Friday, July 23, 2010

GCNP Boundary: B. Marbled Memory, 1968-9 (edited 7/14/12)

Two major parts of the Colorado Plateau occupied me in 1968 as the Sierra Club's Southwest Representative. The first, of course, was the Grand Canyon, as the legislative struggle over Arizona water development, and thus the dams, was reaching its anti-climax. The second was the inner part of what was being called the Golden Circle: Canyonlands NP, Arches and Capitol Reef National Monuments, the lands remaining wild in Glen Canyon NRA. The two came together behind the scenes in 1968-9.

The major NPS figure for that Utah area was Bates Wilson, Supt of Arches and Canyonlands. I think of him, fondly, as of the old stock of Park Service. He revered the land, the Parks; he believed in roads. He built the Arches entrance road which scars its way, discreetly, up the cliff above US 191. 
He wanted to build a passenger car road to get past Elephant Hill in Canyonlands. He plotted with the Utah Highway Dept on a road paralleling the right shore of Glen Canyon, including a bridge across the Escalante under Stevens Arch, up the great sand bank, and around the Kaiparowits Plateau. But he did know these places, and he wanted others to see them, including the politicians, and then he worked to get them and us to keep them safe as part of the National Park System. Thus Canyonlands. And thus other lands, near Arches and Capitol Reef, that he wanted recognized and protected. 

In time, I will write about the complications the dam builders got themselves tangled in over building a dam in Marble Canyon. In 1968, that dream was dimmed to extinction, and we dreamed that it one day would be added to Grand Canyon National Park. 

Sometime late in '68, or maybe even January 1969 (though that seems late), we (Sierra Club and others, I presume) were invited by NPS (Bates Wilson among others) to a little show and tell in some Interior hideaway in Washington. For some months (this is all memory; I am not consulting my files, and indeed any materials I had on this matter stayed in the SW Rep's files that ended up in the hands of Brant Calkin and thus the Santa Fe dump), Bates told us, they had been working on the maps and proclamations for several additions to National Monuments using the Antiquities Act--though not in as spectacular a manner as TR had. Along with the additions to Arches and Capitol Reef, there was to be a new Marble Canyon NM.  It was, of course, all hush-hush, since it was to be a last-minute act by President Johnson as he went out the door and, shudder, Richard Nixon came in (whose presidency ended up not so environmentally disastrous as we feared). Also likely was that Bates, wise in the ways of Utah politicians, knew that they would scream and run about when they knew still more acres were being scooped up into the NPS.

We were shown the maps, made politely declined suggestions, and had a friendly meeting with Secretary of the Interior Udall. Here my memory slips, for I remember that we wanted something and argued strenuously for it, maybe to add all the Grand Canyon at once into a Monument, I dont know. But we had not been brought in and informed because our input was needed, but to be prepared to lead cheers for this final great conservation action by the Johnsons. (For a newspaper story on this effort, see my entry of 27 Apr 2012.)

Thats it, not much I admit, just a tiny reminder of why I rely on the written records to tell these Grand Canyon stories. 

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