Monday, December 7, 2009


Review: A National Forest Commission, and then GLO, had been memoing up a Grand Canyon National Park for ten years, from before the end of the XIXth century. USGS was making excuses for its lack of action. The matters of a survey and railroad lands were agreed to in 1902, and finished with by 1905. TR had included a one-line national Park recommendation in his 1904 and 1905 annual (December) messages. In January 1906, the Santa Fe asked USGS its opinion of a national Park, and urged its advantages.

June 1906, the Antiquities Act authorized the President to proclaim National Monuments. TR created four in late 1906 (and another dozen before he left office). Lifting his feet, USGS Director replied to the Santa Fe in December, in favor (of a Park?), and in January 1907, USGS sent its recommendations to the Santa Fe.

Then in June, the Forest Service, managing agency for the Grand Canyon National Forest (the Forest Reserves were renamed National Forests in 1907), said it was considering a Monument and asked for USGS recommendation of lines close to the rim. Right away, USGS offered both a tightly drawn Monument and a more generous Park proposal; minerals were an issue.

Comment: From 1896-1906, only the idea of a National Park was talked of during those dilatory years. The Antiquities Act changed the game for the Canyon, and I am not clear why. An NP was the obvious course; an NM was a stretch, leaving unsettled issues Park legislation would have had to work on. Could it have been that congressional action was unthinkable, given the hostility over conservation, the national forests, etc., and TR's propensity to act executively? But now I am just trying to find excuses; the archives do not solve the mystery of these changes of course. 

Although questions remained, GLO Commissioner Ballinger had a Monument map before him in October 1907, and sent it to Interior Secretary Garfield in November. Horace McFarland, president of the American Civic Association, sent TR a telegram in November urging him to support Forest Service action to hold GC as a Monument, saying the duty of the US is to keep inviolate and free from desecration this stupendous work of nature.

An issue still to be discussed with Pinchot (FS Chief) was what lands along the rim should be left out for railroad right-of-way and hotel concessions. President Ripley of the Santa Fe telegraphed Garfield asking for an interview. (The telegam did not refer to the Canyon, but it ended up in NPS archives under Monutments--Grand Canyon 1907-33.) A meeting was immediately set for December 6, including Pinchot.

New Years Eve, Interior forwarded the proclamation to TR as recommended by Secretary of Agriculture. The President is assured that the Antiquities Act covers the action. (Afterward, though, the Justice Department queried the Forest Service about it.) He issued the proclamation on January 11, 1908. It "reserved from appropriation and use of all kinds under all of the public land laws, subject to all prior valid adverse claims" tracts of land on the accompanying diagram. However, it "is not intended to prevent the use of the lands for forest purposes". "The two reservations shall both be effective…, but the National Monument … shall be the dominant reservation." "Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure or destroy any feature of this National Monument or to locate or settle upon any the lands". Oh yes, and "the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River … is an object of unusual scientific interest, being the greatest eroded canyon within the United States".

The supporting GLO memo indicates what was on people's minds. Curiously, the supporting GLO memo refers to rules set up December 1906 that seem to support the idea that the Act meant things that could be dug up (and not those already dug up?). The primary concern was that, since the Antiquities Act did not authorize mining, railroad rights-of-way or hotels, any such should be excluded, and left in the National Forest. On the map transmitted, GLO red-lined such developments, as well as other areas, to "confine the area to limits prescribed by the Act". The memo refers to the controversy over the "toll road" now in the courts. Minerals had not yet appeared in paying quantities, so mining did not constitute a valid objection. Moreover: "the proposition of saving this most magnificent and awe-inspiring example of erosion in the world, unmarred by the smoking of smelters and the destructive activity of mining development, is worthy of consideration." Besides, action can be taken later "if, at some future date, the mining interests of the country should seriously languish because the available fields are worked out". (And without seriously languishing, mining interests never can resist trying to get at the Canyon.) 

Comment: Such archival materials hardly rule out conversations among these figures, some of them friends, colleagues, allies, or even just mutually prominent men who had to be involved in issues that affected them. And with such personalities, what games of influence and one-upmanship were played? Certainly there could have a sense of urgency (18 months of crisis?) generated if nefarious schemes were afoot, or were hyped as being afoot. Yet TR, newly elected in a landslide, recommended a park in December 1904. And nothing happened for a year and more. I would liked to have come out of this review of sources full of admiration for a dynamic personality who believed in action and accomplishment. Sadly, I am disappointed, and in part because I think the story of Grand Canyon National Park legislation will be a story played out with lesser characters, and with a tattier, more tattered, result than if TR and company had gone to Congress with a GCNP bill in 1905.

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