CAMP VERDE, Ariz. - Fossil Creek, a place considered sacred to the Yavapai-Apache Nation, has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River as part of a lands package that was passed by Congress.
This is only the second such designation in Arizona history. As such, Fossil Creek will receive special status to be preserved and protected.
Yavapai Apache Chairman Thomas Beauty said in a news release that Fossil Creek is hallowed ground for the Yavapai Apache as a people.
"We celebrate this special protection that will help the U.S. Forest Service better manage and educate the visitors who come to Fossil Creek to enjoy its beauty and pristine water," he said.
Chairman Beauty said Fossil Creek is important to traditional Yavapai-Apache people. He said holy and culturally significant places need to be protected from litter, pollution and damaged ecological environment.
"The nation has been working for many years to protect Fossil Creek, beginning with the decommissioning of the Childs-Irving Hydroelectric power plant," he said. "We have demonstrated our commitment, both as stewards of the land and as an indigenous society with cultural and historical connections to the area."
Chairman Beauty said the Yavapai-Apache will continue to advocate and work to protect one of their tribe's holiest sites.
"We have invested our time and resources, working with the various stakeholders and representatives to congress," he said.
Chairman Beauty praised the Arizona congressional delegation for working toward the preservation of Fossil Creek.
The massive public lands bill passed both the House and the Senate last week. The bill awaits approval by President Barack Obama. The bill would protect major heritage areas, wilderness lands and wild and scenic rivers throughout America.
Kevin Gaither-Bachoff, executive director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, called it a tremendously rewarding day for all Arizonans because Fossil Creek is an irreplaceable icon with natural and cultural significance.
"Since so many people love Fossil Creek, we must ensure that increased visitation isn't abusing the water quality, wildlife and vegetation that make it ecologically and culturally significant," he said in a news release.
The designation will protect more than 14 miles of year-round water as well as ensuring the survival of five rare native Arizona fish along with preserving the hunting, gathering and spiritual traditional sites of the Yavapai-Apache nation.
Increased visitation has had an impact on Fossil Creek. The U.S. Forest Service must regularly deal with trampled riparian vegetation, abandoned camping trash, diapers and soiled toilet paper.
All Wild and Scenic rivers are required to have a management plan which guides the Forest Service on how they will protect the outstanding river values identified in its original proposal.
Sam Frank, director of Central Arizona Office for Arizona Wilderness Coalition, said in a news release that Fossil Creek offers a quality outdoor experience that many families can afford.
"With proper stewardship and continued vigilance, this is a special place that will keep giving back for generations to come," he said.
The Fossil Creek bill was introduced by U.S. Sen John McCain and supported by U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.