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?

GCNM 4 The Secretary Listens, 1999

Secretary Babbitt had a concept of a Grand Canyon watershed as the foundation for further protective designation of the northwestern Grand Canyon. The area was overwhelmingly under Interior jurisdiction, in either Lake Mead National Recreation Area or public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The set-up was prime ground for a presidential Antiquities Act proclamation. Nevertheless, rather than act first and then listen to the outrage, Babbitt chose to make his plan public in a preliminary way, thus providing the opportunity for public officials and the citizenry to offer up their views and alternative ways to proceed. 

GCNM 4 Opening Moves, 1998

1998: Before the News

Having the time to become once again involved in matters affecting the Grand Canyon, In 1998, I attempted to grasp the threads of affairs I had dropped 16 years before, even though few of the players I had known were still around. Particularly with respect to the park-worthy areas of the Canyon’s north side, the issues unresolved in the early ’80’s were handles I could grab in seeking to learn about a  new status quo.

I wrote letters to agency heads, sought conversation with them and with active environmentalists, and planned reconnoitering trips, particularly to the Arizona Strip. My timing on the latter was fortuitous, since as I was traveling, Secretary Babbitt was putting together, at his much higher level, his ideas about more Antiquities Act actions. Of course, I had no knowledge of his moves, and the Arizona Strip BLM staff that I interviewed said nothing. Unlike my efforts in the 1970’s, I was now an unfamiliar inquirer with no organizational connections.