Friday, September 17, 2010

GCNP Boundary: The Canyon, the Kaibab, and the Strip

We are midway in our traverse of the northern boundary of the Park, and it seems worthwhile to meditate a bit over the setting. Here is the ever-useful Auto Club of Southern California's "Indian Country":

The green line I added in the west bounds the drainage into the Canyon from Toroweap Valley west to the Grand Wash Cliffs. Most of it is part of the so-called Grand Canyon - Parashant NM -- though half of that item drains west over the GWC and down into Lake Mead and Nevada. A thrice-strange anomaly.

This part of Arizona, north and west of the Colorado is the Strip, because of its placement often considered remotest Arizona and even a colony of southern Utah. To me of more importance is that it is the North Side of the Canyon, its hinterlands, its northern backcountry approaches, its topographic setting. Largely federally administered (the biggest exceptions being the Kaibab Paiute lands and settlements along the paved highways, 89A, I15, Az389), it is nevertheless a coherent geographic region without a regional administration, being split among two NPS units, BLM in St. George, and the North Kaibab district of the Kaibab National Forest. 

Kaibab NF is of course the USFS descendant of the original attempt to mark out the Grand Canyon, the 1882 Powell-Harrison GCNP proposal. Just for fun, I have marked that proposal's corners with red crosses. Now lets dream for a little of what would have happened had the GCNP and the Park Service been created before the Forest Service.  Some of the timbered lands would surely have been later cut out of it and placed under USFS. Maybe some of the plains north and south of the river would have been passed onto a Grazing Service.  Perhaps the Havasupai would have gotten their plateau lands back 80 years earlier. And cannot we suppose that much of Marble and Kanab Canyons, explored by the young NPS, would have been permanent parts of the Park? 

Instead, with the Forest Service in place a decade before NPS, eastern Grand Canyon National Park has had to be pulled, hacked, wrenched, bit by mingy bit out of a National so-called Forest to make boundary Segments D, L, M, N & O. And nowhere is the illogicality more illogical than in Segment L across the Canyon's major tributary: Worthy of its own Park, Kanab Canyon, with its Esplanade and side canyons, rising to its own upper rim, is, above the GCNP line, the captive of graziers, foresters, hunters, and uranium miners. 

Back with our meditative speculations, is it even conceivable that had there been an NPS at the Canyon before the railroad came to GCVillage, more attention would have been given to the North Side? Now always an administrative step-child, instead it could have been GCVillage's co-equal, center of a robust North-o-centric administration focussed on the wild and back-country qualities of the Strip, and on working with other agencies along the Park's approaches. Think of the innovative thinking that could happen were there a North Side GCNP office in Fredonia, with a coherent vision of the Canyon from Marble Canyon's overlooks all across the Strip to the Shivwits and its canyons, building cooperative relationships with BLM and the FS for the presentation of the Canyon and the Strip to the public.

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