Monday, December 28, 2009

Going to (happy) extremes

Meanwhile, on its own, the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (ASHPS) had come up with an astounding idea, and in November met with President Taft, urging him to extend the Monument by proclamaion to include almost all of the Grand Canyon. And I do mean "all". Here is an approximate boundary, courtesy of a Google terrain map:

When, during the 1960's dam fight, we in the Sierra Club decided to put forth the alternative, damless, future of a National Park that included the entirety of the Canyon, we thought we were the first. Yet our concept of gathering in all the Canyon drainage from the Paria to the Grand Wash Cliffs is here, as of 1910, anticipated -- in spades. Life jackets, climbing ropes, and backpacks off, ladies & gentlemen, in salute. 

Before I tell what I have found on the ASHPS proposal, here is what we came up with half a century later. Our first offer, when the dam fight was at its hottest, was in March 1966 and was very complicated. But we and the ASHPS were on the same ground.

Then, after a lot of negative reaction, and seeing our way a bit more strategically as we realized the dams would not be authorized, we dropped some of the complications, and looked only at adding to the Park what was then federal land. (Once again, as way back in 1910, the Havasupai get overlooked and usurped. We would learn.) So here is the Club 1968 proposal, the Big-Bird-On-Its-Back, or as less kind folks would have it, the Flightless Turkey. More on all this later.

In May 1910, the ASHPS decided to study the question of what arrangments were best to protect the Grand Canyon. A committee was headed by the president, precious-stone mineralogist George Kunz, and included five others, most importantly, Frederick Dellenbaugh, eminent in his own right after having gotten his start on Powell's second voyage. Since the Nov 1910 report of the committee is silent, I can only speculate that Dellenbaugh would have been the one to show such knowledge about the Grand Canyon country so as to allow such a well-informed map to be drawn and argued for.
In November, they met with President Taft who received them "cordially and with full sympathy", although he was not sure whether it was advisable to use the proclamation route. He spoke of his 1909 Canyon trip with enthusiasm.
The report had notable features, such as pointing out that Marble Canyon at 65.5 miles and Grand Canyon at 217.5 had been separately named, the walls were continuous without a break. In any case, only half the Canyon was in the Monument (less than a million acres), and so without protection from vandalism (did they mean logging, grazing, mining, etc. rather than breaking windows?) They took the boundary south so far in order to get the western bend, and thus all 283 miles of the Canyon while also including the wonderful contiguous region with its magnificent tributary canyons. (Such intelligent, knowledgeable citizens!) The committee noted it was all in Arizona, and there were few settlements and no improvements of "consequence". They would be in favor of a Park instead of a Monument so long as it preserved the timber, minerals, and "natural wonders and curiosities".

When the idea had been floated in Congress, however, there was opposition since it would interfere with grazing cattle on public land. Complacent, the committee argued grazing in the Park was ok if the "Kanab farmers" paid a fee, but the title to the land should stay with the federal government. In any case, Congress had taken no action. Nor had it on the Flint bill, which they had mixed feelings about (and which in any case was stuck in the Powell framework of the Nankoweap to Kanab bowl--I wonder if it would be a historical stretch to speak of the Powell half-park and the Dellenbaugh complete park).

The USGS, in reporting on the proposition in December, calculated that it would amount to 4.6 million acres, about seven times as large as the Monument's "proper" size.  The USGS man, a mining type, (and no doubt outraged and uncomprehending of such a sweeping idea) did not deny the "general beauty", but such a Monument would include both the Havasupai and Hualapai reservations, all of Coconino County, the Kaibab and Dixie National Forests, "a great deal of pasture land to the south", and cause water problems. The cold-water thrower then goes on to remind everyone that he had not wanted mining hampered by the original Monument, and that any Park legislation should allow mining--there is asbestos, copper "prospects and promise of more". (Miners are so predictable, and have so little room to talk about others locking places up.)

Interior Secretary Ballinger followed up in December with a negative recommendation, noting how vital the pasture land was, so such a plan would cause much complaint from the cattle interests. Even the Flint Park bill had graziers opposition, (which explains why he changed it from the more generous boundary of 1909 to the mingy boundary of Jan 1911).

ASHPS president George Kunz made another attempt, asking Taft in Feb 1913 to "crown the work to a great Administration" by proclaiming the western Grand Canyon part of the Monument, extending out fifteen miles on each side of the river, ending five miles below the end of the Canyon. A good man, George Kunz, although not by Hualapai & Havasupai lights who would have lost almost all they now have. On the north side, he hit the mark dead on, however, and for this foresight he and, Im sure, Dellenbaugh deserve remembrance as foresighted pioneers. Dellenbaugh, by the way, told NPS Director Steven Mather in 1920 about this attempt, though I do not know whether that influenced Mather in his 1920's effort to add to the Park (that, too, is for a later entry).

A word on sources. In my 1970's research, I came across references to the ASHPS proposal scattered in Interior archives. There were no details however, no map, so most was lost to me, and I had no feeling for how profound a knowledge the proposal was based on. Thrity-five years later, of course I turned to the internet, which quickly turned up the 1911 ASHPS annual report, but in the archives of the New York State Legislature, which have been made available in digitized form by Google. I never would have found that before the internet, or before Google's vaulting ambitions had led it to digitize the world (as long as authoritarian regimes do not object). If you are interested in the original document, go to pp 184-190 of this document.

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