A rumor is afloat that the administration of President Obama may consider using the Antiquities Act to proclaim a National Monument along the lines of the legislation introduced a year ago by Representative Raul Grijalva to establish a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument (GGCHNM).
The first thing to say is that the action would do nothing to ease the threat from the development proposal (the Escalade, or better, “Phoenix Escapade”) aimed at the confluence of the Colorado & Little Colorado Rivers: a development that would include buildings on the rim, a tramway down to the confluence, —where there would be walkways and structures in this now-natural and revered area—, and thousands and thousands of conveyor-belt tourists brought in by plane, helicopter, bus, etc.
Nor does the Heritage proposal include any recognition of the Navajo Nation’s Marble Canyon & Little Colorado Tribal Parks, set up half a century ago, yet still ignored by the National Park Service and the Interior Department, even though the 1975 Park expansion act authorized cooperation between Interior and the Navajo on Grand Canyon protection and visitation, and even though these tribal parks and the 1975 Act together provide the framework for appropriate protection and interpretive visitation of the Canyon — a framework envisioned by Senator Barry Goldwater, principal sponsor of the 1975 Act.
This omission is the more astonishing since the purposes of the Grijalva bill (see my post of 14 Nov 2015 for details) are to embed the values of the eleven “Grand Canyon-associated tribes” in the policy and administration of the GGCHNM, purposes and policy that would be made tragic mockery of, should the Phoenix Escapade be approved by the Navajo, and built.
(Note: Legislation to commit Navajo Nation approval and funding for the P. E. is even now working its way through the Navajo Council’s legislative process, in spite of Navajo President Begaye’s opposition and the submission of thousands and thousands of anti-P.E. statements.)
The main resource change in Grijalva’s proposal would be ending the threat of new mining activity (esp. uranium exploitation) on federal lands in the vicinity of the eastern Canyon, although existing mines and other existing rights would not be affected.
Timber may be cut commercially only if consistent with GGCHNM purposes and part of a restoration project.
So how would such a creation work? Existing laws and management (Forest Service and BLM, mainly) would continue, and — an important addition — the 11 associated tribes would formally collaborate in plan development and monument management. For instance, although this might not be part of an Antiquities Act proclamation, the proposed law sets up an advisory council to work on the management plan, collaborating on management of any tribe-related resources and adaptive management of natural resources.
There would be two representatives from each associated tribe, one from the natural or cultural resource office. There would be two academics: one in anthropology, archeology, or such, and another with natural or conservation resource expertise. Also, two game and fish representatives, one from the State department, and two environmental NGO representatives, one from Arizona. No provision for non-wildlife-related recreationists, such as backpackers, canyoneers, river runners, longitudinal Canyonwalk dudes, etc. And no one from the Park Service to encourage its cooperation. Nor, for that matter, any commercial interests.
Thus the proposal paradoxically would increase the say in Grand Canyon affairs of the Associated Tribes without offering any additional protections for the lands of the Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai. All three nations include parts of the Canyon, involving active issues of Grand Canyon protection, public access and uses, and the general presentation of the Canyon so as to further its uncontested status as a global environmental icon. There is little in the recent history of cooperation by anybody with anybody else to indicate that the goals of such a Monument would be carried out. Should President Obama take the action, and should Congress provide funds for such an entity, it would indeed be a grand experiment in a kind of regional government the Canyon has seen little of.