Tuesday, December 28, 2010

GCNP Enlargement: If at first... 1929-31...

To start this wind-up of NPS vs. FS, here is a bit of commentary on the first decade of NPS & GCNP: 

From my very limited perspective, this period of NPS history seems dominated by an almost entrepreneurial spirit, a vigorous outreach and search for place, both physically and in the rank of American institutions. Mather and his deputy H. Albright were certainly key, but the very freshness of the idea of a national park system, gathering and presenting for the public America's most significant natural and historical places, must have excited staff and supporters. Bureaucratization and its ills would come, but the period of the 1920's and '30's was populated by those animated by the XIXth-century sense of expansion, claiming frontiers, building a new world. 

However, the events around the 1925 operation of the Coordinating Commission must have been sobering and even galling. Given that the process was shadowed by Hayden's Restrictive rubric, the question remains of whether the internal discussion and political maneuvering that must have taken place over that year among the members of the CCPF were handled by the Forest Service in a superior way. Mather tried hard this time to enlist local support and placate Hayden beforehand. It did not work; as then-new NPS Director Albright wrote in March 1929 to new GCNP Supt, M. Tillotson: "As you know, I have always felt that in 1925 we got the worst of the decision on the proposed boundary changes." It seems -- and the intra-CCPF conversations are not recorded -- that at decision time the three public members were not convinced by NPS arguments.

I am not sure I would have been convinced either. I remain puzzled as to why the Forest Service clung to the Marble and Kanab canyon areas, and as well, why NPS did not argue harder to add them, once Evans had pointed them out. Instead NPS's major effort was directed at lands, forested and open, back from the rims, and supposedly rich with game. The Kaibab forest in 1925 was surely a wonderful place, but I consider NPS focus on it rather than on the Canyon itself a legacy of the Powell-Harrison concept of protecting the spectacular big hole. It is possible that quite literally Mather and his staff could not, did not, see the entire Grand Canyon, and thought 1919 was enough of that. Were they distracted then by trees and deer? Were they Easterners, still shrinking back a bit from the scariness of contemplating the full spread of the Canyon? If they had been run down the river for a few weeks, would they have gained a new appreciation of what the Canyon really is?

Monday, December 20, 2010

GCNP Enlargement: Debate and resolution, 1925...

Under the Coolidge administration, a National Conference on Outdoor Recreation was convened in 1924, with speeches. This fest brought about a President's Committee on Outdoor Recreation, made up of cabinet members. That group established by resolution a (Joint) Coordinating Commission on National Parks and National Forests (also called on "Park Extension"), 24 Feb 1925. Mather and Chief Forester Greeley were on this CCPF, and there were three public members, the chairman being a congressman from Pennsylvania. Hayden was not a member, but stuck to it like Velcro. Its charge was to provide an arena for the resolution of Forest and Park Service disputes over interagency boundaries, particularly when a tract seemed to have desirable resources both for exploitation and for recreation/scenery. Since there was only an overlap of functions between these agencies, these turf battles featured claims and counter-claims only hazily comparable. If there was timber, was it to be cut or looked at? If camped in, which venue provided the better, appropriate experience? If there were deer, should they be shot or allowed to wander among the tourists, a tame spectacle? Given previous over-grazing, what path to recovery should be followed, removal of utilization or more active measures? And so on. The practical question was whether this CCPF could be a place where the agencies discussed and compromised, with members who could help, or would Congress again get to wield Solomon's sword? In any case, Mather believed that GCNP was one of the group's two priorities. 

Personal digression: Were my  experience in the resolution of disputes centered on our National Park System spread across many of its units, instead of concentrated deeply on just one, I would know whether my observations of the past near-50 years can be generalized. In the present case of boundaries, I have seen again and again that all and every party in a variety of conflicts have seen Congress as the eventual, last, and even inevitable court of last resort. In the history of river management, to take a different example, there have been several instances of using the law court system to gain an advantage. And though environmental law is a fairly recent innovation, the President's power under the Antiquities Act to declare the first Grand Canyon National Monument went to the Supreme Court almost a century ago. These, however, are the classical exceptions proving the rule, for the foundation of GCNP's distorted, discriminatory river management system is a congressionally imposed and maintained political settlement, and only Congress can ever finally provide a resolution, in this case by pronouncing on a true Grand Canyon Wilderness. Likewise with the first GCNM, which was only a step toward Congressional passage --the 1919 Park Act--, just like its three successor Monuments. To boundaries, river management and Wilderness, add these issues: noise versus natural quiet, aircraft operation, air clarity, the Havasupai's land repatriation, authorization (or not) of dams, planning a traffic system for Grand Canyon Village using rail, grazing termination, uranium mining, the impact of Glen Canyon dam operations. All have reached Congress. Is this the way with all Parks? Or is there something about the Canyon that shapes the political processes that work on its issues, so that the interests, affected parties, stake-brandishers, end up aiming at congressional resolution? Yes. 

But we were speaking of the Park boundary, and in 1925; lets return to that day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

GCNP Enlargement: Talking It Over, 1922-4

In the summer of 1922, the Forest Service wanted a survey of the indefinite Kaibab boundary since administration was difficult, although NPS had said nothing. Kaibab Supervisor Roak complained about the drift of cattle onto the Park and the need to get a one-mile strip out of the Park for the water; otherwise at some point NPS will push cattle out. He was concerned about getting the Quaking Asp/Stina/Tapeats drainage out of the Park, but his boss gave him no encouragement, since "the controversy over this would be poor". In September, GLO agreed to survey the Kaibab boundary. Feb 1923, although NPS had a brochure that included a complaint about GCNP's boundary inadequately providing space for tourist development, the agency stated it was not presently working on any change. The Park map, with the Mathes mapwork back in 1902 as starting point, was being worked on by R.T. Evans of the Geological Survey, during which, Dec 1921, he had proposed saving survey money in the southwest corner by excluding Beaver Canyon from the Park, saying it was unknown when the Park was created. Evans was also impressed with the Tapeats-Thunder drainage, thinking access to it should be in Park. But the President's Forest flurry of 1921-2 seemed a solitary disturbance. 

By late 1923, matters were livelier, and a more gritty discussion was starting to take place. This back-and-forth between the Park and Forest Services was the sort of detailed debate that had not taken place ten years before. Perhaps it could not have; even a few years of on-the-ground experience for NPS helped it understand better GCNP's administrative needs; and perhaps just getting the Park established in 1915-9 was enough to occupy Mather and Albright's energies. A few years later, and Mather could respond to a broadening of the Park's scope with enthusiasm.

Sep 1923, Mather had been on another visit to the North Rim. He travelled from Fredonia  with C. McCormick of that town, who suggested getting the boundary "back a little on natural features". Mather was reported by the FS as talking to locals Oct 1923 about moving the Park boundary. Poor controversy or not, now it was NPS who was considering going west to get Thunder River. Mather also wanted to pick up the top of the Kaibab including VT Park and Pleasant Valley, and add the southern end of House Rock. Since the Grand Canyon Cattle Company had the only grazing, at first, people were disposed to sign Mather's petition. An FS inspector countered by meeting with local citizens of influence to tell them his agency protected features of high recreation value, which Mather claimed would be lost if they were not in Park. The inspector opined that tourists liked cowboys and their camps at VT. KNF contributed funds to the county. It would be more difficult for NPS to deal with excess deer, and the Forest Service had a plan. These arguments, FS higher-ups were told, moved general opinion against the Park.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

GCNP Enlargement: A President's Forest?

Not satisfied with the restrictive boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, Mather used his energy and connections trying to find ways to provide the public a more expansive view.  In November 1921, he wrote the President about his summer visit to the "very largest area of virgin forest in the country". The Kaibab forest was splendid and extraordinary, and should be preserved. Emerson Hough had been with him and suggested the name President's Forest to signal their high estimate of its national worth. As a Forest Service opponent put it, "Mather has broken out in another place". At the time, the designation Kaibab National Forest applied only to the Kaibab Plateau, north of the Colorado River, today's North Kaibab Ranger District. Although part of Arizona, there was only ferry access, and in any case, the use and settlement of the entire Arizona Strip was oriented northwards, part of the Mormon expansion in the late XIXth century. 

The visit stirred up rumors, which, 17 Nov, E.G. Marshall of Grand Canyon Cattle Company (GCCC) confirmed to Kaibab NF supervisor Roak. Mather and a Union Pacific man were the moving spirits, Marshall wrote, visiting me, and asking if I would vacate my grazing leases in favor of preservation ideas. On the 30th, Marshall wrote to the President: Mather has brought the idea of a Presidential Forest to my attention, and we are willing to vacate our lands on the Kaibab and to the east. We ask only for time to dispose of sheep and that no one else be given a grazing permit. There would need to be an arrangement for buying our lands for the government. 
Then as now, much of the Kaibab and House Rock Valley were grazed by a single large outfit. Then as now, there were strongly held ideas that the Kaibab deserved special treatment, not oriented toward exploitation. Then as now, grazing hangs on as an administrative adornment, rather than for wealth creation.