundown:

Maricopa County Parks

This includes just the 10 or so regional parks in Maricopa County, Arizona. The big question is whether or not you’ll be boating at Lake Pleasant—there’s one annual pass for the lake, and a separate one for the rest of the parks. Other counties or metro areas may or may not have their own park systems and annual passes.

Arizona State Parks

This includes the state parks that are still open. Again, you’ll need to decide if you’ll be doing a lot of boating. The standard pass doesn’t include the river parks on weekends (Friday-Sunday) or holidays, while the premier pass does. All states have a state park system, but their rules for annual passes varies.

Arizona State Trust Lands

This includes state trust lands (which are not considered public lands) and is actually a permit, so be sure to read the fine print as they include some important restrictions. You won’t find any visitor services here. Most Western states have their own systems of state trust lands; their primary purpose is not recreation, so don’t expect park-like amenities or rules.

Federal lands

This includes National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands where you pay an entrance fee. If it has the word “national” in the name of the area, it probably fits under this heading. There’s a single pass called the America the Beautiful: the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass that is supposed to cover entrance fees for all of these.

A very important note here. Some National Forests, including several in Arizona, now exclude some very popular fee areas from being covered by this pass. They call some of these sites with “enhanced amenities” and others are technically operated by a private permittee or concessionaire, but you and I might not notice the difference. Yes, this is total bullshit that’s still a better-than-nothing attempt to deal with the inadequate budgets Congress appropriates for our public lands. These areas also often have their own local Forest pass (Tonto Pass, Red Rock Pass or Grand Red Rock Pass, and the Coronado Pass are Arizona examples) with daily and annual options which vary with each national forest.

You can also get a highly reduced or free pass if you are:

A few additional tips

  • You can usually buy these pass at any staffed entrance station or visitor center.
  • Many places have annual passes for a specific park location.
  • These passes usually admit a carload but don’t cover any additional fees—like camping or tour fees.
  • Areas managed by a concessionaire aren’t covered in the federal pass, even for basic things like parking or entrance fees.

Speaking of park passes, don’t you think we should have an America the Beautiful pass for kids?

A successful birthday for Agua Fria National Monument

Cutting the Agua Fria National Monument’s 10th birthday cake

I’ve previously mentioned last week’s 10-year anniversary celebration of Agua Fria National Monument (and the National Landscape Conservation System), so I thought I should post an update on how it went.

I spoke with the BLM yesterday and the event wildly surpassed our estimates. We had projected about 500 attendees, but were surprised when more than 2,200 showed up.


There was a steady stream all day and the giveaways went quickly. Hell, the event programs were gone well before things really got rolling. BLM stopped counting after 800 vehicles. The Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument and the Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument were both there, along with many other great organizations.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the planning (especially the Friends!), volunteered and performed at the event, and of course, all of you who came out to commemorate the Monument’s birthday. I hope everyone had a blast celebrating one of the state’s coolest places.

Now, check out some of the other celebrations.

Celebrate the Conservation System in Arizona

It’s been nearly 10 years since the creation of the National Landscape Conservation System – America’s newest system of protected lands managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. That’s all a mouthful to say that it’s been a decade (and sometimes two) since some of the most interesting, most wild, and mostly-unknown special places in Arizona were set aside to protect our rich natural and cultural heritage.

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

I have the pleasure of working daily with many local partners, including the Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument, Friends of Ironwood Forest, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, Friends of the San Pedro River, Cienega Watershed Partnership, and others, in helping to make sure these treasured places can be enjoyed by future generations.

These are places worth celebrating, and this milestone marks a great opportunity to do much more to ensure the vision of Conservation System is realized. Please join me in celebrating how far we’ve come and in helping us get to where we need to be.

Here’s the listing of activities from the BLM:

The BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) contains some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes. Arizona manages 5 national monuments, 3 national conservation areas, 2 national historic trails, a portion of 1 national scenic trail, 47 wilderness areas and 2 wilderness study areas. These national treasures were designated by Congress or Presidential Proclamation.
We are excited to be hosting a series of events throughout the year and across the state of Arizona to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the National Landscape Conservation System. Arizona is rich in areas designated as NLCS units; National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas; National Historic and National Scenic Trails. So take a look, choose one, or more, and celebrate with BLM these treasured landscapes. Landscapes to conserve, protect and restore.


January 8, 2010 – 9:00 a.m. – 12:00; 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Presentations

Grand Canyon-Parashant & Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments: A one-day symposium being planned for Friday, January 8, 2010, in St. George, Utah will feature a keynote speaker and managers’ panel to address the history and establishment of the monuments. Other sessions will highlight research and partnerships.

Contact: Scott Sticha, Public Affairs Specialist
Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790
435-688-3303/Cell 435-680-0814/Fax 435-688-3358

January 8, 2010
Black Canyon National Recreation Trail Celebration: The 10th Anniversary Outdoor Fair will be coordinated with the January 8, 2010, Trail/ARRA celebration of the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail event, five miles west of the Agua Fria National Monument.

Contact: Rem Hawes, Manager, Agua Fria National Monument
Hassayampa Field Office, 21605 N 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85027

January 9, 2010 – beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Agua Fria National Monument: The BLM will hold a 10th Anniversary event on January 9, 2010, at the scenic Horseshoe Ranch within the national monument. The Friends of Agua Fria will be assisting in planning, preparing for, and conducting the event. The event will include entertainment, speakers, dispersed lectures, displays and visitor booths, offer activities for adults and children.

Contact: Rem Hawes, Manager, Agua Fria National Monument
Hassayampa Field Office, 21605 N 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85027

March 20, 2010
Ironwood Forest National Monument Public Tours: BLM staff will visit areas of the IFNM to offer information on the various resources in the monument.

Contact: Mark Lambert, Manager, Ironwood Forest National Monument
Tucson Field Office, 12661 E Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85748

March 27, 2010
Ironwood Forest National Monument Work Day: Projects being considered include: shooting site cleanup, road repair, buffelgrass removal, and putting up signs.

Contact: Mark Lambert, Manager, Ironwood Forest National Monument
Tucson Field Office, 12661 E Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85748

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area: 2010 is the 20th anniversary of the NCA’s designation by Congress through the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 as well as the 10th anniversary of the NLCS.
Gila Box Day. A one-day event will be held on a Saturday in March 2010. It will begin with a series of short presentations on natural and cultural history at the SFO conference room. These will cover topics such as archaeology, history, wildlife, native fish, and recreation. Following the talks, the public can then caravan in their own vehicles to the west end of the Gila Box where people can enjoy their own picnic lunches at the Flying W Group Day Use Area. That will be the starting point for a series of walks; participants can chose one that best matches their interest.
Recreation/Cultural Track: A guided 1.5-mile walk on the Cottonwood Trail will include stops at the Kearny Historical Monument, Serna Cabin, and Bonita Creek Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area, ending at the Flying W and Riverview Campground.
Wildlife Track: A guided foray along Bonita Creek will focus on birding, beavers, and other wildlife that might be seen in the riparian area. A stop at the Bonita Creek Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area and a stroll along the riparian corridor will be included.
Fisheries Track: Participants can visit the Bonita Creek Nonnative Fish Barrier and learn about the nine species of native fish (highest number of any Arizona waterway) that inhabit the creek and BLM’s cooperative efforts to protect them. There will be opportunities to view some fish.
Contact: Diane Drobka, Public Affairs Specialist
Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, AZ 85546

May 8, 2010
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area: The 10th Anniversary of the NLCS will be celebrated on SPRNCA at the San Pedro House in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day, May 8, 2010. This celebration will focus in on the diversity of these specially designated areas that the BLM manages. Activities will include presentations, displays, and guided and unguided hikes.

June 5, 2010
Ironwood Forest National Monument Social Event: A catered, evening social event, potentially at the Heritage Clubhouse in Marana. Short presentations will be aligned to talk about the monument and the NLCS.

Contact: Mark Lambert, Manager, Ironwood Forest National Monument
Tucson Field Office, 12661 E Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85748

Evening on the Arizona Strip: A closing event the second week in November 2010 would tie into the annual ASIA-sponsored “Evening on the Arizona Strip”. A keynote speaker would be the primary spotlight. The event will likely reflect a pioneer or historic theme as has been a custom of past “Evening” events.

Contact: Scott Sticha, Public Affairs Specialist
Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790
435-688-3303/Cell 435-680-0814/Fax 435-688-3358
Events Without Confirmed Dates

Brown Bag Lunch Education Programs: The Arizona Strip Interpretive Association will hold regularly scheduled brown bag lunch education programs throughout the year, and several will focus on 10th anniversary themes and topics.

Contact: Scott Sticha, Public Affairs Specialist
Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790
435-688-3303/Cell 435-680-0814/Fax 435-688-3358

Wilderness Photo Contest: The Lake Havasu Field Office is considering aphoto contest highlighting wilderness areas of the field office or possibly of the district is under consideration.

Contact: Paul Fuselier, Wilderness Specialist
Lake Havasu Field Office, 2610 Sweetwater Avenue, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406

National Landscape Conservation System Brown Bag Lunch Seminars in the Safford Field Office: The SFO currently hosts monthly talks throughout the year on a variety of topics related to natural and cultural history. These are open to the public and are well attended. Some have also involved field trips. In 2010, these talks will focus on the National Landscape Conservation System. There are eight NLCS units – six wilderness areas, one wilderness study area, and the Gila Box RNCA – within the SFO boundaries and a multitude of topics that can be featured.

Contact: Diane Drobka, Public Affairs Specialist
Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, AZ 85546

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail:
The Painted Rock Petroglyph Site Campground, about 20 miles northwest of Gila Bend, Arizona, is the site of an anniversary event to be planned to recognize the Anza NHT as part of the NLCS. The event would occur in spring or fall of 2010.

Contacts: Rich Hanson, Manager, Sonoran Desert National Monument
rich_hanson@blm.gov, 623-580-5532
Cheryl Blanchard, Archaeologist, Anza NHT liaison
cheryl_blanchard@blm.gov, 623-580-5676
Lower Sonoran Field Office, 21605 N 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85027

There is an additional celebration being planned for Sonoran Desert National Monument, which is tentatively planned for December 4, 2010. I’ll provide additional details when I receive them.

A permanent National Landscape Conservation System

Less than two hours ago, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, one of the most important conservation bills of the last decade. In addition to establishing three new National Park units, protecting 2 million acres of wilderness and 1,100 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers, the act made an important bureaucratic change – one that may not seem like much on its face, but may indeed play a major role in the future of public lands conservation. It permanently authorized the National Landscape Conservation System, which incorporates more than 26 million acres of the most culturally and ecological important lands managed the Bureau of Land Management. More on the Conservation System in another post. In the meanwhie, you can watch the bill signing below and reading the President’s signing statement.

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Here is the official signing statement:


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 30, 2009


Today I have signed into law H.R. 146, the “Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.” This landmark bill will protect millions of acres of Federal land as wilderness, protect more than 1,000 miles of rivers through the National Wild and Scenic River System, and designate thousands of miles of trails for the National Trails System. It also will authorize the 26 million-acre National Landscape Conservation System within the Department of the Interior.

Among other provisions, H.R. 146 designates three new units in our National Park System, enlarges the boundaries of several existing parks, and designates a number of National Heritage Areas. It creates a new national monument — the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument –- and four new national conservation areas, and establishes the Wyoming Range Withdrawal Area. It establishes a collaborative landscape-scale restoration program with a goal of reducing the risk of wildfire and authorizes programs to study and research the effects of climate change on natural resources and other research-related activities.

Treasured places from coast to coast will benefit from H.R. 146, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan; Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia; Oregon’s Mount Hood; Idaho’s Owyhee Canyons; the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; Zion National Park in Utah; remarkable landscapes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California; and wilderness-quality National Forest lands in Virginia and public lands in New Mexico.

This bipartisan bill has been many years in the making, and is one of the most important pieces of natural resource legislation in decades. This legislation also makes progress for which millions of Americans have long waited on another front. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act is the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis. It creates new coordinated research activities through the National Institutes of Health that will connect the best minds and best practices from the best labs across the country, and focus their efforts through collaborative scientific research into a cure for paralysis, saving effort, money, and, most importantly, time. It will promote enhanced rehabilitation services for paralyzed Americans, helping develop better equipment and technology that allows them to live full and independent lives free from unnecessary barriers. This legislation will work to improve the quality of life for all those who live with paralysis, no matter the cause.

Section 8203 of the Act provides that the Secretary of the Interior shall appoint certain members of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission “based on recommendations from each member of the House of Representatives, the district of which encompasses the Corridor.” Because it would be an impermissible restriction on the appointment power to condition the Secretary’s appointments on the recommendations of members of the House, I will construe these provisions to require the Secretary to consider such congressional recommendations, but not to be bound by them in making appointments to the Commission.



March 30, 2009.

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It’s taken the tremendous and relentless effort of many to pass the NLCS permanence legislation, and far more to pass the Omnibus Public Lands bill. Please join me in thanking everyone who helped make that possible, and in celebrating this momentous occasion.