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January 20, 2022

Rep. Kirkpatrick Introduces the Chiricahua National Park Act

(Tucson, AZ) Today, Rep. Kirkpatrick introduced the Chiricahua National Park Act, a bill that establishes the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona as a National Park. Senator Kelly has championed a companion bill in the Senate. 

The Chiricahua National Monument is located in southeastern Arizona, near the City of Willcox. Named for the Chiricahua Apache who once called this region home, the monument is known for its rich history and unique rock formations formed by an immense volcanic eruption reported to have hit the region about 27 million years ago. The volcanic ash and debris ultimately fused into rock called rhyolitic tuff and eroded over time into the exquisite hoodoos and enchanting balancing rocks that define the monument’s captivating scenery today. Positioned at the intersection of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, the southern Rocky Mountains, and the northern Sierra Madre in Mexico, the Chiricahua National Monument boasts 18-square-miles of premier biological diversity and has become a hub for hikers, birders, researchers, and nature enthusiasts of all kinds. 

The Chiricahua Mountains are the ancestral home to the Chiricahua Apaches, who were forcibly removed from this area by the United States government. This bill aims to recognize the historical presence of Chiricahua Apaches and other Apaches and safeguard their deep historical and spiritual connection to this land.          

“The Chiricahuas are extremely special and couldn’t be more deserving of this highest designation. I’m thankful to have the support of the community around Southern Arizona and across the country to finally recognize the Chiricahua mountains for what they are – one of our nation’s “Crown Jewels,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “Since I took office, I have been working on this bill with tribal leaders and local stakeholders; I’m thrilled to introduce this bill in the House, and I commend Senator Kelly’s leadership with our companion bill in the Senate. 

“On behalf of the City of Willcox, we are grateful to Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for introducing and supporting the Chiricahua National Park Bill. Unfortunately, many tourists associate the word monument with something small and forego visiting the Chiricahuas altogether. Anyone who has visited realizes what a gem they are in Arizona and Cochise County. As the gateway City to the Chiricahuas, Willcox’s economy suffers when people choose not to visit. With the name change to Chiricahua National Park, local businesses will see an increase in visitation spurring economic development in our small City.” – Mayor Mike Laws, City of Willcox

“As a national monument, some visitors enjoy Chiricahua’s biological diversity, unique geologic features including hoodoos and balancing rocks, and its rich history of occupation by Apaches and early settlers. National Park designation, strongly supported by local communities, businesses, and park advocates, will increase its recognition and improve visitation.” – Kevin Dahl, Arizona Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association

“A National Park designation for Chiricahua National Monument would undoubtedly raise the profile of Cochise County and Southern Arizona, attracting more visitors to strengthen our regional economy. This designation would be a positive step to support the recovery of the negative economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tour and travel industry.” – Vanessa Bechtol, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for ‘Visit Tucson’

“The Chiricahua National Monument is a beautiful landmark that is a big attraction to Douglas and Cochise County.  As now a National Park, the Chiricahuas can attract more visitors to the area to experience the beauty that we all enjoy.  We look forward to its care and preservation for many years to come!” – Mayor Donald C. Huish, City of Douglas

“Designation of the Chiricahua National Monument as a National Park greatly benefits Cochise County and all of Southern Arizona,” says Ann English, Chair of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. “This designation plays a significant role in attracting visitors to our corner of the State, and in helping elevate and sustain the economies of our rural cities and communities.”

“As a long-time, and frequent user of the Chiricahua National Monument, I am delighted to hear that legislation has been proposed to designate this monument as a National Park. The first time I visited the park, I could not believe it wasn’t already a National Park.  Chiricahua is a place where you can “feel” the history and ponder the magnificence of the natural wonders it possesses.  It is with great enthusiasm that I send along my support for the bill to establish Chiricahua as a National Park.” – Steve Pauken, City Manager Bisbee

“Chiricahua National Monument deserves to be designated a national park. Its natural beauty will attract visitors from across the country. This will surely generate much-needed revenue for all of Cochise County. We look forward to the increase in travelers on I10 and welcome anyone who chooses to stop in Benson while traveling to and from the park.” – Mayor Joe Konrad, City of Benson

While drafting this legislation, Rep. Kirkpatrick worked with Tribal leaders, park advocates, and local stakeholders to ensure the bill adequately and rightly gives this area the highest form of protection possible and preserves and recognizes the history and current presence of Chiricahua Apaches to this area. The establishment of a National Park in Southern Arizona is strongly supported by the local community, and the gateway communities in Cochise County surrounding the Park welcome the additional visitors that will get to experience all the area has to offer.

Rep. Kirkpatrick looks forward to working with her colleagues in the House of Representatives to move The Chiricahua National Park Act forward through the committee process and ultimately see this bill signed into law.

“If you haven’t been, I highly recommend a visit to Chiricahua National Monument, soon to be National Park! There are miles of beautiful hiking trails to explore, immaculate bird watching, and stunning views to take in. The rock pinnacles and years of erosion of volcanic rock make for just an incredibly unique experience,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. 

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