Thursday, November 6, 2014

Study 1: Park Suitability of the former Monument lands on the Kanab & Uinkarets Plateaus

A reprise: The Grand Canyon National Monument (number 2) that President Hoover established in 1932 recognized the impact & remnants of volcanic action on the Canyon,  as well as the different and startling configuration of the Canyon itself -- a section where  geologic actions had brought a younger set of rocks to river level. NPS interest was definitely stimulated by features near the river. In the same period, there was considerable thought being given as to how to classify and dispose of or administer the public lands of the Arizona Strip west of Kanab Creek. The character of these lands, away from the river, moved from evidence of the volcanic-drowned nature of Toroweap Vally with its cliffs and old flows to the open, extensive reaches of Kanab Plateau, running on toward the Utah border. 

That being a time when NPS officials at GCNP were still learning what the Grand Canyon actually was, it can not be too surprising that GCNM2 was a big fella, taking in a big swath of the rolling, above-rim lands as well as those in and near the canyon. More detailed study to  come up with the most appropriate boundary was urgent because of the complaints of the dozen or so ranchers who ran stock there -- a task that Minor Tillotson, first as Superintendent and then Regional Director, dedicated himself to over the next 20 years. He got lots of advice from the residents of Arizona and Utah north of the Grand Canyon who were used to the Arizona Strip, all the way down to the Colorado, being their (free) grazing range. Negotiations through the 1930's did finally lead to a boundary brought closer to the river, but which still included lands to protect approaches to the side canyons, e.g. Tuckup, those flatter lands of the plateau that graziers wanted to continue to use. (The Grand Canyon National Monument #2 story in detail is told in several posts, Jan-Mar 2012.)

Local ranchers continued to complain; NPS came up with some excisions that would bring the boundary much closer to the various canyon rims, as embodied in legislation introduced by Senators Goldwater & Hayden in 1956, and without any noticeable opposition by Park advocates. The great defining issue in Grand Canyon affairs (so far anyway), industrialization of the Canyon and its region centered on hydropower projects, then got in the way. Until that matter was settled in 1968, action on Park boundaries was suspended. From 1969 on, Goldwater saw himself as the leader on Grand Canyon policies, working closely with NPS. It could be no surprise that his 1973 initiative included the Kanab Plateau deletions. The political landscape, however, had changed.

Park advocates took our stand in 1973 based on our 1966 policy of supporting the idea of a "complete" Grand Canyon national Park -- main drag, side canyons small and immense, and plateaus in which the Canyon was set. We said these proposed deletions were part of the Grand Canyon, plateaus that canyons had been cut into, and therefore worthy of continued protection. A political hoo-ha ensued, and when dust settled, the lands were kept inside the new Park boundary, but were to be (quickly) studied to be sure that they were suitable to be retained as worthy of Park status.  

Here is the map that NPS prepared showing the three study areas -- Slide Mountain, Tuckup Point, Jensen Tank --, and the Park boundary according to the new Act. It also shows the  original 1932 Monument boundary, indicating what had been returned in 1940 to open public land status. By the way, in 2000 the western part of that 1940 deletion was covered into the oddly named Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument under BLM jurisdiction--but that is another story (see my post of 28 Oct 2012).

During 1973 Senate consideration of deleting the plateau lands, the Park Service was led to reverse its long-standing acceptance of returning the three parcels to BLM's care as open range and hunting ground. Time was important here: The Monument ranger, John Riffey, had been in place since the 1940's; he had a wide acquaintance among the ranchers and other users (including hikers like us). He had also over the years been able to fence the boundary, thus providing a contrast between the NPS land and the chained & degraded areas BLM & the graziers were responsible for. And there had been time for archeologists to come looking around, finding indications of long-ago occupancy. So our strong stand for keeping all NPS lands inside the new Park boundary could now be backed up by a growing NPS view that the plateau lands did have Park values. 

Earlier, I noted the pressure from the Arizona delegation (e.g., Sen. Fannin to Sec. Morton in February) on Interior to do an "honest" study. They insisted that any study should take advice from the hunters and Game Dep't, and the Cattle Growers Ass'n, as well as Park advocacy groups like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth. Be that as it may, the study was to be done by NPS, using NPS criteria, as directed by the Director's activation memo. A four-man team came from the Denver Service Center: Frank Collins as principal, John Ochsner, Terry Carlstrom and Larry May (the last two were heavily involved in the Wilderness study, also carried out 1975-6). Joining them was R. Gale, the Park's North Rim Manager. Specific expertise was to be supplied more by consultants than the team itself.

They started March 28, planning to spend two weeks in the Park gathering information. (An important start date to familiarize this staff with the place and the issues, since many of them would be working on Wilderness and then on the study about Park-worthiness of our desired additions. At first they also considered they would have a leading role on the Havasupai Land Use Plan, but that was left to the Havasupai and the BIA.) Intensive studies  would begin in June, and deadlines were set for regional and headquarters review in October and November. The report was to be made to Congress within a year. 

The importance of archeological material was clear from the first day of the in-Park visit, 14 April,  when the team met at the Park with the area's chief archeologist, Robert Euler. R. Thompson and Wm. Lipe were non-NPS experts to be consulted. Thompson was especially important since during legislative consideration earlier he had raised the alarm about deleting lands with a rich archeological potential, which he had already investigated. And indeed, these three started work on the research design for an archeology sampling "mini-overview". Two days were spent gathering resource information and maps. On the 18th, there was a meeting with Kaibab National Forest staff including Supervisor Pfefferle. This dealt with the Havasupai lands, the Forest Service already beginning range and mineral surveys. Still under the impression that Havasupai lands would be an important part of their work, the team took a helicopter into Hualapai Canyon and walked to Supai. Staying overnight, the upshot was the information that the Havasupai was already dealing with the BIA on the Land Use Study. 

On the 20th, they hopped over to Toroweap and spent the day with John Riffey, the long-time ranger there. They toured and discussed the area. The next day, with the archeologists and others, they drove up through Toroweap Valley, onto Tuckup Point, and over to Slide Mountain, which the hunters were especially interested in. The archeologists stressed saving sites on the old Monument lands from chaining. Existing information on the Tuckup and Jensen areas seemed adequate for the report to Congress. However, data for Slide Mtn. being non-existent, a survey was needed. The team spent the next day hiking four separate strips, identifying chipping stations, petroglyphs, and a dwelling site. They also mapped vegetation, particularly relevant to deer and other wildlife. 

The meeting on the 23rd with BLM was productive, providing comprehensive resource information on minerals, soil, and wildlife. BLM was to conduct a habitat survey in adjacent areas. The discussion was intense over the question of BLM participation in both this study and the later one that would look at whether some prime Canyon non-Park lands should be added. NPS felt the suitability review was for NPS to do, but they would involve BLM throughout. 

NPS met 24 Apr with McComb & me (in Phoenix, sadly). We pressed them on the importance of what Congress had written into the Act on the "entire" Canyon including its plateaus. We  worried about the deletion precedent. The differing objectives of BLM and NPS (intense use vs. preservation) were discussed. The point was made that if the areas were deleted, the boundary would be longer, even though the area would shrink. Then on the 25th, it was the hunting & grazing interests turn to present their agenda of nine concerns. They were particularly concerned that Slide Mtn. go into a single entity managed by BLM, and played the multiple-use tune for mining, wildlife, and economic impacts in contrast to "lock-it-up" Parks. They stressed that Park status was not necessary given existing laws, though they appeared to accept that NPS was proceeding with this study in an unbiased way.

All parties consulted agreed that a July field trip should include a follow-up discussion, and were impressed by data-gathering accomplished so far. BLM and Forest Service provided a "wealth of information". Local stockgrowers should be contacted. The several data items discussed should be followed up on. It was clear that the significance of the plateau lands in relation to the Canyon is the primary question. A tentative outline for the report started with the "problem statement" based on the Act and other relevant documents. There should then be a description of the areas' environment, followed by an evaluation of the role the lands played in the Canyon complex. The next visit would be mid-June for 11 days, and would emphasize examining the areas in their north rim context. July would then be the time to meet with interested parties again. This 9-page trip report was distributed to us and other parties in mid-May. 

I replied with seven pages of argument, but not much "hard evidence", though I did submit some 1939-40 documents bearing on the 1940 deletion. My main argument was that the study was not to be comparative: Park vs. non-Park values. It was enough to keep the lands if the finding was that they were Park-suitable. Further, even if some parts were not suitable for the Park, they could be retained if the public interest warranted. I pointed out that what non-Park interests valued (fine timber, lush grass, healthy wildlife) also enhanced their Park values. Likewise, alternative management arguments were irrelevant; if the lands are suitable, they should stay in. I then pushed their suitability 1. as part of the Canyon, and 2. on their own merits. In the first case, you cannot have a down without an up, and you cannot have a Grand Canyon without having grand plateau(s) for it to have dug into, a point reinforced by the variety in the Canyon's seven plateaus. A boundary on the rim emphasizes only the big hole; being set back from the rim and allowing mediated approaches, means that people can be shown how the environment controls the erosional results (Coconino: close to the river; Kaibab: dug farther back by the greater waters; etc.). And the comparison of the rolling Kanab with the hilly, volcanic Uinkarets (i.e., the plateaus the hunters wanted) emphasized this variety, as did the different tree covers. And of course, if there are trophy animals, should they not be in the Park;should it only be a place for runts and average fauna? Although upper Toroweap Valley was not involved, I still argued that it was Park-suitable. 

The second case included the archeological possibilities, as well as the wildlife. I argued that the historical value of having grazing lands that could now rest and recover was a Park value, now and a century from now. There were administrative benefits for scenic access, control of trespass, camping use, & trailheads. With some irony, I suggested that even were the lands repulsive, it would be a park value to keep the lands to avoid encouraging those who would grab for even more desirable land. Finally, I urged that the commodity interests had to provide real evidence to justify their "single-purpose manipulation of the land & its life just to produce animals for slaughter". They should not be allowed to get away with the sort of anti-data distortion they used in the 1974 legislative struggle to keep upper Kanab Canyon and other northern lands out of the Park. 

The DSC team returned in mid-June, specifically to look at the Tuckup & Jensen Tank areas, re-check Slide Mtn., and gain a sense of the rim-river relationship. First, some members spent three days on a river trip, exploring the visual connection along sight-lines from the river to several rim points. They went to Beaver Falls, were defeated by Tuckup Canyon, and endured the heat on the short trail out at Whitmore Canyon. This was an important perspective on users' perceptions and on the placement of the plateaus, Shivwits to the Kaibab, seen from canyon level. 

Riffey took them, 12 Jun, out to Jensen Tank -- little evidence of deer, little used roads, little water in the tanks. A revisit to Slide Mtn. took another day, verifying their previous recognition of archeological evidences.  Deer sign, but no deer, indicated utilization.  A helicopter survey of Tuckup & Jensen took them to viewpoints and over the major side canyons. Two days driving gave them a close-up view of the obvious cattle & human use on Tuckup. There appeared to be bighorn on Toroweap Point down to the Esplanade. 

BLM and Forest Service staff meetings occupied 17-8 Jun. A summary phone call with the Superintendent indicated the team's "considerably greater understanding" of the study areas' problems and resources. They plotted out seven days of meetings with experts & interested people 27 Jul - 2 Aug that would culminate in an open tour of Jensen and Tuckup. They expected a first draft before October for consultations, leading to January publication. Their outline of the report emphasized evaluations of the national significance of the resources and the supportive role they played in the Canyon complex. They also suggested the lands could now operate as a baseline control area. The NPS concept of suitability emphasized spaciousness, diversity and superior quality of landscape, with public use in a wide range of opportunities. These criteria came directly from the out-of-print "NPS Criteria for Parklands" document. 

The Park followed up with the groups so far consulted by announcing in-field meetings on the three areas during 28 Jul - 2 Aug. Over the phone, I learned that the June trip seemed to have allayed Forest Service fears, and the team's next task was to impress all observers with their knowledge on the ground. There would also be meetings with congressional staff. 

This third trip started with a 27 Jul meeting in Kanab with archeologists Euler & Thompson, at which it was decided to do transects in Tuckup. Geologist Billingsley brought up the unique occurrence of a Kaibab Alpha limestone remnant. A very different perspective was presented by a group of  nine local stockmen and Game & Fish officials. One rancher, McCormick (who had negotiated with NPS on the earlier deletion), had a permit on Tuckup; some of the others nearby. They all preferred that BLM administer the lands for grazing, perhaps under Recreation Area status. The game officials wanted the areas' status changed so the game could be harvested. The next day, 29 Jul, the consultations were friendlier, with reports on vegetation, geology, and history. Thompson now reported that the Slide area might average from 60 to 120 archeological sites per 640-acre section.

The next three days saw the team and a collection of Park advocates, ranchers, and hunter/game folk get together to visit each area: Jensen Tank, Tuckup Point, and Slide Mtn. (I was there, and have a vivid memory of the difficulty of driving my VW bus on the first day. There was also a discussion about whether wildlife that was not game-worthy should be considered.) A hunter, Byrnes, challenged the team to justify the uniqueness of the area, which they declined to do, since they were still collecting data and opinions, and were there to listen. Byrnes opined there was no difference on lands either side of the Park boundary, and nothing unique to be saved. The ranchers talked of the need for food and work to keep "sons at home and to keep families together". Next day, the ranchers who used Tuckup still, said they wanted to have the sage and other vegetation chained or railed or poisoned. They  also touted the dug-out tanks as important. The team, according to the trip report, felt the locals were talking philosophy, their way of life and using the land, rather than the economic value of the cattle. 

On Slide, Byrnes was particularly aggressive, stating NPS did not manage wildlife. NPS & I responded by claiming their management of wildlife had a purpose other than producing game for harvest. BLM argued for having the whole Uinkarets/Pine Mtn area managed as a "herd unit"; just deleting the northern piece would not be important. Byrnes challenged the primacy of archeological values, but NPS & I "spoke forcefully" for the notion that even that one criterion alone could justify the area's suitability. The next day, without the public, BLM officials renewed the attack on Slide as a Park-worthy area, being particularly bothered because the Pine Mtns/Uinkarets Plateau -- actually a complicated volcanic ridge separating the lava-drowned canyons of Toroweap and Whitmore -- was not treated as a unit for wildlife, fire control, and boundary management. (Had I been there, I would have lamented that this intriguing feature was not completely, south of Mt. Trumbull to the river, in the Park. I suspect that even today, it is very little visited, a shame given its scenic quality & its part in the geologic narrative of the Grand Canyon.) However, the NPS team made the narrow rejoinder that they were not empowered to work on boundary adjustment for the whole area.

Counting up, the six NPS staff had entertained the views of nine local stockgrowers, four hunters/Game officials, three  Park advocates, one USFS & five BLM officials. "Varying and opposing opinions (were) openly expressed" the team report said. I also pushed my views in early August, writing NPS team captain Collins that the trip had reinforced my view that rimlands need to be in the Park so the public may better understand their place in the Canyon's past and future. I had ridden with ranchers and game officials, hoping to hear more real information, but was disappointed. I did learn about the minimal place of this "little bit of grazing" in the economic and regional context, a point emphasized by the knowledge Ranger Riffey had of grazing's decline on the Monument. Not only that, one of Goldwater's principal local supporters had sold out and moved on. The need for the Park has a longer time horizon, a point I emphasized with the history of upper Toroweap, well-populated by homesteaders in 1940, most long since gone, leaving the area mostly for the occasional visitor. As for the hunters, their arguments reminded me again that Park-worthy lands need to be in Parks to help educate people as to their Park value. Of course, managing for game is not a value I prize, nor is grazing when it involves the destructiveness of chaining etc. Recognizing that the anti-Park congressmen were putting pressure on Interior, I wrote separately and asked Udall to communicate his concern to Interior in order to maintain a balance with anti-Park complainers.

Impatient, when I heard the report was done, I used a visit in Denver in late December to request to be allowed to review it, but so far as I know, the team had moved along without major interference to complete the document on time. It was being circulated -- a "beautiful leather folio" -- in early January. There was a briefing of the delegation, Fannin present, on 28 Jan 1976. BLM had objected, and was still miffed a couple of months later. The BLM State Director thought that it should not have concurred in the report, but since action only had to be taken if the report was rejected by Congress--a very unlikely prospect--, leading to an effort to take the lands out, these echos and whispers just died away.

In my next post, I will summarize the report. The copy I have is from the pedestrian public version; the leather-bound version was just for congressmen and such. McComb, as a reward, ended up with Udall's copy, a very nice prize, which I fear ended up in a dump along with many other papers from his and his successor's files. I dont remember seeing a copy in Goldwater's archives, either; I just hope our National Archives somewhere has a specimen.

Sources: All material came from my files: documents I wrote, received or collected during the period. Especially important were the trip reports by the Denver Service Center team.

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