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Arizonans Celebrate 115th Anniversary of Federal Antiquities Act


Wednesday, June 30, 2021   

TUCSON, Ariz. -- June marked the 115th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, a brief but powerful piece of legislation passed in 1906. It allows presidents to preserve federal lands and cultural and historical sites.

Over the years, 17 presidents have designated more than 150 national monuments, including Arizona's iconic Ironwood Forest National Monument. The 130,000-acre desert preserve just outside Tucson serves as a biological anchor point for conserving rare plants and animals.

Tom Hannagan, president of Friends of Ironwood Forest, said President Bill Clinton gave the area protected status in 2000.

"So, it's nowhere near the largest national monument or national parks, but the concentration of diverse mountains and diverse species in this area just made it very attractive for permanent protection," Hannagan explained.

Hannagan noted the monument protects Arizona's last remaining population of Desert Bighorn Sheep, while stands of ironwood, mesquite, palo verde, creosote and Saguaro cacti blanket the valley floor beneath several mountain ranges.

Humans have inhabited the area for more than 5,000 years, and it contains three registered archaeological sites.

Hannagan confirmed more recently, the Forest provides outdoor opportunities for Arizonans and others.

"It's open to a variety of different recreational uses, hiking and camping and bird watching, horse riding, photography," Hannagan outlined. "Hunting is allowed within seasons. It's just that further development of roads, mining, things like that, are stopped."

Hannagan stressed a big part of preserving the monument is simply letting people know that it's there.

"Part of our mission is public outreach to let people know that it exists," Hannagan emphasized. "We feel like if people know about it and are able to visit it, that they're going to be supportive of its continued protection."

He added with political battles brewing over public lands in some states, that mission is especially important to Friends of Ironwood Forest.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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