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?

The history of the Kaibab plateau's mule deer would be a distraction for me at this point, so  it is enough to say that in the 1920's, the numbers increased hugely, then crashed. The debate over what was happening and what to do was intense. One of those who got involved was the highly respected Vernon Bailey, Chief Field Naturalist of the federal Biological Survey (melded into the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940), in 1929 near the end of his career. (Although Mather had retired in January 1929, his interest in the Kaibab, continuing to his death in 1930, was such as to raise the possibility he had set Bailey on the trail. Anderson* says that Bailey's report was written at the request of NPS, although that report was in Nov-Dec 1929, and I cannot find any account so far as to how Bailey came to be involved in the first place.)

In March, Albright knew that Bailey was worried about the deer and had suggested changes in the boundaries, going north of V T to add 4000 deer, and on south rim adding 1000 between Desert View and entrance road. So Albright wrote Tillotson asking for a report, and his April reply put special emphasis on the Kaibab with its summer and winter ranges. However, NPS DC office did not want to push this idea, and Albright agreed in May, wanting to meet with Chief Forester Stuart. Bailey issued a written report in November on game possibilities (= hunting) for the Kaibab. His proposed addition on the north went north above V T and over to Marble to take in House Rock. On the south, it was much llike the Eakin line of 1925. This was discussed at a NPS-FS meeting with Biological Survey chief and NPS advisor C.H.Merriam. They considered a Park extension, and decided to get a full report from Bailey. 

Bailey's report in December was a fine plea for the Park's educational value in biological matters. The wildlife was of unusual interest and importance. He made animal by animal points: The mule deer could be controlled, then would go on forever. Antelope, now destroyed, could be brought back. Mountain sheep could be a common everyday source of interest to thousands if predators were controlled. Tassel-eared squirrels will be exterminated if not protected. Smaller rodents could be maintained, if a range of landscape was added. Turkey could be brought back, and blue grouse established. The big band-tailed pigeon, as well as the songbird (and he lists many) population, needs protection. His report went on to discuss reptiles, insects, and plant life. He saw the Canyon as a barrier, and worried about timber cutting, 10,000 acres cut on the south rim in a year. Overgrazing was absolutely ruining nicely balanced ecological associations. Bailey thought remedial purposes could be served by NPS with its intelligent management and control of animal life, if it was not for the Park's restricted boundaries. He did support hunting. He suggested looking at a big area all around the Park. The reaction of his boss, Redington, in December was to urge a meeting of the three involved agencies. Albright agreed, mentioning that they should submit their comments to the Arizona Senators, which since 1927 included Hayden. 

After the meeting, in February 1930, Redington and Stuart jointly fired a heavy salvo at the Bailey report and the idea of NPS as game manager. Their letter was an explicit dissent from the idea that national parks were to be wildlife centers and game control areas. They queried how there could be a question about wildlife protection, given that the deer have increased. They claimed the Powell Plateau, in GCNP, was one of the "worst areas". Grazing has been eliminated from many areas, so why complain, and just whatever are the complications from logging? Except for deer problem, human influence is not heavy. 

Internal NPS opinion was less acerbic, but not enthusiastic. Biologist H.Bryant (who later became GCNP sup't) did not want the Park to be a hunting reserve, but to keep some areas so unmodified that there will be a normal balance. He suggested comparing grazed areas in NF and Park. He mentioned specifically his concern about the Kaibab squirrel and mountain lion. Another NPS staffer took the broad administrative view that, while the Park did better by the public, dominant interests were with the FS. 

Tillotson commented at length. He was hopeful that the Park could be the game preserve "it should be" if it were enlarged, grazing were excluded, fencing and water tanks were expanded, and winter feeding done. On specific areas, he liked including a large block south of Great Thumb Mesa, but doubted the advisability of taking back the trans-rivers corner in the northeast (given up for the same reason of "remoteness" in 1927); "it is much more logically a part of the Indian reservation". An antelope range could be set up instead in House Rock. He noted the winter deer range was split east and west. The latter would be "very bitterly" contested by the Forest Service. So perhaps we should look only at the east side, although it services less than one-third of the deer. On summer range, I am in full agreement in extending the Park north. "It has always 'gotten my goat' to be forced to tell North Rim visitors that if they wanted to see deer in large numbers they would have to go to V.T. outside the National Park." Having spent a page and a half on the extension, he took twice as much space to go on the attack. Their offer of a game policy for Parks that would be impracticable for most does not apply here. We have the necessary variation in life zones. The contention that mountain sheep have not increased is unproven; they are certainly seen more. Having exterminated the burros, he optimistically bragged, the sheep will be helped. I know bobcats are effective predators of sheep, and we plant to concentrate control on these cats. Antelope have not done well, it is true, due to the heat and the bobcats. On Powell Plateau, the problem is more due to winter-trapped cattle eating the browse than to the deer.   Cattle are also the problem on the south rim; Buggeln's land is heavily overgrazed. This happens because the permittees dictate how grazing is done. The Forest Service has clashed with Buggeln several times, and two rangers have left. So unless the Park is extended materially to the south, conditions will not be suitable for large numbers of deer. As a 12-year employee in the FS, I know that bureau is more interested in cattle numbers and revenue than in a game range. We can handle a game range more efficiently. As far as the effect of timber cutting on the south goes, even more is planned soon, and local opinion will choose the immediate economic benefit from that over long-term tourist revenue. So do not argue over it, and we can hope that time will restore it to a normal condition. 

Kaibab NF supervisor Mann stirred his side in mid-March 1930, asking the state game staff to join an NPS trip to look at the extension. Arizona hunters were already warning that a Park extension would mean the state would lose its chance to manage the deer. April, Mann sent Arizona Game Protective Association (hunters) president a map of the extension, saying that management would thereby be made very difficult. Bailey, too, in an April report on the deer defended hunting, and commented that if lions increase, they will turn on the cattle. He had first visited in 1888. He stressed the public value of the deer herd, calling hunting a necessity and "not unmanly". 

The AGPA now resolved and informed the congressional delegation that it was absolutely and unconditionally opposed to Park extension, so "don the war bonnets again". This ambitious grab by NPS would take in almost the entire east winter range. AGPA does not want to complicate the conservation problem of the deer by introducing a third agency (to FS and state game dep't) with different policies. 

Mid-April, FS in DC called Mann's agitation "bad business". It put the FS in opposition before there is any decision, and may be resented by those whose good opinion we want to retain. His immediate boss reassured him that he had done nothing wrong, but the matter should be considered unofficial until there is further study. Still, NPS supporters also knew about the proposal and were calling it important. Tillotson reported the Flagstaff AGPA wanted him to speak about the matter, but he was at a loss what to do, and did not know how opposition got started. He went and in early May was reported to have talked about overcrowding by deer. The Biological Survey recommendation would provide the Park with space for wildlife protection. This led to BS being targeted by AGPA, and NPS in DC asking Tillotson what happened. He reported on his talk, in which he tried to mollify hunters, saying, NPS must face the problem of surplus deer in some way other than starvation. He talked about the Park as asset for Flagstaff, and thought he turned the audience around, since they fell to arguing about other things. There were further contradictory actions, but hunters still opposed any extension. Then Albright himself gave out the Bailey report, only to have to try to squash reporting it, since that would only cause trouble. He still hoped to acquire V T, and was being told the conditions were bad on the south.

Now Hayden, in June, queried Albright as to what was going on. Yes, came the reply, there was a movement afoot; it was entirely biological, because the wildlife area was excluded when Park was set up. There were several studies that showed a need to adjust areas in order to have a complete representation of fauna, its maintenance and reintroduction. Do not be alarmed; we will consult with all parties. The Chief Forester saw a clash between the Bailey studies and proposed timber sales. We met to talk about cutting impact. Meanwhile, the Biological Survey was trying to damp down discussion of extension. There was excellent progress on the deer problem due to interagency cooperation. Hayden wrote Tillotson that based on these opinions, there would be nothing done in the near future. 

T.McCullough, chairman of the state Game & Fish Commission addressed Sen. Ashurst at length in mid-June, attacking NPS pretensions about wildlife management and providing a full representation of fauna. He cited the immediate problem of reducing the deer herd, to match the available range, noting it had taken several years to work out complete cooperation of FS and the state [several controversy-ridden years]. NPS should not be permitted to inject its "ideals" and disrupt the FS-state harmony on reducing the deer. Dr. Bailey has a high scientific position; he is a sentimentalist; NPS used him "to pull their chestnuts out of the fire". NPS wants to have control over a Park road between north and south rims, backed by Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads. The former is also concerned because there is a fine lodge at V T, with lower rates than the North Rim lodge. This spot will attract increasing numbers of tourists. As for overgrazing, NPS just wants to end grazing, for the number of head has already declined hugely. So all is well, and if there is anything in the NPS call for a zoological laboratory and a complete representation of the fauna, we and the Forest Service can handle it. FS then told McCullough all was quiet.

July, there was a discussion between Stuart and Albright that led only to NPS being told it needed to understand the deer herd, though Bryant thought what FS meant was that it wanted to commercialize the "finest deer herd on the continent".

August 1930, a national hunting group was echoing McCullough on the deer problem. NPS replied that it was commercialization vs. pristiine condition. That same month, a FS-NPS meeting discussed additions to various parks, but the participants declined to consider changes for biological reasons to GCNP. At another meeting, in October, Albright only promised to give FS a list of desirable areas.

June 1931, Albright wrote Stuart, referring to Merriam's suggestions for wildlife land additions, including V T and the other usual suspects. So in July, Tillotson reported on a FS visit with all sorts of brass. They went to V T after discussion; saw fewer than 200 deer. Stuart seemed open-minded. Once again, KNF super Mann set forth the now-solidified points about the boundary: best administratively, follows drainage topography, road management divided properly. House Rock is a valuable grazing area for different animals. Deer herd now divided, and we are just getting management results. 

Tillotson at this time also noted that the trans-rivers land had been added to the Navajo Reservation, and didnt want DC to even think about adding it back.

Oct 1931, Albright cited a big drop in deer seen at V T, and called for more study, as Stuart had agreed. Tillotson repeated to Mann the NPS complaint that deer are one of main attractions, and people have to leave Park to see bunches in V T. Their boundary dream had remained the same, and KNF made the same comments in reply. After desultory review, in March 1932 KNF could write, "The fundamental necessity for this proposed extension of the GCNP is not evident to the Forest Service.", and so Chief Forester Stuart wrote to Albright to keep the door firmly closed on any idea of changing the Kaibab boundary: now a natural divide, and moving north would take water, timber, grazing, buffalo, and hunting land. We are indisputably successful on deer herd. On south, there is nothing there for you. 
From somewhere, biologist Bryant still dredged up some hope. 

Nov 1934, NPS in DC asked for land to build a road from GC Village to above Havasu Canyon while keeping rim in natural condition. KNF repelled the GCNP request since the present administration was just fine for all resources, and road  would be very difficult. This, it said, had been settled by CCPF. Tillotson agreed with the FS  view; he didnt want the land. 

Oct 1937, Robert Marshall of FS verified that existing lines between KNF and GCNP were logical, and indeed, Tillotson told the Flagstaff paper that no territory should be added.
The vision of a national game park, stimulated for a decade, seemed finally dissipated. It was, perhaps, an artifact of its time, since to my mind, the craze for the deer herd was a distraction for NPS. What these several incidents do show is how the elements of controversy played out in different variations. When we get into the 1930's and Grand Canyon National Monument II, the Forest Service is left behind, but other elements will seem very familiar.

*Anderson, M.F., Polishing the Jewel: An Administrative History of Grand Canyon National Park, 2000, G.C.Assoc., p.37
Archives (DC) National Park Service (NARA, DC)
Forest Service: Kaibab NF (Laguna Niguel)
Region 3 (Denver)

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