San Francisco Peaks among most threatened public lands
FLAGSTAFF-Arizona's landmark San Francisco Peaks are highlighted in a new national report on threatened public lands issued Sept. 28 by the Sierra Club.
The report draws attention to 52 key areas across the country which could be lost without special efforts to save them from development.
The report was issued just in advance of National Public Lands Day, Saturday, Sept. 29, which commemorates the value of our publicly owned lands for recreation, wildlife, watersheds, forests and scenic beauty.
The Sierra Club's report identifies global warming as the greatest threat to wildlife and wild places because the resulting climate change can mean more wildfires, drought and destruction of habitat for many plants and animals.
The San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, were noted because of plans by ski area owners to expand the existing Arizona Snowbowl and use treated wastewater to make artificial snow. A lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club, Navajo Nation and other tribes and conservation groups has halted those plans for now, but the U.S. Forest Service and the ski resort owners are continuing to challenge that decision by the federal appeals court, made earlier this year.
The Peaks are sacred to at least 13 tribes in the Southwest, which view the use of watstewater on the mountain as a sacrilege. The Sierra Club and other groups joined the tribes in arguing that the effects of using wastewater on the mountain posed serious human health concerns which were ignored by the environmental analysis done by the Forest Service, which approved the project.
"Ironically, long-term drought and warmer weather due to global warming is likely to reduce the snow pack at the Snowbowl", said Rob Smith, Southwest representative for the Sierra Club. "We should be looking at how to live with less snow and water in a drier climate, not acting as if nothing was happening to the natural world."
"Protecting the Peaks protects our communities, our cultures and the watersheds they depend upon," said Robert Tohe, environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club in Flagstaff. "The public lands belong to all of us and are what we can pass on to future generations if we care for them."
"Public lands in Arizona are a great counterbalance to the explosive growth occurring throughout our state," said Don Steuter, conservation chair for the Sierra Club in Arizona. "Our public lands are the antidote to sprawl."
The Sierra Club's full report, "America's Wild Legacy", can be found at www.sierraclub.org/52places.