Mon, Feb. 24

NSA gets mixed reviews before Cottonwood's City Council

COTTONWOOD - Members of the Sedona City Council and its Manager Tim Ernster Tuesday made a presentation to the Cottonwood Council, urging the board to support the National Scenic Area legislation with an endorsement. But the proposal received a mixed reception with the council, which took no immediate action.

The legislation HR 4823 has just received a single hearing before a House subcommittee after its introduction by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.

Vice-Mayor Cliff Hamilton, and Councilwoman Barbara Litrell of Sedona said the legislation is focused on a key issue, "to permanently restrict land exchanges from other areas of the country for Red Rock Ranger District land."

That tenant was already defined in the Coconino Forest amendment 12, but the NSA legislation would make it permanent.

Litrell explained why the specific legislation was not like other restrictive National Scenic Areas, specifically the Columbia Gorge.

It will have no effect on private property rights, not add another layer of government, would not change Forest Service planning policy, guarantees local control, and allows for land use for counties, municipalities, school and fire districts. The distinction will also bring the area more visitors, they said.

They said this version of the legislation is the only one that the Forest Service has endorsed.

Still there was objection.

Former Sedona District Ranger Bob Gillies said an NSA "is a very special thing that should be used for needed protection, and its overkill for a single issue like land exchange." He said the Forest Service has been a very good steward. "Most of the area around Sedona is already in protected wilderness."

Gillies said an NSA is a permanent action that takes a vote of Congress to change it.

Ron Volkman has also been an outspoken opponent of the NSA, representing the Sedona-Verde Valley Board of Realtors, "I don't trust Congress and all the lobbyists in Washington," he said.

Volkman worried that the legislation includes wording to "maintain" existing roads, but no wording to allow for new road construction.

"I don't trust Congress either," said Cottonwood Councilwoman Karen Pfeifer, "and worry about losing local control."

"Local control will remain the same," Cliff Hamilton responded.

"If it all remains the same, why the need for the designation," Duane Kirby asked. "I don't think we have the right to determine for future generations."

"Sedona already has more visitors than it can handle. Why would it ask for more," Kirby wondered.

The southern boundary of the proposed 160,000 acre National Scenic Area would approach the northern boundary of the State Land Cottonwood proposes to annex. It would be roughly bounded on the west by Bill Gray Road, I-17 on the east and the Secret Mountain Wilderness on the north, entirely surrounding Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and the Village of Oak Creek.

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