The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced a proposal to amend its resource management plan for the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona. The proposed amendment aims to balance recreational target shooting with protection of the area’s natural and cultural resources.
The 485,791-acre Sonoran Desert National Monument, managed by BLM, was established in 2001 to protect unique and scientifically significant landscapes. It contains historic sites, endangered species habitat, and unique geologic features.
Under the proposed amendment, recreational target shooting would be allowed on only 5,295 acres of the monument. It would be prohibited on the remaining 480,496 acres in order to protect sensitive resources and public safety.
According to BLM’s Lower Sonoran Field Office, the proposed closures are intended to fulfill requirements from an April 2022 court settlement. In 2018, BLM had issued an earlier plan amendment opening certain areas to recreational shooting. However, that decision was legally challenged in 2019.
The court ordered BLM to re-analyze potential impacts of recreational shooting within the monument. The agency’s new environmental assessment and proposed amendment aim to address the court’s concerns.
BLM completed an initial management plan for Sonoran Desert National Monument in 2012. The plan sought to balance various public land uses, including recreation, while protecting unique objects of interest.
However, a March 2015 court order found the analysis of shooting impacts to be insufficient. This led to additional review and the 2018 plan amendment. Now, based on the latest court settlement, BLM is again taking public input on further refining where target shooting should be allowed.
The public comment period began January 19, 2024 and will extend 60 days until March 22. Interested parties can submit input by email to [email protected] or by mail to BLM Sonoran Desert National Monument, Attn: RMPA EA, 2020 E. Bell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85022.
There will also be a 30-day protest period beginning January 19. Those wishing to formally protest the proposed amendment can find details on protest procedures on BLM’s website.
Relevant documents, maps, and environmental assessments will be available for review on the BLM National NEPA Register. The agency encourages the public to provide feedback on the recreational shooting closures under consideration.
BLM manages nearly 250 million acres of public lands, primarily in the western United States. The agency seeks to balance energy development, recreation, grazing, and other uses while ensuring protection of natural and cultural resources.
Sonoran Desert National Monument is one of many sites containing sensitive habitats, archaeological sites, and scenic landscapes. BLM aims to allow appropriate public access while preserving objects of scientific and historic significance.
The proposed target shooting amendment reflects an ongoing process to achieve this balance. The closure would prohibit recreational shooting in over 98% of the monument. Limited target shooting would still be allowed in 5,295 carefully selected acres.
BLM’s review and proposal follows legal requirements to fully analyze potential impacts on monument objects and values. The agency is inviting public input on the proposed closures prior to making a final decision.
With this collaborative process, BLM seeks to refine where recreational shooting can occur while fulfilling its mission of protecting natural and cultural resources. The Sonoran Desert National Monument amendment will enable responsible public use while conserving the area’s unique features for future generations.