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/.)

The fourth study to come from the 1975 Act was the one through which the Secretary of the Interior was to develop a land use plan for the lands added to the Havasupai Indian Reservation. I will tell what I know of how that plan was developed after dealing with the Adjacent Lands study. BIA was the lead agency on the Havasupai plan (although the Havasupai did the spadework), not NPS, although it was supposed to participate. And indeed, the Park did have to come up with guidelines for how the Havasupai Use Area, lands within
the Park, was to be made available for traditional uses. As had been the case, sadly, in the  legislative arena, all this work was more contentious than it had to be, though the results seem to have turned out well.


The Adjacent Lands (AL)study would be in no way unique; it was one of the many attempts over the past century-plus to assess how best to care for, use, and manage this area -- often-called "remote" -- otherwise known as the Arizona Strip, bounded by the Colorado River and the Arizona state boundary. Efforts continue to re-arrange jurisdictions, governmental regulations, guiding policies, etc. So before getting into the details of the AL study, here is a quick overview of actions, plans & schemes floated for the Arizona Strip, especially that part of it that is so obviously the hinterland and northern approaches for the Grand Canyon. Im not absolutely certain I will get them all. I have described many of these, accompanied by maps, in earlier posts, 

Bands of the Southern Paiute were living throughout the area, and suffered for it when the Mormons arrived in the later XIXth century. J.W.Powell once proposed there be a reservation for them set up near Kanab Creek. And one prominent rancher on the Shivwits suggested his area be turned over to the Shivwits band. The federal Indian agency was not interested, and only in 1913, was the Kaibab reservation set aside, far up in the northern tier of the Strip.

Local settlers, especially in the Bundyville/Mt. Trumbull region, made their contribution by homesteading and coming into possession of some choice pieces in the heart of the Strip. However, because of the difficulty and cost of providing water, use seems to have flourished from before the first world war, and died out after the second, although there are still residences, temporary and permanent. The history of settlement in the Strip has been recorded, at least in part. 

The Grand Canyon Forest Reserve (1893) was truly a reservation, a place set aside and over which much "discussion" was carried out as to its best use. The Grand Canyon's first monument and the Park were carved from it; the National Game Preserve, largely toothless, overlay much of it. However, most of the north side piece, the Kaibab Plateau has remained a National Forest, which was heavily logged through the middle of the XXth century. It remains a religiously guarded site by hunters for the killing of deer; other wildlife are also of management concern. Since the massive logging ended, and a number of spectacular fires have altered the area, the Forest Service is interested in its future health as a forest. Grazing was unbelievably monstrous a hundred years ago, but is today a boutique activity providing, one supposes, exciting sightings by tourists. Wilderness has been established, appropriately on both the west (Kanab) and east sides. And so on; the Kaibab Plateau will remain a locus for argument and proposals.

The Forest Service used to have a longer reach. For a decade from about 1908, there were two patches of the Dixie National Forest, one for the Shivwits (which was in fact logged), another east of it for the Uinkaret. Both patches ran south to the river, and were disestablished except for the northeast corner of the Uinkaret section, which for another half-century was an outlier of the Kaibab National Forest until it was turned over to BLM.

The idea of a Park for the Grand Canyon goes back to the Powell-Harrison attempt in 1884 et seq. that predates the Forest Reserve, and for which it provided the conception. There were myriad Park proposals from then on, mostly in the vicinity of the 1908 Monument that T. Roosevelt proclaimed. However, in 1910 came that most audacious idea of a huge block of land taking in on the north side half of the Arizona Strip. It was developed by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society under F. Dellenbaugh's guidance, and presented to then-President Taft. The USGeological Survey, at that time a very activist agency, stomped all over the idea. I do wonder if T.R. would have done more with it. Anyway, it was another 56 years before a similar "complete Park" proposal was floated, when the Sierra Club drafted an over-the-top boundary that used the criterion of identifying the lands that drained into the Canyon from the Paria to the Grand Wash Cliffs. This creation evolved through various forms to become the proposal that Park advocates fought for during the 1970's Park fight. It contrasted with the more minimal NPS proposal from the 1950's. The debate over these concepts was also, of course, a debate over how Arizona Strips lands were best treated.

But NPS is not a single-minded "Parks" agency. Around 1930, when Hoover Dam was being built, there was much debate about management of the reservoir and the lands that would be adjacent to it. President Hoover withdrew most of the Strip for planning purposes, and one of his aides suggested a large Virgin National Park in the Strip's west. Hoover did, in fact, proclaim the second Monument. It then became a source of contention for 40+ years, firstly, because it took in part of the main canyon that the Bureau of Reclamation wanted to use as a reservoir for a dam upstream of Hoover's. The existing reservoir, Lake Mead, excited NPS, which had a vision of mass recreation that it would manage. So it did surveys into the 1940's to figure out where the boundary of a Lake Mead National Recreation Area should go. What they found, of course, was that east of the Grand Wash Cliffs was the magnificent, and different, western Grand Canyon. However, because of that reservoir and the hope for another, the possibility of Monument or Park status was moot. Until 1966 anyway. So an NRA was established, and remains, thus dividing up Grand Canyon administration not just among several agencies but inside the same agency. For now. 

A step, catty-wampus, was taken toward recognition and protection by President Clinton at the end of the XXth century when he proclaimed the Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument. This was in part a pre-emptive move to head off any mining or other hurtful development. A weird beast, it includes the western drainages into the Grand Canyon in the south half, and drainages over the Grand Wash Cliffs into Lake Mead in the north. The NRA piece was left with NPS' Lake Mead administration, and the rest reposes with BLM in another example of the hope that that usually-beleaguered agency will grow a bit more away from its grazing-mining roots--hard for it to do on the Strip, as extensively grazed as it is, and with several sites of strong potential and actuality for uranium mining. Given that there are now also parts of its domain that are established Wilderness, and given its initiative in the 1960's in protecting the Paria Plateau-Vermillion Cliffs (as a scenic area, now a Monument with Wilderness) BLM certainly has shown it can grasp the opportunity to leaven its planning process. That is, BLM staff can legitimately think, for the bulk of the Strip, of the larger public. However, the early years of this century were not friendly toward a more expansive planning process.

That public has, as indicated above, not been shy about suggestions for management on the Strip. There is more Park recognition for the Canyon still in the offing, and more Wilderness to be established. Much could be done were there a cooperative regional leadership involving BLM, NPS, the Forest Service, the Kaibab-Paiute, Arizona's Game & Fish, representatives of the interest in latter-day history. Along with urging the Park administration to focus more on the north side, I advocated such a regional leadership at the time that Secretary of the Interior Babbitt was selling the idea of the GC-Parashant monument. 

A proposal parallel to Babbitt's GC-Parashant in the west is currently offered by Kim Crumbo of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council for the eastern Canyon region as the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument  (https://gcwildlands.wordpress.com/grand-canyon-to-yellowstone/). Here is a short description, recently featured in "Boatman's Quarterly Review":

The Crumbo proposal emphasizes the place the Strip has for wildlife in the minds of its caretakers. The Grand Canyon National Game Preserve may be the original ancestor, but the wrangles over animals large & small and as game, endangered species, and introductions are  woven throughout debates over the Strip's lands. 

This quick survey of the Arizona Strip and the manifold ideas for how to recognize and handle it is no doubt incomplete. I hope I have made the point that, "remote" though it may be,(one of its best features), it has attracted lots of attention and will continue to do so. There is not yet, nor is it in the offing, an over-arching guidance. For the likely future, the crazy quilt of jurisdictions and priorities will continue, albeit along with ideas for change continuing to percolate.

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