Sunday, September 19, 2010

GCNP Boundary: L & M: Kanb Canyon is a Forest; updated 9/20/10

Lets start with a joke. The map below is from the current Kaibab National Forest map centered on Kanab Canyon. The light green is KNF, with the darker green the Wilderness established within KNF. The light orange-tan is BLM, with the darker orange BLM's share of the Kanab Creek Wilderness. The light brown at the bottom is the current National Park, including the Colorado River.

The red line is the boundary of the first GCNMonument set up by Roosevelt in 1908. An earlier post showed how the Forest out of which the GCNM was carved was much more generous in recognizing Kanab's features than the Monument. But it got much worse when the Forest Service and some local stockmen bent Arizona's legislators' ears about the great grazing country that would be lost if the boundary from GCNM were not pared down even further. And so the 1919 GCNP line swept all of Kanab and most of the Tapeats drainage right out of the Park (The 1919, 1927, and 1927 lines are my approximations; see below). It kept in the National Forest all the magnificent redwoods and dougfir and cedar that fill Kanab from rim to rim, making them available --- oops, sorry, thats the NORTHwest. Well, it is true there are trees here and there in Kanab, fine candidates for a Forest Service Scraggly Trees National Forest. And it is true some horses and cows did wander around, messing up the creek, doing in the vegetation, and mooing at the rock art -- until the Forest Service realized grazing was even a bigger joke than the timber.

Anyway, the next chapter was in 1927 when NPS managed to re-coup a bit, squeezing Thunder River and the Tapeats Ampitheatre out of the Forest Service's grasp (blue line).

Chapter 4 began in the 1950's when the Park Service, probably as a result of investigations to look at Bridge Canyon dam's impact, proposed adding back much of the rest of the Monument that the Park had been skinned out of in 1919 (yellow line). Here is a Google terrain map of that area to give an idea as to why that particular line was chosen:

The red crosses are above the boundary, which seems determined to find lower rims and side creeks to avoid taking TOO much of the fine forest and grazing land the Forest Service was clinging to, though the addition did not happen for another 20 years. And with the criterion of just getting back close to the 1908 line, it makes some sense. Not much, when you consider the sheer magnificence of Kanab Canyon up to Snake Gulch, and all its other Park values, but it has helped the map drawers interpret the official 1975 map (below). I added "snake g." just to show how far away from the goal the 1975 Act fell. The red marks indicate Segment L (cross-Kanab) and M (the rim):

Now, although it is clear in the record from the 1950's on what the map drawers had in mind, the rims and canyons and in-betweens are rough enough and the maps of varied enough detail and scale, that differences seem bound to show up on the FS, BLM, and NG/USGS maps. 

What follows was added or revised on 9/20/10: 
Is the "Boundary on Canyon Rim" notation helpful here? On the bill as introduced, there was a label, reasonably enough saying "Lower Kanab Canyon", where"Boundary on Canyon Rim" now appears. As I explained, the House-passed bill took in Kanab on the outer canyon rim up to Snake Gulch and the notation appeared up in that position, which made sense as a reassurance that the Park expansion would not take in any uplands. Given that the lower Kanab addition is only partially on that rim, it would be a problem if the label were taken literally (whereas it is a positive help for Segment J). In this case, the addition had been well-defined on maps for 20 years, which therefore had preference over the label. (Compare this with the puzzling increase in the Coconino addition-- Segment F--from 640 to 960 acres.) However, a close comparison of the NPS, BLM and FS maps show that here and there along the line, neither the NPS original proposal nor the "on rim" instruction were followed--notably at Indian Hollow and on the west end where it goes to meet the old GCNM bondary. So?

One hopes that, regardless of the line's details, because the BLM/FS lands north of the Park are a congressional Wilderness, the administration of this incredible place has a uniformly high level of protection built in. However, it is worth noting that BLM wants to allow grazing in its portion, apparently for tourist horses, though tourist backpackers have to carry all their food in. And lurking in among the upper branches of Kanab, plop in its drainage, is Arizona One, currently digging up and trucking out uranium ore. We are a still a far piece from an authentic social and political commitment to recognizing, presenting, and protecting the Grand Canyon in all its glory. And that, rather than the details of this boundary, is a major item on the future's agenda.

Little boundary segment M was another, the last, effort to get the Park up on a rim, in this case at the head of Stina Canyon. Minor, but it gave John McComb and me the chance to enjoy another visit with Forest officials out in the field -- you can learn so much that way. Most of the overlooks remain in the Forest, but you know, that would be alright if the North Kaibab administration could only see that recreation (esp. oriented toward the Canyon) is overwhelmingly its prime business now. Wilderness, Canyon approaches & overlooks, yes -- hunting, and just general enjoyment of the Kaibab; all would be quite enough to make a comprehensive and sufficient justification and orientation for Forest Service administration. Which is another story.

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