Ranking Member Grijalva Introduces Suite of Bills to Protect Southern Arizona Historic, Environmental Sites

Washington, D.C. – Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva today introduced a set of bills designed to promote Arizona public land conservation, including 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 monument will be managed as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands.

The area identified by the bill is filled with cultural and historical resources, including many sites considered sacred to area Native American tribes. Important archaeological remains, including petroglyphs and rock art of Hohokam, Patayan and Mimbres origin, run along the Gila River.

“The Trump administration won’t protect our public lands, so it’s time for legislative solutions that conserve Arizona’s special places,” Grijalva said. “Areas like the Great Bend of the Gila are why the Antiquities Act and our national monuments system were designed in the first place. Thousands of years of history and important species habitats are waiting for us to step up and give these areas the protection they deserve.”

While the Bureau of Land Management designated the Great Bend of the Gila as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), an administrative designation that provides an important level of protection, full national monument status will enhance visibility, increase public awareness and reduce the site’s currently alarming rate of vandalism and looting.

Grijalva today also introduced the Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act, the Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act, and the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Act.

The Sonoran Desert Heritage Act preserves the ecology, cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities in the Sonoran Desert west of Phoenix. The bill designates two National Conservation Areas, designates new wilderness, and creates two Special Management Areas to promote wildlife connectivity.

The Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act executes a mineral withdrawal for all Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona. The withdrawal will protect the area’s groundwater and rich biodiversity from pollutants associated with future mining speculation.

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act is a locally driven effort to promote the preservation of the Santa Cruz Valley. The Santa Cruz River Valley encompasses a multitude of cultures, languages, and borderland histories that includes Native peoples, whose heritage reaches back more than 12,000 years, and the descendants of Spanish, Mexican and American Territorial settlers, who shaped the land and traditions from the 1690s to the present day. The cultural diversity, folk arts, architecture, and traditional land uses make this area a unique and distinctive landscape in the United States.

Statements of Support for Great Bend of the Gila National Monument Act

“We join our tribal partners and the National Trust in extending our thanks to Representative Grijalva for his continued commitment to the Great Bend of the Gila, his attention to the American Indian tribes whose ancestors created its cultural landscapes, and his vision in sponsoring this legislation.

“The Great Bend is rich with ancient and historical rock art, ancient trails, and villages that date back more than a millennium. Archaeologically, we see mixing of the Hohokam and Patayan cultural traditions. There are also important historic resources, such as the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and the Butterfield Stage route. These lands preserve real human stories and indigenous memories spanning thousands of years.

“This is a globally significant landscape—invaluable and fragile. National monument status brings recognition and protection, and it encourages respectful visitation. Even if this Congress does not prove ready to take this positive step, Representative Grijalva’s reintroduction of this legislation reflects the mutual and long-term commitment to protect this landscape on the part of the tribes whose heritage is embedded in this landscape, the Congressman, and other supporters.”

  • Bill Doelle, president and CEO of Archaeology Southwest

“The Gila River Indian Community highly supports legislation for creation of the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. The legislation will enhance and expand protections of ancestral lands of the Four Southern O’odham Tribes of Arizona as well as other tribes that have cultural connections to these lands.”

  • Barnaby Lewis, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Gila River Indian Community

“The Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe supports Rep. Grijalva's effort to establish a Great Bend of the Gila National Monument for the significance and importance of the region to the Quechan people. The Great Bend represents our lives, past and present. It stands as a living library, but is in danger of destruction unless priority is given to preservation of the area for future generations.”

  • Gloria McGee, Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe Cultural Committee

“The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation supports the bill introduced by Rep. Grijalva to establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. The proposed Monument is in the traditional territory of the Yavapai, and we strive to preserve and maintain our traditional sites.”

  • Albert Nelson, Curator, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Cultural Center and Museum

“We applaud Mr. Grijalva for his steadfast leadership and commitment to making sure that a landscape of such rich cultural and historical significance gets the recognition, resources, and protection it deserves. The Great Bend of Gila has served as a crossroads of cultures since prehistoric times. Its many petroglyphs depict human connections to the land dating back thousands of years. We look forward to continuing our work with the Native American tribes who have deep ties to the area and all who care about the history and future of the Great Bend of the Gila to build support for its lasting protection so that all people may continue to experience and learn from this remarkable landscape.”

  • Stephanie K. Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

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