Friday, November 18, 2016

Wielding the 2x4: The Role Alternatives Play in Policy Conflict November 2016 A Part Two

This is a Part Two in the exploration of one aspect of ethical and existential issues that arise when we engage in conflict over public policy, and what consequences we are responsible for when our rhetoric is or seems determinative of ensuing events. In the first part, I offered (this blog 15 Nov 2016) a case study discussing the criticism that advocates of a dam-free Grand Canyon, in particular David Brower as the most public advocate, traded polluting coal-fired electric generating plants for a dam-free Canyon.

Reflecting on that post, I realized that a set of what: — ideas?, assumptions?, pre-conceptions?, biases? — undergirded my puzzlement that this criticism could even be entertained. Part of this, I suppose, is that my personal involvement in the particular conflict was strongly at odds with such a criticism, since advocating for coal-burning plants was not something we did. 

I also see that there is a way of acting in conflict, a way of gathering forces for battles over policy, that, obvious to me, may not be understood by those examining the conflict in later years. Here, I will try to make clear the larger context that makes alien, even irrelevant, the charge of a trade of an undammed Canyon for polluted skies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Lies Float; The Truth, Too Heavy To Bear, Drowns; November 2016 A Part One

(Warning, this essay is a long, detailed, and cantankerous effort to “correct” several mis-recordings that have arisen in various tellings of the glorious fight to save the Grand Canyon from damming. No apologies, just a warning.)

An oft-repeated smear and lie is that advocates protecting the Grand Canyon in the 1960’s gave up the Southwest’s clean, blue skies in order to keep dams out of the Canyon’s deep, dark gorges. I propose here to present some of these smears (in black or a red-brown) and then offer correction and critique (in blue). The main line of the fantasied tale goes like this: 

The dams were planned to generate electric power to pump water for the Central Arizona Project, and to sell excess power to help pay for that CAP. But the people and government of the United States decided not to build the dams, so instead coal-fired electric stations — in particular one to be put up near Page and using coal from Black Mesa — had to be built to pump the CAP’s water and which would also pump clouds of smoke and gas and ash, rendering the skies over the Southwest, and especially the Grand Canyon, thick and brown with the burning coal’s residue, causing would-be viewers to turn away, gasping and choking for breath in the poison miasma.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Incarnating Grand Canyon National Monument the Fifth — But Minus Some Key Organs

A rumor is afloat that the administration of President Obama may consider using the Antiquities Act to proclaim a National Monument along the lines of the legislation introduced a year ago by Representative Raul Grijalva to establish a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument (GGCHNM).

The first thing to say is that the action would do nothing to ease the threat from the development proposal (the Escalade, or better, “Phoenix Escapade”) aimed at the confluence of the Colorado & Little Colorado Rivers:  a development that would include buildings on the rim, a tramway down to the confluence, —where there would be walkways and structures in this now-natural and revered area—, and thousands and thousands of conveyor-belt tourists brought in by plane, helicopter, bus, etc. 

Nor does the Heritage proposal include any recognition of the Navajo Nation’s Marble Canyon & Little Colorado Tribal Parks, set up half a century ago, yet still ignored by the National Park Service and the Interior Department, even though the 1975 Park expansion act authorized cooperation between Interior and the Navajo on Grand Canyon protection and visitation, and even though these tribal parks and the 1975 Act together provide the framework for appropriate protection and interpretive visitation of the Canyon — a framework envisioned by Senator Barry Goldwater, principal sponsor of the 1975 Act.

This omission is the more astonishing since the purposes of the Grijalva bill (see my post of 14 Nov 2015 for details) are to embed the values of the eleven “Grand Canyon-associated tribes” in the policy and administration of the GGCHNM, purposes and policy that would be made tragic mockery of, should the Phoenix Escapade be approved by the Navajo, and built. 

(Note: Legislation to commit Navajo Nation approval and funding for the P. E. is even now working its way through the Navajo Council’s legislative process, in spite of Navajo President Begaye’s opposition and the submission of thousands and thousands of anti-P.E. statements.)

The main resource change in Grijalva’s proposal would be ending the threat of new mining activity (esp. uranium exploitation) on federal lands in the vicinity of the eastern Canyon, although existing mines and other existing rights would not be affected.
Timber may be cut commercially only if consistent with GGCHNM purposes and part of a restoration project.

So how would such a creation work? Existing laws and management (Forest Service and BLM, mainly) would continue, and — an important addition — the 11 associated tribes would formally collaborate in plan development and monument management. For instance, although this might not be part of an Antiquities Act proclamation, the proposed law sets up an advisory council to work on the management plan, collaborating on management of any tribe-related resources and adaptive management of natural resources. 
There would be two representatives from each associated tribe, one from the natural or cultural resource office. There would be two academics: one in anthropology, archeology, or such, and another with natural or conservation resource expertise. Also, two game and fish representatives, one from the State department, and two environmental NGO representatives, one from Arizona. No provision for non-wildlife-related recreationists, such as backpackers, canyoneers, river runners, longitudinal Canyonwalk dudes, etc. And no one from the Park Service to encourage its cooperation. Nor, for that matter, any commercial interests.

Thus the proposal paradoxically would increase the say in Grand Canyon affairs of the Associated Tribes without offering any additional protections for the lands of the Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai. All three nations include parts of the Canyon, involving active issues of Grand Canyon protection, public access and uses, and the general presentation of the Canyon so as to further its uncontested status as a global environmental icon. There is little in the recent history of cooperation by anybody with anybody else to indicate that the goals of such a Monument would be carried out. Should President Obama take the action, and should Congress provide funds for such an entity, it would indeed be a grand experiment in a kind of regional government the Canyon has seen little of.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Revisiting — Revising — the Western Boundary (Segments G & H)

As I have written previously, when we were making decisions about how the boundary of the expanded Grand Canyon National Park should run, we did so without going out on the ground, or even, though they were available, using the 1971 7.5’ USGS topos. 
As a result, the Park boundary actually goes out beyond the proper extent of the Canyon as indicated by the drainage topography and the geologic indicators according to the 1982 Huntoon-Billingsley  geologic map. Here is the west end of the official map of the 1975 Expansion Act:

The geology shows only three remaining outcrops — circled in blue below — of pre-Cambrian Muav over Bright Angel, two on the north side, one on the south, of the channel where it bends west at the 277-mile mark.* No more show up downstream. 

Using those indicators for the Canyon boundary channel crossing neatly ties right into the sharp downward course of the top ridge of the Grand Wash Cliffs on the south side (left bank ) of the Colorado channel, as shown by the blue line below. (Note the blue 277 mile dots.)

So the only real difficulty in boundary definition, had we done our homework in the late 1960’s and into 1973, would be delineating on the north side (right bank) a course up the lower Grand Wash Cliffs such that the small drainages between Pearce Canyon and the Grand Canyon would be correctly assigned between being in the Canyon’s watershed and, further north, to the Pearce and other Lake Mead drainages. Above, the beginning of that line is shown running east-west.

Once that drainage-defined line reaches the level of the Sanup Plateau, this Google terrain map shows a quite level surface running east-west, with most of that shallow drainage to the north away from the Grand Canyon, until the line reaches Fort Garrett Point, where the dividing line climbs, up to the final level, the Shivwits Plateau.

Taking all these matters into account, and choosing the best path I can, the red crosses approximate the location of the Grand Canyon’s western line, in particular north of the Colorado and over to Fort Garrett Point. The blue line is (approx.) the northside boundary in the 1975 Park Expansion Act.

*The topo & geologic maps put the label “Lower Granite Gorge” extending downstream beyond this 277-mile point, though there is no sign of it. The waters and silts of Lake Mead may cover some pre-Cambrian granitics, and if so, this label hangs around on maps as a reminder of the pre-Anthropocene geologic era.

Sources: Geologic Map of the Lower Granite Gorge and Vicinity, Western Grand Canyon, Arizona, 1982 edn.,
Peter W. Huntoon, George H. Billingsley, Jr. assistant M. D. Clark
USGS, 7.5’ topos, Columbine Falls & Snap Canyon West, Arizona

Terrain Map by Google

Friday, July 22, 2016

GCNM 4 The Proclamation, Jan 2000

The full text of the Proclamation follows:

GCNM 4 Arrival, 2000

USA Today jumped ahead, in an article on 7 Jan 2000: “Decree to protect rugged Ariz. land”, behind a front page: “Arizona land will be preserved”, with a photo — cliffs and chasms, the Canyon’s watershed would be protected. Action is opposed due to fears of tourists despoiling and grazing being prohibited. No immediate threats, but set aside to prevent any. The protection of huge, largely roadless chunk brings joy to environmentalists and outrage from Congress. Many streams feed into Canyon, so need to protect area to north. Wilderness Society “could not be more pleased”. Utah’s Hansen: peaceful land will be threatened by attracting tourists.
Many more words would be spieled, but there was the essence.

GCNM 4 Waiting, 1999

This part of the story follows two paths. The first sums up the mysteries surrounding how the original Grand Canyon watershed idea was doubled and conceptually transformed. The second recounts the Arizona delegation’s retrograde, and futile, effort to derail an Antiquities Act creation of a Monument.


There was Babbitt’s watershed concept, which he would reiterate over the years. There was a wildlife/habitat concept, twice the size of Babbitt’s, originated and lobbied for by Arizona-based environmental groups. By what chain of decision-making did the first get replaced by the second?