Tuesday, January 4, 2011

GCNP Enlargement: A Look Back at the first half century

For half a century, the Powell-Harrison concept of a Grand Canyon National Park centered all subsequent political activity on the boundaries. Those actors could not actually see the Canyon as we can, from a satellite hanging in space far above the Canyon. Nevertheless, Powell had gone through the Canyon all the way; he had spent time up on the plateaus and the rim. He, along with the Ives Expedition, contributed material for this 1873 map, created by George Wheeler: 

So why did Powell's Park vision narrow it down to the eastern half of the entire Canyon? He could see its extent; he had travelled a good bit of it. And yet, when he came to convince Harrison to introduce a Park bill, he set the tradition of the limited view. For comparison, here is a satellite-derived contemporary view (Google's) of what Wheeler put together using only groundlings' methods:

Between the two, it can only be said that the 2009 map is more accurate in details than the 1873 one; it is not truer. They both at a glance tell you about the lateral and side-to-side extent of the Canyon; they both show its complexity and diversity within the entity. So, a mystery: what was Powell thinking? 
Whatever, here is what Powell-Harrison put forth in 1882:

(The boundaries I draw on these maps are limited by my skill and the scale.)
Alright, I concede this does include most of the Grand Canyon's introductory Marble Gorge. Kanab and Havasu/Cataract canyons are largely included,  and the Kaibab and Coconino plateaus. It is actually not bad for a start. The problem being that it did not get to start this way as a Park, but as a somewhat reduced Forest Reserve, and as I have noted before, this set the whole question upside down. Instead of: "What can we spare from the Park for non-Park uses?", we got "How small a Park can we carve out of this Forest (= profit-making resource)? So, when Roosevelt created the first Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908, the area deemed park-worthy suffered a severe contraction:

This is certainly the Big Hole idea with a vengeance. And it is not without its instructive lessons to realize that the only plateau and major side canyon included came from land that ought to have been in a Havasupai reservation from the start. 
The Restrictives were not done, however. They hated the Monument and were determined to write Park legislation that would open the place up for "appropriate" exploitation, while squeezing the boundary even tighter. The yellow lines show the cuts of the 1919 Park establishment Act:

This corset was too tight, however, and the puttee-clad Park men found themselves without control of vital areas for roads and buildings, as well as the access to the spectacular Thunder River. In a process that ended in a 1927 Park boundary revision Act, the Restrictives eased up a little, especially on a vital Kaibab plateau entry. In a parallel debate, however, the Park Service's try for significant parts of the original Grand CaƱon Forest Reserve was fended off several times by the Forest Service. So for another half century, the Park stayed with the 1927 lines (changes in green). 

One way to look at the effect is as a press, where west and east sides of the Big Hole held as the north & south lids came together, extruding land into the Forest. Or think of Powell first reducing the designated area by half, and then the Restrictives with their scalpels cutting and cutting and cutting to get this:

Yet change of perspective was coming, following the command: Go west, young man, go west. That is what the Park Service did as the Great Depression started. However, just as their struggle with the Forest Service for trees and deer was over, a warrior seemingly as formidable and potentially more destructive now appeared, as the Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona, and others began salivating over the Grand Canyon's hydroelectric future. I have written about this struggle into the climactic 1960's, a time when NPS tried to save some Park dignity as the dam-builders shot off their big guns trying to make everyone dance to an industrial tune. Ironically, the fight over the dams released energies for Park enlargement, a process that has not yet run its course. I close here by displaying again the ASHPS 1910 map, the ultimate of the Expansives, as a kind of never-could-have-been, but wouldnt it have been nice:

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