Friday, April 20, 2012

A Complete Park: I. Foundations, 1966

In a last gasp of the 1950's fix-a-boundary mode, in April 1963 NPS produced map "NP,M-GC 7100A"  "Boundary Status Map Grand Canyon National Park and Monument". It was exactly the same as in 1956. (See my 26 May 2011 entry.) 

The next month, a bold, new, re-conceptualization was formally launched, when on 4 May 1963, in the first action of this kind, the Sierra Club Board of Directors voted a resolution recommending that "the Grand Canyon National Park and Monument be extended to include the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River between Lee's Ferry and the Grand Wash Cliffs, or that the area be protected by other suitable means, to preserve unimpaired this outstanding scenic part of the river in its natural state, and the Sierra Club opposes any further dams or diversions in this area". According to the cover letter sent by the Club President to the NPS Director, this resolution was passed following "prolonged discussion and lively debate".

In 1966, from my viewpoint as the new, and first, Southwest Representative of the Club, the question of protecting the Grand Canyon and enlarging the National Park was posed not just as a new chapter in a long history, but as opening a new book: From now on, we friends & advocates of a dam-free, wild & natural, Grand Canyon would be championing a Grand Canyon National Park built on the principle of a complete Park, one that came as close as possible to encompassing all the Canyon, its side canyons, and the plateaus into which it was dug. Between the Paria (or Lees Ferry, sometimes) and the Grand Wash Cliffs, we wanted to include all the land that drained into the Canyon. 

That idea was generous, and faced problems arising from the practicalities of the topography and from the politics of land ownership and administration. For some, the Park should be limited to the main rim, a reasonable-sounding idea, but not always unambiguous in practice. On the other hand, if side canyons such as the Little Colorado, Kanab Creek, Cataract, were included, how far upstream should a Park boundary go? Inclusion, particularly of plateau country, had the puzzle of how much acreage: just for administration & visitor services, or add more to provide buffering, or even more for the sweep of the approaches to the Canyon? And inescapably, what about existing or claimed non-Park activities like hunting, grazing, logging, mining? Above all these considerations, what about the land-owners who controlled or laid claim to most of the south side: the Hualapai, the Havasupai, the Navajo?

The 89th Congress, 1965-6, was the setting for the most intense struggle, not just over the Grand Canyon dams, but the entire range of water issues the seven Colorado River Basin states were trying to cope with, primarily of course Arizona's desire for a large Colorado River water diversion and California's resistance to such a project. In 1965, I was very much a peripheral participant, writing various agencies as I tried to become familiar with the claims and weaknesses of the dam-builders' case. Being hired by the Sierra Club at the beginning of 1966 brought me into close working contact with many of those who were opposing the dam. Primarily, this meant working with David Brower, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club -- I could say, of the nationally spread proponents of "Save Grand Canyon", as the bumper stickers read. There were many strands in the story of the fatal smothering of the dam dream that year; I am concerned here with the thread that led us onto the path toward the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act of 1975. 

Although Brower had affirmed on 30 Apr 1964 that the Club was working for an enlargement of the Park so it would run from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, no formal steps had been taken. This situation was pointed up in a 17 Feb 1966 letter Bill Zimmerman, the Club's DC representative, wrote to Conservation Director Mike McCloskey. He reported that at a meeting with Interior Secretary Udall in December 1965, the latter had chided us (anti-dam conservationists) for not getting a bill drafted and introduced that would enlarge GCNP to include all the river. Udall's advice was to exclude the town of Page, but go from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, and include some side canyons.* Zimmerman opined that Udall probably would not consider expanding the Monument by an executive order under the Antiquities Act. McCloskey passed this letter to Brower on 23 Feb 1966 noting that he was undertaking preparation of a draft. 

I have summarized in my 21 May 2011 post  the several trips in early 1966 out of which came H.R. 14176, introduced by Congressman John Saylor, that staunch Republican conservationist, and identical bills from his Democratic colleagues John Dingell and Henry Reuss on 31 March. 

Here are the high points of that March:
On 17-18 March, Brower and I were in New York City to discuss with J.Walter Thompson (ad agency) staff the impending conference at the Grand Canyon hosted by Readers Digest. The conference's purpose was to assemble an audience of journalists in order to present the case against the dams and then show off the Canyon from the air. However, we wanted to do more than make the case against the dams.  Martin Litton was there with his personal knowledge of the Canyon from the air and the river. With Brower's prodding we sat down to draft a "complete" GCNP bill for Congress--our positive response to damming--to be ready for the Readers Digest event that would launch it in public. I remember working on it in a hotel room. It is quite possible, though I do not remember, that what Martin suggested was put into a bill draft form by McCloskey. In any case, by 24 March, it was ready enough that I went to Santa Fe to show regional NPS staff our proposal, and to drum up local support for it and attendance at the coming conference.  
29 March, Brower and I went to Grand Canyon Village to work out the final preparations for the Readers Digest conference. 30-1 March, that event, however, was invaded by the Bureau of Reclamation and distorted into a debate site with dam proponents. So in the end, it has no real place in the Park story, except that the bill was introduced. [How I wish I had kept a journal like the one I will be referring to for the years 1972-5. Surely, there was contact --a meeting, maybe-- with the three Representatives during that period? I even seem to have a fragment of memory…]

Here is something more real--the map that we had drawn up to accompany the bill:

The concept of the bill was not to draw the most correct boundary, but to identify areas of ownership and administration in order to treat their addition to the Park in a relevant way. Indeed, we did not know enough about many of the on-the-ground details of the boundary to draw what today would be a sensible line; our method was to refer to existing jurisdictions. Moreover, the USGS quadrangles for the western Canyon were not completed for several more years. Thus, Section 1 just made the existing Grand Canyon National Monument a part of the Park; no mention of the tangled grazing or reclamation history. It was NPS land; it would stay that way and be upgraded, with the implication that it was no longer available for a reservoir.

Section 2 identified the Grand Canyon land that had just (1964) been included in the newly legislated Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This came in two varieties. North of the river was federal land; it was just excluded from the NRA and made a part of the Park. 

The part of Section 2 south of the river and the land in section 3 belonged to the Hualapai, and we made the same mistake the just-enacted Lake Mead Recreation Area act had, and that we cannot seem to escape: We assume a tribe, like the Hualapai or Navajo, will approve a shift of any of their land to federal Park or other administration. They will not. They might allow that land to be flooded by a reservoir in return for various sorts of compensation, like recreation control, energy supply, money; that would have been a transaction between partners. However, just yielding the land to NPS control is not going to happen. Here is what we offered: compensation "annually for the value of any activity they agree to curtail to meet the standards of national park administration". Unlikely that that would come anywhere near the millions they hoped to reap from a gigantic hydropower dam.

What is useful in writing about this effort almost half a century later is that we can see what the Hualapai have chosen to do. Their devotion to building a dam at that time was pre-eminent, and remained so through the 1970's. It is only very recently that the visitor potential (as advocated by Hualapai Fred Mahone in 1934) has been capitalized upon by tribal (and Las Vegas) enterprise. It can only be speculation to wonder what kind of arrangement might have  tempted the Hualapai to cooperate in some kind of extraordinary World Park designation that, like a dam or the current skywalk development, would have brought economic control and benefits while providing world-wide unitary recognition of the entire Canyon. 

The overriding point to make about section 4 is that we just ignored the Havasupai and their determination to regain ownership of some of their land. Ignorance in this case certainly did not turn out to be bliss, since the Havasupai land repatriation effort of 1974 would have the overwhelming force of history and of an effort whose time had come. 

Instead, our section 4 treated the National Forest south of the river as federal land that could be added to the Park. Why we chose to identify it as Game Preserve instead of Forest, I no longer remember. Again, we did not make any attempt to identify what an on-the-ground boundary should be. 

In section 5, we made the same mistake as with the Hualapai, thinking to have some Navajo land administered as part of GCNP. This was an audacious addition, picking up much of the nearby canyon of the Little Colorado, then heading north and east to include the north end of the Echo Cliffs (and here we must have had some map assistance since we were citing topographic points) and then over to the river. This was way beyond what would have been needed to immunize that section against dam dreams. The Navajo were offered the same compensation as the Hualapai. This is the only effort I know, aside from the 1910 ASHPS extravaganza (see my 28 Dec 2009 entry), that contemplated extending the Park eastward beyond its main rim. Though the "Marble Canyon" section is integral and essential to understanding the Canyon, NPS has never made any effort to justify adding land east of it to the Park. 

Section 6 avoided finding a west boundary in the Marble section by telling the Secretary to pick 100,000 acres or more "along the west wall…including the heads of tributary canyons" from National Forest and public domain, and add them to the Park. Within two years. 

Section 7 added lower Kanab creek similarly to existing NPS proposals, but using township lines.  

Our section 8 was either the most bold or most cowardly, since it authorized the President to add to the Park, without limit, any lands "adapted to national park purposes" within the Game Preserve, the Kaibab National Forest, or the public domain east of that Forest. My only defense for such sweeping ambiguity is that we were setting forth an idealized goal for a complete Park in a form for congressional introduction, not a proposal that would be acted upon. 

The final sections withdrew authority of the Federal Power Commission to license dams in the Canyon, and vacated Reclamation claims & withdrawals. 

The bill was introduced, as noted, on 31 March, by Representative Saylor, with Dingell and Reuss, later joined by Congressmen Schmidhauser, Pucinski, and Cohelan. 

NPS noted the introduction of the bill, with a quick summary of the provisions. Later, in October-December, the Park and the Region agreed that there would be problems if Navajo or Hualapai lands were taken. They saw no need to take lands from the National Forest that were being used for recreation. NPS was now working on its own approach for the Park master plan, and noted that the Saylor bill reversed the usual procedure where NPS did the work. NPS was told to offer comments on the language as prepared by the Sierra Club's McCloskey, going up on "cloud 9". However, the NPS stayed ground-bound, offering: "we all feel … no changes were needed to protect scenic features, except the minor ones we have long proposed". NPS staff did not want to comment and then find there is a bill NPS cannot support. They felt it most important not to antagonize anyone. Comments from DC noted that since policy was to build Marble Canyon dam, there should be no Park additions in that area. To the west, NPS had opposed a high Bridge Canyon dam, but not the low one, which could be built in association with a recreation area. 

The NPS file does contain some speculative comments. A downstream addition could add the Lower Granite Gorge to insure its primitive character, though it would be near Bridge damsite, which should not be included. A Colorado Riverbed addition would involve a buffer (the Hualapai would be opposed). [This seems to be the first mention of "Colorado Riverbed". The Implication of going after the riverbed is very different from placing the river surface, to the south bank, in the Park.] There could be a scenic easement downstream from Navajo Bridge to maintain the primitive environment for river running, though the Navajo would oppose that because of water & minerals. Along with the 1950's additions, these in-house speculations were approved of. However, as far as the Havasupai were concerned, deleting land back from the rim on the plateau (east, Topacoba and west, Tenderfoot) to give grazing range to the Havasupai was not ok'ed, since they want that land, and  more, that would affect the quality of the Canyon and the bighorn. The Tuckup deletion on the Kanab Plateau was still ok; along with two other like it, Jensen Tank and Slide Mtn. Conservationists would oppose such deletions, but there was even more (local) support. An advantage is that no new staff would be required to administer the primitive backcountry, which would remain undeveloped. 

NPS was right, of course, in seeing that we had upended the "usual procedure". We had also upended the concept they had long held of the Canyon and the Park. They did not like that, it appears. And that was alright with us. Here was the situation. Many of us, me included, had little or no acquaintance with the detailed 80-year-long history of the Park and how it came to be (what I have been writing about here for a couple of years). For us, the Canyon was The Fact, and our mission was to protect it (from dams, e.g,) and more importantly to see it all celebrated in a truly grand way. "To protect the Grand Canyon in its entirety" was our concept. That this was a new concept was reinforced by NPS' response. Not just that. In 1966, we were in the middle of an high stakes fight in Congress to save the Canyon. NPS, told to shut up, had nothing to say and no public role to play. Again, we had no idea of what had happened in the 1940's, when there was NPS resistance. No matter. If we had to fight on alone, along with the American people, that is what we were prepared to do. For us, history began right then, and we were going to make it anew. That this would bother the Park Service, Reclamation, the Havasupai, the Hualapai or anybody else was not part of our calculation. Full of zeal, we set our goals: kill the dams; expand the Park. 

When asked for its views in May, Reclamation saw "no saving merits to the bill from the reclamation point of view". It would adversely affect game management and oil exploration. Their view was that the bill's intent was to make dams impossible, and would halt in perpetuity the utilization of the Canyon for Reclamation purposes.

Arizona hunters also took notice, in an April 1966 "Arizona Outdoor News". President Winter of the Arizona Game Protective Association (AGPA), the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) were clear: "Sierra Club & Audubon Society Threaten Kaibab Deer Hunting and Buffalo Ranch". (The Audubon Society and the Sierra Club were tight allies against the dams.) Here is their version of the map:
The article stated that the Park bill was designed to protect the Canyon and block the dams. However, the enlargement posed a real threat to sportsmen's use of the North Kaibab. Referring to the Monument's plateau area the Park Service had long been willing to give up, Winter argued it should come out of the Park since it was  "excellent habitat (that was not getting) modern game management". The selection of land west of Marble Canyon could result in the elimination of the buffalo ranch, and the discretion given the Secretary could even take into the Park all the forested hunting lands. Winter then said the Club had never "seen eye-to-eye with sportsmen and conservationists" on "modern game management", and was completely unaware of the hundreds of thousands of dollars sportsmen have spent on developing prime deer habitat. The Club's "protectionist" attitude would bring "a deadly serious fight". The emotional appeal of "save the Grand Canyon" would attract millions. But AGPA would meet this head-on and use the NWF's huge membership and other state affiliates to be just as vocal as the Club. This threat was indicative of other threats to sportsmen that were growing at an alarming rate. 
  Mr. Winter was deadly accurate, and over the next decade of Park enlargement effort, the AGPA would use its Arizona political connections to protect (and we would argue, over-protect) its hunting areas. We had been warned.

A friendly voice came from photographer Philip Hyde, who lauded the "boldness" of the enlargement proposal. He went on to point out the importance of working with the Navajo to gain agreement on a park within their reservation. This could not be an automatic land transfer; the Navajo must see it as a real boon. He urged a visit by Brower to talk to Tribal Chairman Nakai. He himself would be photographing the area, particularly along the Marble Canyon rims. In his reply, McCloskey stated the Club's view: "We introduced the bills primarily to clearly state the issue over the values that are at stake in the struggle over the dams. Ultimately we hope that the bills may move". 
  As it turned out, the Navajo would indeed prove important --and of course still are-- both in the dam fight and in park designation. 

*Although he had been on the Colorado River before, upstream of Lees Ferry, Secretary Udall took his first trip through the Grand Canyon itself in the summer of 1967, writing about it in Venture magazine, February 1968.
 We preceded him on a trip organized by Martin Litton in September 1966.

Most of the material I will be using here and in the many entries to come on the Park Enlargement effort is from the files I collected contemporaneously (and fortunately have kept, since other sources have disappeared or are not as rich as I had hoped they might be).
Sierra Club Executive Director files, available through Univ. of Calif. Berkeley's Bancroft Library.
Bureau of Reclamation files, Boulder City
National Park Service: Lake Mead NRA in Boulder City
Various files in Grand Canyon National Park

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