Sonoran Desert National Monument Target Shooting Resource Management Plan Amendment (SDNM RMPA)
Project Planning Area
The planning area covers nearly 486,400 acres of south-central Arizona and lies within Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Population centers adjacent to the planning area include metropolitan Phoenix and the communities of Ajo, Goodyear, Buckeye, Gila Bend, Mobile, and Maricopa. The planning area encompasses federal- and state-administered lands as well as private lands. The BLM manages 486,400 surface acres of public lands in the planning area, as well as 461,000 acres of (sub surface) mineral estate. The State of Arizona manages 3,900 acres in the planning area, with the remaining 6,100 acres being privately-owned land.
Due to a ruling from the U.S. District Court - District of Arizona issued in March 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will develop new management actions to address recreational target shooting in the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM) Resource Management Plan (RMP). An Envionmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be written to assess the potential impacts of each alternative. Upon completion of the EIS, an alternative will be selected that best balances the environmental impacts with the desired uses of the land, and the SDNM RMP will be amended to allow, disallow, or apply restrictions to recreational target shooting.
This planning effort will focus solely on recreational shooting and impacted resources in order to respond to the short timeframe for the expiration of the latest temporary closure and to address critical public safety concerns rather than waiting for a field office-wide plan revision. Public involvement with be a critical component of the plan amendment process. The BLM has been and will continue to work closely with private landowners, local city, county and state governments, tribal members, members of the target shooting community, environmental and cultural resource preservation organizations, and interested individuals and members of the general recreating public.
On March 27, 2015, the U.S. District Court - District of Arizona Issued a ruling in the case of National Trust for Historic Perservation et al v. Raymond Suazo, BLM and Department of the Interior (DOI). The court found BLM violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when making its decision to allow recreational target shooting on the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM). The court found in favor of the BLM on plaintiffs' claim that the BLM violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). THe court vacated portions of the Record of Decision(ROD), RMP and Final EIS that permit recreational target shooting throughout the Monument and remanded the decision to the BLM for reconsideration. The court also required BLM to ensure the Final EIS's analysis of the mitigation measures and cumulitive impacts are sonsistent with the order.
On July 17, 2015, the courted granted plantiffs' April 14, 2015, request for injuctive relief and ordered the BLM to close approximately 10,599 acres (2.1 %) of the SDNM to recreational target shooting pending compliance with the court's order of March 27. In their motion for injuctive relief placed before the court, plantiffs has requested a closure of approximately 80% of the SDNM. This order also provided a deadline of Sepetmber 15, 2015 to implement the closure, and a deadline of September 30, 2017 to address the planning shortfalls discussed in the courts earlier order of March 27. Licensed hunting will contine in accordance with state regualtions. Approximately 95 percent of the 12.2 million acres of public land managed by BLM in Arizona remains open to recreational target shooting.
Get Involved in the Process
The BLM has prepared the SDNM/Draft RMPA/Draft EIS to address management of recreational target shooting in the SDNM. The formal public scoping process for the DRMPA/DEIS began on January 21, 2016, with the publication of a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register (AZ-P040-2016-1711-PH-1000-241A), and ended on March 21, 2016. The BLM held three public scoping meetings in February 2016. The BLM used public scoping comments to help identify planning issues that directed the formulation of alternatives and framed the scope of analysis in the DRMPA/DEIS. The BLM also used the scoping process to introduce the public to preliminary planning criteria, which set limits on the scope of the DRMPA/DEIS. Issues identified included, priority wildlife species and habitat, special status species, vegetation resources, lands with wilderness characteristics, designated Wilderness, recreation, monument objects, hazardous materials, and public safety.