Ranking Member Grijalva Introduces Bill Creating Great Bend of the Gila National Monument to Protect Arizona Tribal History

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva today introduced the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument Act to designate a national monument on approximately 85,000 acres of federal land in Southern Arizona.

The area identified by the bill includes a heavy concentration of cultural and historical resources, including many sites considered sacred to local Native American tribes. Archaeological remains, including petroglyphs and rock art, of Hohokam, Patayan, and Mimbres communities run along the Gila River.

While the Bureau of Land Management has designated the area as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) – an administrative designation that provides an important level of protection – designation of a national monument will raise awareness and guarantee that invaluable natural and cultural resources get the permanent protection they deserve. Despite the ACEC designation, the Gila River area faces an alarming amount of vandalism and looting.

“Congress has a serious responsibility to protect sacred places, sensitive natural areas and historical artifacts from vandalism and to increase public awareness of their cultural importance,” Grijalva said. “National monuments are among our country’s best means of offering that protection. I’m proud to offer this bill with the support of tribes and conservation experts, and I look forward to protecting the Gila River area once and for all.”

Ranking Member Grijalva has been working with tribes and other key regional stakeholders to develop a proposal that takes into account the concerns and interests of all groups affected by the designation. The bill creates an advisory council – comprising tribal representatives, commercial users of public lands, resource advocacy organizations, local elected officials, and relevant state agencies – that will advise the Secretary of the Interior on developing the monument management plan.

Grijalva’s bill empowers the council to coordinate regional efforts to eradicate Salt Cedar/Tamarisk trees, an invasive species that threatens local water supplies. It also requires the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate vegetation management efforts within the national monument with the Flood Control District and other neighboring communities.

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