Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making the Havasupai Land Use Plan; an outsider's view, 1975-82

The 1975 Act expanding the Havasupai's reservation contained several provisions which Park and Canyon advocates could legitimately claim to be concerned about. Creation of a Secretarial land use plan had the broadest impact. Specifically, the plan's uses were to be scrutinized closely to be sure they were not "inconsistent with or detract from park uses and values". I wrote the Park superintendent in Jan 1975 that that phrase meant he was the "on-the-spot guardian" and should have a say. I went on at length in my letter that any hunting should be rigorously limited, and prevented in the area of the Park that the Havasupai could use for traditional purposes. Regulations for that Use Area were solely under the Superintendent's jurisdiction. We remained jumpy about rumored hunting, though evidently without cause. 
We thought there should be trails and designated campsites, but were determined to discourage even small-scale commercial structures outside the two or three places the Havasupai might need them for their own purposes.

The Havasupai quickly formed a land-use committee to work with the BIA, and hired Joe Sparks, who had led the congressional effort, in March 1975 to advise on getting the plan drawn up, reviewed, and approved. 

Local geologists prepared a preliminary survey of ground water resource on the new lands within six months. It must have been discouraging, suggesting there could be no shallow wells, and only low-flowing ones even a thousand feet down. Roof collection systems were suggested as an alternative. 

We did not forget that there could be impacts on the remaining National Forest lands, like grazing trespass, use of the Topacoba road, and conservation protection measures. In general, we took what small measures available to us to gain reassurance that the added lands would not be despoiled. 

By April 1975, the BIA's Phoenix Area Director had been given responsibility for plan development, providing McComb and me a government target on which to focus our concerns, though in June, the Havasupai-BIA organization for plan development was still being formed. 

In May, the Four Corners Regional Commission convened a planning session at which various agencies described the help they could offer the Havasupai. Attending were the BIA, the state Soil Conservation Service, an Extension Service of the University of Arizona, the Economic Development Administration, an Indian Development Agency, US Dep't of Agriculture, the Federal Housing Administration, Kaibab National Forest, the Governor's Office, GCNP, Valley National Bank, and an Excess Federal Property Program.  According to the minutes taken by S. Hirst, most spokespersons could only say what they had done in the past and might be able to do if resources were available No commitments were offered. The Park had only a landscape architect available, said the Superintendent, to which the Havasupai chairman replied with a warning about the Park undertaking any activity on Havasupai land. Otherwise, the comments were the anodyne sort to be expected when no actual work was in sight; indeed, the Tribal Chairman insisted its Council had yet to meet on its list. The BIA worried about "opponents" and working out a smooth plan. Sparks agreed the plan had to be complete before there were uses above those currently carried on. Agreement was reached to fix the fence to protect the Pasture Wash area, but most decisions would be put off until the Secretary had approved the plan.

In late August, 1975, the BIA's Phoenix office sent out a draft outline for developing "The Havasupai Land Use Plan and Environmental Impact Statement." They asked for our comments -- our "experience in the development of these kinds of documents and studies is valuable" -- by mid-September. 

The Outline started with Social factors: water, energy, residences & their support, transportation, solid wastes, and law enforcement. Under economic matters, again there were water and energy, then farming and grazing, wildlife, fencing and stockwater, tribal businesses, public visitation and access (including to GCNP). These items would lay out the plan. That would be followed by a description of the environment in all its aspects. That would lay the foundation for an Impact Statement evaluation, thus seeming to commit the BIA  to preparing a full EIS.

McComb responded early in September, beginning with a strong emphasis on the need to zone the majority of the land as "forever wild", as well as the effect on Park integrity. He suggested that impacts on Havasupai health and culture be addressed. Financing should be discussed. The alternatives section should be strong. He also submitted a list of 17 organizations and individuals (in Arizona & DC) who would probably be interested. 

My comments, also in early September, began with concern over any proposals for non-tribal development and uses. On the other hand, Havasupai traditional uses should also be addressed as well as the impact of the plan on their culture generally. Other items to be considered in detail were water, health, firewood, support facilities & tribal enterprise (which I argued were the same thing). The public is to be permitted on the added lands, but not constructed developments. Finally, how is the plan to protect "existing natural and scenic values"?

In that same month, a draft plan was floating around the GCNP offices. There was some detail on grazing units with added developments, especially water. Paving the Topacoba Road was suggested along with improvements on 4 dirt roads; all others were to be closed. Tourist access onto the Great Thumb would be by horse or foot. The Park had been contacted about recreation. Some trails might be upgraded. There could be three "wilderness" campsites. There was a desire for more tourist activity without hurting the Canyon, this draft averred. Bighorn were not to be hunted. Farming and residences were indicated as of a low-density rural type at such places as Pasture Wash. There could be commercial development at Hualapai & Topacoba Hilltops. 

On 3 Nov the BIA  sent out a 30-page "working draft", the first actual document, although apparently there was an earlier version authored by Tribal Secretary Steve Hirst.. [There would be two more documents circulated in the next few months of 1976. There is then a gap of a couple of years, apparently as the EIS was prepared, with a formal draft in 1979, followed by the Final Plan and EIS in 1982. In this post I will continue this sketchy narrative of the Plan's preparation, and then consider all the documents together in a separate post.]

The BIA scheduled a workshop on 18 Nov to discuss the draft.  I was out of town and sent in comments on 11 Nov; McComb attended the workshop and sent me his notes. 

The tone of my comments was positive (the Havasupai were generous & wise in seeking public comment) and suggestive of common interests (you understand our concerns for the Canyon; the pressures on the Havasupai are ones plaguing the Park). Tourism is a dangerous blessing. 
  The matter of water is the West's classic problem. A pipeline seems unnecessary. Precipitation collection might help. Solar power is an excellent suggestion. There are additional questions about the feasibility of residences, their density and location, and their relation to Havasupai uses of Park facilities, like the school. 
Health concerns seem not to be discussed. Your road plans seem necessary; I wondered if the Topacoba road might not be better started from Tusayan? I was pleased that the Great Thumb would be vehicle-free. I expressed some question about their hopes of aircraft restriction, waste treatment, and farming, about which the state also expressed doubts. I again urged that they not plan for both tribal enterprises and support facilities, since they were one & the same, and are the chance to limit tourism pressures.Talk about recreation activities, not development. There is an opportunity for higher fees and more guiding services. To zone some areas as "forever wild" would fit with Havasupai ideas of leaving the land undeveloped. Your plan expresses a distaste for over-large tourism, which we share, so we can look forward to a harmonious relationship on Canyon protection. 

McComb reported, 20 Nov, that the meeting was a "substantial disappointment". Lawyer Sparks presided and did "virtually all the talking" for the Havasupai, who did not present anything. It was conceded that the plan was prepared by Steve Hirst. 
Sparks told McComb that if we dont object to cafes etc on the plateau, nobody will. The Topacoba road upgrade is a bad idea. BIA and Indian Health Services staff stated severe doubts about the realism of the plan. No way will clinics or schools be provided if the residential plan is put into effect -- too much dispersion. 
  No one knows what the next step is, and the BIA is not clear about whether a full EIS is needed. McComb said he warned them that if not, there would have to be an EIS for every project. He had a concern about access to some of the Park lands. The BIA thinks it will deal with the traditional Use Area lands. About ten people spoke of the two dozen present. Hunters wanted hunting if possible. The concern was raised by a Havasupai friend about government subsidies and transport of more tourists. The bank man thought economic development was excessively restricted. Questions about access were answered evasively by Sparks. 

I responded to McComb that I was trying to avoid the hard-bitten, realistic view expressed at the meeting, and comment in the spirit of the plan. We can consider later how to react if they increase their economic development plans. You might check with Sparks now & then, but i dont think he should be our lawyer in other Canyon matters. 

The BIA and Havasupai moved along, and in December, an "environmental assessment" of the draft plan was distributed with replies to comments made at the November meeting. The organization chart, in two parallel columns had the BIA on the left, with Area Director Artichoker, his staff, then the Truxton CaƱon Agency and staff. The Havasupai were topped by the tribal chairman and council, and a planning committee of Havasupai with staff aides (one was Hirst). At the bottom was listed the membership of the Working Group, a mix of 11 people, including Sparks, the Truxton staff, and Hirst.

In January, the Havasupai announced the Hualapai Trail would be improved. Use over the previous three years was about 3000 pack animals, 22,000 backpackers, and 483,000 pounds of store goods. Tourism provides 90% of tribal income, and the expectation is that traffic will triple over 20 years. Improvements in campgrounds and lodge facilities are planned.
I prepared a letter, that I did not send, to Artichoker emphasizing our belief that any sort of construction on the added lands for tourist facilities had been blocked by the law. 

Instead, I went to Phoenix to visit BIA Program Manager Charles Worthman on 23 Jan, with the purpose of "exploring whether the BIA interpretation of the law varied from ours", and fortunately wrote up detailed notes. First, we both wanted to avoid controversy, and were pleased at the lack of it so far. They (the BIA) try to look ten years ahead. I hoped the plan would lessen, not increase, frustration. He saw the Havasupai as not pushy or dynamic; they are not asking for big things. They dont want anthropologists poking around, and do not really seem to want visitors anywhere. The young militants are more anti-white and into traditional use. 
  A gap was opened after we agreed that new lodges on the added lands were not allowed, but Worthman suggested that was economics, not the law. This was sharpened when we discussed eating places, and he thought there might be shelters in connection with the access trail(s). I worried about escalation; he reacted; I decided we should be wary about this point. 
  They had decided on an environmental assessment, with an EIS on each project, which I found acceptable. He agreed that Park and natural values be considered. They are working on the document, and thought there would be another public meeting before sending it on to the Secretary. 
  The BIA has a hands-off stance on the Use Area, letting NPS do what it wishes. He noted the Havasupai have stayed mum. What has been will continue, unless there are complaints about deterioration. 
  A historical note: the BIA tried to get a freight tram from the Bureau of Reclamation at Page. However, when they queried then-Senator Goldwater, he vetoed the idea. And recently, when Worthman had talked with Senator Fannin about funds for Havasupai development, Fannin was emphatic: "No chance. They got the land; thats enough."
 Sparks is working on the tribal herd idea, to forestall only a few benefitting. Big problem is tanks to hold water; a desirable action would be aerial seeding. 
Their thinking is to have permits for houses on the plateau, not ownership. Water is "awfully expensive" from wells or pipes. Maybe seeps? On the other hand, the health people would rather they stayed concentrated in the canyon. The houses up above would be "rustic" [no electricity, sewers, etc.; no "HUD horrors".] Havasupai will handle them, not BIA. Any farming would be scratch farming on a few acres.
The power line would provide for all-electric homes. There would be no airstrips, no helicopters (on the added lands) and no other paved roads than the one from Peach Springs. Any designated sites for camping would be undeveloped. The present campground is costing them; law and order is "terrible", and trash has to be helicoptered out. 
  I wondered about increasing the guide offerings. When I brought up access to Beaver Canyon, he reported the Havasupai wanted it closed because of a shrine.  Hunting is not an issue; there is little game and they have no intention to hunt. 

Although this talk left me with the usual questions -- how to limit development activities when they say they have no interest in them -- looking it over, it all fits together much more convincingly (and after 40 years) than did our worries about a white-man inspired gold rush to cash in on exploiting Shangri-La. All the sadder, then, to contemplate the multiple missed chances there had been from the 1880's on to provide the Havasupai with some plateau land, thus avoiding an unnecessarily huge controversy and continuing suspicions. 

At this time, a survey of the eastern plateau was carried out by an agricultural engineer. It was the latest of many over past decades, and its results were much the same. The 21 tanks are small and very shallow; rarely would they be effective water storage. Evaporation is high since rock is so near surface. Little evidence that tanks ever held much water. There was one with water; it had been cleaned out. A few others could be improved, but still would not hold permanent water. The cost of clean-out overall is just too high for the return, given the shallowness of the soil. Another problem is the conflict -- also a constant over the years-- of the numerous horses with any cattle that would be put out. Range improvement therefore is not a good use of Havasupai money. 

The draft of the Plan for secretarial review was dated 12 Mar 1976. Though I did not see a copy for a couple of months, I did talk to Worthman on 24 Mar. The notes I made were a bit scattered: Nine copies had been sent to Washington. There would be no guest lodge or school on the plateau, but at Topacoba Hilltop, to which the road might be upgraded (not major) there could be a rock house, sanitary facilities, & parking. Changes in the plan were mostly to avoid controversy, make it less developmental; gussying it up. Hearings would be delayed until after the Secretary approved. The question of kids getting to school isnt settled. The grazing potential is pathetic. 

I still had not seen the draft in May, though my research in agency files did give me figures for the amount Havasupai attorneys were paid. And I found an agreement in 1971 to work on a pipeline to take water from Havasu Creek up onto the plateau -- it had, of course, come to nothing, but made our earlier suspicions more reasonable.

At the beginning of June, having read the plan, I offered the opinion that "everyone … can take comfort that the legislation with its restrictions did what the Havasupai said they wanted it to do, and those of us who feared development can rest easier for now." Nevertheless, I worried about "modest overnight rustic facilities" at Topacoba, and wrote Dale Pontius, Udall's staffer on the legislation, to ask his interpretation as to how strict the law was meant to be. He offered my concern no support, saying he didnt recall "that the bill was to preclude any facilities to serve tourists."  And yet even so, in August, I re-enunciated my fear of "heavyweight industrial tourism" at Topacoba to BIA's Worthman. I carried my distress even further, in a three-page memo to the Secretary of the Interior, using my fears about Topacoba to elaborate on a grand scenario of doom rising from the lack of definition and uncertainties in the plan. It authorized nothing, and contained no alternatives, therefore, in its proposals, allowing any nightmare to materialize. The lack of alternatives meant that decisions about the plan could not consider the range of possible futures for the new Havasupai lands. 

McComb took a different tack, and wrote the Secretary that a decision not to prepare a full EIS would be "in error". Failure to do an EIS could work to the Havasupai's disadvantage, causing much delay in projects they desire. He urged reconsideration of the decision not to prepare an EIS.

The Havasupai of course had long-established occupancy and use of lands south of the Colorado and the central & eastern Grand Canyon. The Forest Reserve, first, then later the National Park overlay some of the Havasupai sites/areas. In particular, there was a group of Havasupai homes just to the west of the railroad line that vexed Park Service officials. At one point, in the 1930's, a "more sympathetic" superintendent had cabins built and the old structures carted away. Other less friendly regimes were not so kind; there was trouble in the 1950's, for instance. During the fight over reservation expansion, the Havasupai attempted to get title to the area, but this effort failed, and indeed the legislation extinguished any land rights outside the 1975 expanded reservation. However, this "Supai Camp" and its residences were too convenient to work and facilities at the Park for the Havasupai to give it up in fact.
  With the Land Use Plan under consideration and the Park Service focussing on the Havasupai Use Area within the Park itself, the little settlement attracted NPS attention in July 1976, when the families there were told they were to be permanently evicted by October, though they would be able to take the cabins with them. This action might have been expected as a result of the 1975 Act, but as an indicator of NPS-Havasupai relations post-legislation, the eviction notices seemed to signal difficulty. 
[In 2009, the Park issued a news release on its environmental assessment of making improvements at "Supai Camp". The more things change...]

From our point of view, difficulty manifested itself in a 24 Sep 1976 letter lawyer Sparks sent as the Havasupai statement on the Park's proposal for Wilderness classification within the Park. As could be expected from Sparks, it was a classy piece of mischief making, which we quite possibly deserved, given our continuous nagging about our fears of over-development on the added lands. 
Sparks started by objecting to any wilderness on Park land "contiguous" to the Havasupai Reservation, since there might be traditional uses that conflict with wilderness values. He claimed there were "simple catchment basins" at springs, and even pipes, and the Havasupai might want to put in more. These might be permissible, but might need to be specifically authorized. Then he stabbed home: These objections would be withdrawn once the Land Use Plan was approved. 
As a sop, "The Tribe" then supported a motorless river in the wilderness. Sparks then went on to list 14 suggestions on the text of the wilderness proposal. Particularly, the Havasupai objected to archeological studies, and repeatedly claimed they wanted to be able to make water catchments, which might also benefit the bighorn sheep. He then re-stated the Havasupai position that they were descendants of the Cohonina, a narrative contested by the Park's archeological establishment. Not only could the Havasupai claim they went back to 700 A.D., but the entire locale south of the Canyon was part of their claimed Traditional Use Lands (Sparks' caps).

Of course,  my button was pushed, and I objected strongly to BIA's Worthman, complaining that I had tried to be constructive in making comments on the Land Use Plan, and now comes Sparks objecting to the wilderness proposal, even though the Plan does not provide for any uses inconsistent with Park wilderness. So Sparks must be referring to some future developments not in the plan, that the Havasupai have in mind. Had my cooperation been naive? It appears that we should be skeptical about Havasupai intentions. 

Worthman promptly replied, 19 Oct, in a friendly manner that he could not explain Sparks' intentions, but the Plan is the "total concept of the Tribe". Further, the Plan has already been discussed in the Secretary's Office and a decision reached that an EIS is required on the plan as well as on any physical developments under it. We are now starting the long process of contracting for the necessary technical data, a process that "must be discouraging to the Tribe." 

To which I replied that I was sure the delay must be "disgusting" to the Havasupai and there is little comfort in not putting off the EIS, though it is best in the long run. It will provide the most solid foundation for their future uses. And as Worthman said, of course we are pleased they will continue their uses as at present. It is only "overdevelopment" that we fear. 

In January 1977, I learned from Worthman that the contracting process for the Plan EIS was started, hoping for a preliminary report end of June, and final EIS by Feb 1978. Public hearings schedule was not settled. NPS handles the wilderness regulation, with input from Havasupai. They wont cooperate with Euler on archeology. Otherwise, BIA has good relations with GCNP; there will not be a confrontation on Supai Camp west of GC Village. Nobody wants a "ghetto" there.
  The eastern reservation boundary is on township lines, Worthman said; Sparks' claim for more has no support in legislative history. Fencing approved. Indeed Globe Ranch will probably get out.

The Park issued, 30 Dec 1976, a rule against "immobilized" vehicles, allowing it to remove junk cars from, for instance, Supai Camp.

NPS, contrary to my opinion, had classified the Havasupai Use Lands in that ridiculous category of "potential wilderness", maybe thanks to Sparks' statement. In July 1977, the Superintendent wrote me that the Havasupai wanted to hunt there, but not for bighorn. Legal advice was being sought. I wrote a memo that raised the question; hunting was certainly traditional, but down in the Canyon?

It was in this period that McComb left the Southwest; his successor was uninterested in this, and other, Grand Canyon issues; there had been a conservationists' decision to devote all resources possible to the Alaska lands legislation. 

A February Hualapai newspaper had an article by the Havasupai Tourist Enterprise that indicated no desire or interest at all in new activity or development for tourists; what they described was what had been available for years before the reservation expansion. The added lands were not even mentioned; only the village facilities. A California company offered tours to Supai and the falls. 

In October 1977, I wrote Worthman asking about the Plan's progress. My file contains no answer. An Oct 1978 U. of Arizona newsletter says that several Arizona schools worked on the EIS, which had been completed in November 1977. So Oct 1978, I wrote again to Worthman; again my file contains no response. 

At this same time, I wrote GCNP's Stitt asking about the Use Area agreement, the cabins at Supai Camp and Havasupai schooling, and whether there had been any problems arising over public use in the Use Area.  

Nov 1978, Stitt replied that the agreement was still in draft form. He and Euler had recently visited Supai and talked with the Council and their attorney; everyone hoped it would be finished soon. There is agreement on the terms, but not on all the wording. 
  He knew of no problems for Use Area hikers, but had heard that the Havasupai had denied permits to individuals inquiring about hiking across the reservation. And then, shockingly, given what the legislation explicitly said about protecting public access, Stitt added, "but we have no control over these lands."
  The status of Supai Camp cabins was still in limbo, waiting for the Land Use Plan and new NPS policy on such situations. There are three families there, and they go to the Grand Canyon school. We still think they should live in the GC Village residential area. Some Havasupai work in the Park. Euler and the Havasupai now seem to be getting along.

On 7 Aug 1979, the BIA Phoenix Office advised and advertised public hearings on the Land Use Plan for the Havasupai Addition, and its draft EIS. The hearings at which comments could be made were to be in Supai, Kingman, & Flagstaff. I have no notes about the hearings. 
Instead, I submitted a one-page statement appreciating the effort to keep the pubic informed, and saying that our impression of the original plan was that it was appropriately modest and in accord with the letter and spirt of the 1975 Act. We had urged an EIS to provide a base to check future changes, and are now pleased at the result. Our doubt about facilities for tourist use on the added lands is to reinforce the idea that tourist use retain the character it presently has, maintaining the spirit of the Plan as presented. The EIS properly has no fixed timetables, and we will continue to be interested in actual uses as they evolve. The Plan and its EIS are a suitable expression of the intent of the Act.

That danger I had so worried about is indicated by this 1981 ad combining Helicopter! with Havasupai Falls!  I wonder if I would have been more strident had I seen it before the plan was done. Of course, there is no suggestion that the beasts would touch down on the added lands.

The Final Land Use Plan for the Havasupai Land Addition was issued on 23 Mar 1982.  With one exception, the Final was identical with the Draft of March 1976. Removed was some language that exotic fauna, e.g., burros, might be removed if harmful to the bighorn sheep (p. 32).
 The EIS had appeared in two parts: the Draft of 26 Jul 1979 which contained the environmental  description and analysis. This was adopted unchanged when Volume II, containing a Plan summary and outside comments, was issued on 15 Oct 1981. [These documents are treated in a separate post.]

Thirty-some years later, and I do not believe there has been any revision or change in the 1982 Plan. There is definitely more use -- though unrecorded -- by non-Havasupai of the Park lands in the Havasupai Use Area, and GCNP is reportedly trying to put together a backcountry management plan. Recently, the Havasupai illegally occupied and constructed minor facilities at the part of Havasu Creek in the National Park containing Beaver Falls, and may or may not be trying to collect a fee from river runners coming up from the main stream. Another uncertain matter is whether they make it easy or hard for non-Havasupai to go onto the added lands to reach the Park, or even along the set-back strip at the rim. As anyone following the controversy over the research, that put Havasupai blood products to uses they did not approve, knows, our concerns and those of the Havasupai may not coincide.

Source: The material used in this post is all contained in the files of material I generated or collected.

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