Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GCNP river boundary 10; north boundary, past & future

The principal goal of this project has been to bring the river guide maps to a consistent, correct presentation of the boundary of Grand Canyon National Park along the Hualapai Reservation, in line with the GCNP Enlargement Act of 1975. However, some of the maps include parts of the northern boundary that runs east of the Shivwits, across Parashant & Whitmore Canyons, along the Canyon rim to where it turns north following the old GCNM (2) boundary on the Uinkaret Plateau. So I am also taking a look at that.

A side note: I am relieved that I started at the Grand Wash Cliffs and worked upstream. Each map has presented new, different, and usually more complicated "learning experiences" with Photoshop Elements 8. Having finished the USGS quads upstream through Granite Park, I am now approaching the big bend where the canyon trends northeast/southwest. It is in this section that the northern -- a land -- boundary shows up on River Guide maps. 

Three quads are involved, and each one treats the land boundary differently.
Whitmore Point SE, starting (moving upstream) on River Guide map 36 has a piece of the boundary, although with "(INDEFINITE)" along it. I am not sure if this means unsurveyed, or unfenced, or the map-maker was ill-informed, but I consider this term misleading. However, RG map 35 is the real problem. From mile 198 (east of Parashant Canyon) to mile 194 (where this quad ends), the boundary has slipped down from the rim (the 3800'-4000' level). We need to  pull its socks up so that it marches in step with what is on map 35 (and 33-4, see  below).

The problem is obvious on the full quad: To the west rim of Parashant, all is ok, but crossing Parashant, the cartographer must have gotten tired, and couldnt make it all the way to the actual rim. Fixing that will be the challenge. However, then it will match the Whitmore Rapids quad on RG maps 34 &33, where it has once again climbed up to the main rim.

The in-between quad, Vulcans Throne SW, RG maps 35 & 34, somewhat surprisingly has no Park boundary shown at all. Three maps in a row, each different. 

A bit of history about this boundary. As the legislation history from the 1910's makes clear, protecting the (local) interests is what occupies our legislators. So it was, in the late 1960's to 1974, when the GCNP Act of 1975 was cobbled together. 

After the failure of the attempt to authorize Grand Canyon dam construction in 1968, several different bills were introduced, both from Park advocates like Saylor and Case, and erstwhile dam proponents like Goldwater, who was now ready to love the Grand Canyon again. Among the differences were how they answered the questions of how far downstream to go and how much of the Lake Mead NRA to include. This will be covered in more detail when I get to that part of the Canyon's political story. 

In that period, Senator Alan Bible was chair of the Senate subcommittee on Parks. Bible was from Nevada. Bible was a hearty partisan of the LMNRA, and being a Nevadan, a defender of grazing interests. At a point (1971 may be right, possibly earlier), Bible and then Sup't Bean of LMNRA were consulting each other. Believe it or not, Bean eanestly advocated that every bit of the NRA deserved to be NRA; a Park just wasnt suitable. (Turf protection with NPS is no surprise, and indeed, at that same time, the sup't of Glen Canyon NRA was protesting taking any of HIS land for the Park. "Lees Ferry isnt in the Grand Canyon.", sniffed he.) 

What Bible did, from his strategic position as chair, was to insist that no grazing interests were to be affected. And the result of that was that NPS map-drawers checked to see where the grazing allotments were in the Whitmore-Parashant area, and draw a boundary that made sure the allotments were excluded. Which meant, in effect, along the rim, which in this stretch is just above the river, reducing the Park to that scrawny neck that remains a testament to cow-power.

What made the result even more difficult to deal with is that the maps used in the 1973-4 fight over the Park boundary had no detail at all. Here is a sample from the map that went with the Act as finally approved (the area below "Boundary on Canyon Rim"):

Since not everyone knew of the origin of the boundary, mistakes were made in drawing maps and making policy after 1975. However, over the years, things have settled down. One reason is that LMNRA got religion and moved to end grazing. Patience in this case has been on the Canyon's side. At the end of the Clinton adminstration, Interior Secretary Babbitt pushed through the proclamation of the so-called Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument, which was laid over without eliminating all of the LMNRA that is Canyon territory. Although more than half of said Monument has nothing to do with the Canyon (much less Parashant), we can continue to hope that the so-far-successful Monument-conversion process will once again lead to the addition of appropriate land to GCNP. 
Patience. Or maybe I mean persistence.

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