Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Pause for Reflection; On The Canyon's North Side

The Denver Service Center, along with the staff of Grand Canyon National Park, not only met the congressional deadline for reporting on whether the Kanab and Uinkaret plateau lands were suitable for retention in the Park, but used the period of 1975 to become acquainted with the larger reaches of the Canyon's North Side in the Arizona Strip. The immediate job would be to update and expand the recommendation for Wilderness, due on the President's desk in January 1977. However, the even larger task would be to come to know the lands from Kanab Canyon west to the Shivwits, in order to evaluate them as possible candidates for adding to the Park. Since these, called the Adjacent Lands, were under the administration of the Forest Service (most of Kanab Canyon) and the Bureau of Land Management (west side of Kanab, the upper ends of Whitmore and Parashant Canyons, and the grand back-country viewing platforms of the multi-fingered Shivwits). Sharing the BLM features (except for Kanab) is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (part of NPS, of course, but for all that, a turf that would be defended by the NRA staff).

The matter of the Grand Canyon Wilderness was inextricably wound up in the question of removing motorized craft from the river, and that history has been told, all the way up to its sad denouement as the commercial river operators (whether motorized or rowers) banded together to protect their oligopoly and conservative river operations by pressing well-placed bureaucrats in the President's Office of Management and Budget to keep the excellent NPS Wilderness proposal away from Congress. (See my Hijacking A River: A Political History of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, 2003. It is available -- along with many other invaluable books on the Canyon, river running, and the Park -- from Vishnu Temple Press in Flagstaff, http://www.vishnutemplepress.com/.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Study 1: The Park Suitability Report, February 1976

Due on 3 Jan 1976, the Secretary's findings & recommendation were contained in the report dated Nov 1975. Copies were distributed to the public in February. These came in the form of ordinary stapled paper report by NPS; the fancy leather-bound presentation copies were for Congress.

The cover letter to Congress, 23 Jan 1976, was signed by Ass't Secretary Nathaniel Reed, and made three major points:
1. Significant archeological resources, possessing exceptional value, may exist bringing information on the movement of prehistoric people, their changing lifestyles, and other unresolved problems.
2. Geologically, there were ancient drainage patterns on the Kanab Plateau that could lead to better understanding of the Grand Canyon's formation. Biologically, the communities would help in interpretation, as control areas for evaluating changes from human activities, and in analyzing the environment of prehistoric cultures.
3. Scenically, there is a sense of spaciousness in the sweeping plateau lands through which the Colorado has cut the Canyon, lending diversity to visitors' viewing experience.
   Furthermore, the areas could only benefit the local economy marginally in grazing, logging, & hunting activities. 
  The study concluded that the lands therefore are "not 'unsuitable for park purposes'", and ought to be retained within the Park.