#KeepItOpen – Speak up to protect the area around Walnut Canyon

Show up at the Flagstaff City Hall (211 W. Aspen St. in Flagstaff) at 6pm on July 8 to say (or sign a card saying) “YES to Option 2 – Keep it Open!”

You can sign a petition that will be presented to Council here.

In 1996, I visited Walnut Canyon National Monument with a geology class. I fell in love and decided I must find a way to see more of the colorful curvy canyon. Walnut Canyon’s vegetation, which consisted of plant communities representing Mexico to Canada; its archaeological treasures; its wildlife, including Arizona king snakes, endangered Mexican spotted owls, and black bears; and its beautiful buff-colored sandstone captured my heart. Two years later, I graduated and moved to Flagstaff.


Tom Bean photo


Tom Bean photo

In the last 15 years, I have spent many hours exploring the topography in the 30,000 acre parcel known as the “Walnut Canyon Study Area”. My first mountain biking pedal strokes were taken on the Arizona Trail within the Study Area and on the trails of Campbell Mesa. My horse and I enjoyed countless hours exploring the Arizona Trail, Sandy Canyon, Fisher Point, Skunk and Fay Canyons. We even had the pleasure of a mountain lion encounter one evening. My botany fetish was appeased in the riparian habitats at the floor of western Walnut Canyon, the hanging gardens of Skunk Canyon, and in the old growth ponderosa, oak, and pinyon habitats flanking the canyon. I met up with friends for afternoons climbing at “the Pit” and at Cherry Canyon.

In response to growing concerns about land trades, in 2009, Congress mandated a study of the mostly unroaded area surrounding Walnut Canyon National Monument, to determine if there is a “designation or management option that would provide for (i) protection of resources within the study area; and (ii) continued access to, and use of, the study area by the public.”  The Study found that the only way to meet both those needs is to create a Congressionally-designated National Conservation Area with legislative language written to prevent land trades (“Option 2” of the Study).

This spring, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors endorsed that option. Tuesday, July 8, Flagstaff City Council will consider the same support. You can help the Flagstaff Council with their decision:

Show up at the Flagstaff City Hall (211 W. Aspen St. in Flagstaff) at 6pm on July 8 to say (or sign a card saying) “YES to Option 2 – Keep it Open!”

You can sign a petition that will be presented to Council here.

Protect the entire Study Area from land trades and development forever with a special land designation!

Tom Bean photo

Tom Bean photo

The Walnut Canyon Study Area includes a Globally Recognized Audubon Important Bird Area; Coconino National Forest Recognized Important Water; Arizona Game and Fish-designated Sustainable Wildlife Corridors; City of Flagstaff “Priority Open Land;” part of the Arizona Trail; prehistoric and historic artifacts; old growth forests; and opportunities for quiet solitude.  There are popular spots for climbing, hiking, camping, biking, birding, hunting, and biking, including the Arizona Trail, Flagstaff Urban Trail System, Cherry Canyon, “the Pit” climbing area, Campbell Mesa Trail System, the floors of Walnut Canyon and Sandy Canyon, narrows in Skunk Canyon, Anderson Mesa grasslands, and the area northeast of Walnut Canyon National Monument.

While the study has been ongoing, a shooting range has now opened 0.25 miles from its eastern boundary and 4,500 new homes are planned along its west side, demonstrating the need to protect these special lands. Additional threats have come in the last two decades: Forest Service lands adjacent to the boundary were traded to the City of Flagstaff several years ago, and locals fought a proposed highway bypass through the beautiful and locally-loved Fisher Point. Motor vehicle trespass has increased in an area once signed as “Walnut Canyon Conservation Area” and on roads once signed as “Closed to Motor Vehicles.” Yet the majority of the 30,000 acres remain quiet, litter-free, sparsely visited, and dense with wildlife.

See the final Walnut Canyon Study here. Please help us convey love and concern for this incredible place by contacting your elected officials today.

Talking Points

  • Large core habitats and wild places are becoming increasingly rare.
  • It is easier to protect a place such as this than to piece it back together after fragmentation by land trades and destructive uses.
  • You value quiet recreation and have respect for the wildlife that relies on these lands for refuge from roads and noise.
  • These lands should be protected from land trades.
  • Conservation should come first. This area should be designated as a National Conservation Area.

Further Resources

General information

Map of Study Area

Map of Audubon Important Bird Area

Map of Arizona Game & Fish Department Sustainable Wildlife Corridors

City of Flagstaff Priority Open Lands language (on page 10)


About Protect Grand Canyon

Sierra Club's Restore and Protect the Greater Grand Canyon Ecoregion Campaign. Looking out for the 11,400 species that live in & love Grand Canyon!

Posted on July 1, 2014, in #Forests and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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