Partnership improves access to public lands near Safford

The Bureau of Land Management and The Trust for Public Land Announces Protection of 600 Acres Next to Wilderness Area

September 21, 2017
Graham County, AZ

A shared conservation stewardship partnership among The Trust for Public Land, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Southeastern Arizona Sportsman's Club has resulted in improved access to existing public lands for hunting and hiking.

Today, The Trust for Public Land and the BLM announced the acquisition of the 600-acre ET Ranch, located immediately adjacent to the North Santa Teresa Wilderness Area. This acquisition improves public access to the 6,600-acre BLM wilderness area, located northwest of Safford, and the nearby 26,800-acre Santa Teresa Wilderness Area in the Coronado National Forest. Both areas are located in the Santa Teresa Mountains and offer great hunting, hiking and backpacking opportunities.

The BLM purchased the property from The Trust for Public Land, a national land protection organization which focuses on opportunities for connecting people with nature. The Trust for Public Land had acquired the land in early 2017 from a rancher, Marden Alder, who wanted to sell the property. The Alder family had owned and managed the land as a cattle ranch since the 1950's and had made substantial improvements in the water system and grassland habitat in recent years. The Trust for Public Land also facilitated the purchase of the ranch's grazing leases by another local rancher to ensure the land remained in agricultural use, an important consideration for the local economy.

"For many years, the BLM has strived to provide the public with quality traditional use and recreational experiences on their Arizona public lands. We are excited to add this new public access point to public lands where access was very limited," stated BLM Gila District Manager Scott Feldhausen. "I also celebrate this innovative partnership that the Safford Field Manager Scott Cooke and his staff have with Arizona Game and Fish, The Trust for Public Land and the Southeastern Arizona Sportsman's Club that resulted in this successful project."

The Trust for Public Land also constructed a primitive road and parking area on the acquired property right next to the North Santa Teresa Wilderness Area prior to the purchase by BLM. "The North Santa Teresa Wilderness is a beautiful well-preserved landmark that has been closed off to the public for too long. We are thrilled that permanent access is now guaranteed and people can go hunting and backpacking into this remarkable landscape," said Michael Patrick, Arizona Program Manager for The Trust for Public Land.

Funding for the project was also provided by Arizona Game and Fish and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The Game and Fish funds came through its landowner relations program and resulted in a public access easement that is currently held by the South Eastern Arizona Sportsmen's Club. The involvement of these partners served to increase the stakeholder groups engaged in the project and should facilitate in better road maintenance and other benefits to this access point.

"The Santa Teresa Mountains provide excellent hunting opportunities and recreational benefits for all people interested in exploring the outdoors. This partnership with BLM, The Trust for Public Land, the South Eastern Arizona Sportsman's Club, and the National Wild Turkey Federation allowed us to protect this access point in perpetuity," said Al Eiden of Arizona Game and Fish.

Each year, active outdoor recreation alone generates billions in consumer spending and supports thousands of jobs in Arizona. For example, the nearby Coronado National Forest is estimated to generate more than $50 million in economic activity annually, according to the United States Forest Service's National Visitor Use Monitoring System.

"Arizona's outdoors and landscapes are among our greatest resources. They make our state a wonderful place to live and support our $10.6 billion outdoor recreation economy," said Representative Tom O'Halleran, D-AZ-01, "However, access to our public lands remains limited in some places. Thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Bureau of Land Management and The Trust for Public Land, Arizonians will, at last, have guaranteed access to the beautiful North Santa Teresa Wilderness Area and all it has to offer. I am proud to support LWCF and am thankful to The Trust for Public Land for its hard work to provide access to this public land treasure."

Funding was made possible by the Sportsman's and Recreational Access component of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars. This land acquisition by BLM was funded with $480,000 from the LWCF, of which $8 million was made available for BLM projects across the West that enhanced public access to existing lands for recreational users. Each year, active outdoor recreation alone generates billions in consumer spending and supports thousands of jobs in Arizona.

About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

About the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America's public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.