Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America
and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.

News Release For immediate release Wednesday, May 30, 2001


Contact: Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist 520.623.5252 x 306, 520.906.2159 cel & 520.850.4482 cel
Myra Smith, Local Monument Residents Representative & Conservationist 520.682.6704

IRONWOOD NATIONAL MONUMENT, AZ ­ This Thursday at 10 am, Arizona conservationists, political leaders and others will hold a news conference on threats to southern Arizona’s Ironwood National Monument. The event will be take place on the monument, off Avra Valley Rd., near the entrance to the ASARCO/Grupo Mexico Silverbell Mine.

Conservationists have been anxiously following efforts by ASARCO/Grupo Mexico, Interior Secretary Norton and Governor Jane D. Hull to change monument boundaries and otherwise weaken protection. ASARCO/Grupo Mexico has turned to a seemingly sympathetic ear in Congressman Jim Kolbe who has offered them a private meeting, while refusing to meet with conservationists. On May 24, Congressman Kolbe’s office refused a request of the Center for Biological Diversity to participate in the Thursday monument meeting.

The Ironwood news conference coincides with a nearby meeting between ASARCO/Grupo Mexico officials, Kevin Messner - Congressman Kolbe’s Washington DC-based Legislative Director, and two members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. While the last-minute invite to the two county supervisors is encouraging, it is very disappointing that despite many requests, Congressman Kolbe’s office will not include Pima County conservationists.

“Any suggestions to change the Ironwood monument should be raised through an open process, not through the ‘separate and unequal’ process Kolbe, Hull and Norton are currently favoring.” said Daniel Patterson, CBD’s Desert Ecologist. “Jim Kolbe is rolling out the red carpet to hear ASARCO’s demands, while refusing to hear from concerned constituents.”

Patterson had to wait in Kolbe’s DC office earlier this month to get a five minute meeting with Messner on the issue, after attempts to schedule one failed. In that brief meeting, Messner would not dismiss the chance of Kolbe attaching a legislative rider that would weaken monument protection through stealth congressional action.
“Its outrageous that the property owners living within the monument have been denied a public discussion with Congressional staffers,” said Myra Smith, representative of landowners within the monument. “ASARCO gets the ear of Congressman Kolbe and they contribute nothing to Pima County while the local people are shut out.”

Designated June 9, 2000 with strong local & national public support from hunting, recreation and conservation groups, the 129,000-acre Ironwood National Monument contains a significant system of cultural and historical sites covering a 5,000 year period. Containing one of the richest stands of ironwood trees in the Sonoran Desert, the monument supports at least 674 species including the desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep. Endangered species such as the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, Nichols turk’s head cactus and lesser long-nosed bat also live within the monument’s desert mountain ranges and valleys.

Often called the “desert tree of life” ironwoods serve as nurse plants for saguaro cactus and other native species. One of the longest-lived Sonoran Desert trees, Ironwood flowers are pollinated by native bees, and have historically been used as medicine. The leaves are important food for bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and deer. Two areas within the monument, the Los Robles Archeological District and the Cocoraque Butte Archeological District, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hunting, camping, ranching and other uses are still allowed within the monument.

Planned speakers include: Myra Smith, Local conservationist and representative of monument residents; Raul Grijalva, Chairman, Pima County Board of Supervisors; Edward Manuel, Chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation (invited); Rosanne Hanson, Executive Director, Sky Island Alliance; Chuck Bowden, Writer; Carolyn Campbell, Director, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection; Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity; and Jon Tate, mining & hunting activist.

To get there, go 23 miles west from exit 242 off I-10 on Avra Valley Rd. to the site. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the site from downtown Tucson.


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