Five Updates on Efforts to Protect the Grand Canyon

Updates from around the Grand Canyon: Havasupai sue well owners along South Rim, Escalade legislation still moving forward.

Kevin Fedarko taking a rest near the Hopi Salt Trail. | James Q. Martin

While the country is easing into the holiday season and all eyes are on President-elect Trump’s latest Cabinet picks, there is still much going on around one of our favorite National Parks. You may recall that in 2015, along with our local partners Save the Confluence and Grand Canyon Trust, American Rivers named the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon as America’s Most Endangered River. And while some progress toward protecting the Grand Canyon came quickly, other issues have lingered and require constant vigilance. Here is a roundup of 5 recent news items coming out of the Grand Canyon.

Havasupai sue 19 nearby well holders

Waterfalls near Havasupai in Grand Canyon. | Meredith Meeks
Waterfalls near Havasupai in Grand Canyon. | Meredith Meeks

As Emery Cowan reports in this piece, the Havasupai tribe in western Grand Canyon has filed a lawsuit in federal court over groundwater pumping along the South Rim. Defendants in the suit include the town of Williams, Arizona as well as Energy Fuels Resources (owner of Canyon Uranium Mine south of Tusayan) and numerous property development companies in the area. The tribe asserts that the widespread pumping of groundwater is damaging its federal water rights and reducing flows to seeps, springs, and waterfalls within the Canyon. American Rivers created a short video in early 2016 that spoke to this very issue through the eyes of three local artists.

Navajo Council schedules next Escalade hearing, then cancels

The next step in the journey of the Grand Canyon Escalade legislation before the Navajo Council is a hearing before the Council’s Resources Committee. After the legislation was introduced before the Navajo Council around Labor Day, the bill must then be considered by 5 different sub-committees, before returning before the Council for a full vote. The bill received a vote before the Law and Order committee on October 10 – unanimously against the bill, 5-0. The bill was then moved to a “work session” in November, where the bill’s proponents discussed details of the proposal. Next, the bill goes before the Resources committee, which had scheduled a meeting for December 13th at Bodaway-Gap, but that meeting has been cancelled. Stay tuned!

Incoming local chapter President speaks out against Escalade

Grand Canyon Escalade site, as seen from the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. | Sinjin Eberle
Grand Canyon Escalade site, as seen from the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. | Sinjin Eberle

In a December 6 Letter to the Editor, incoming Bodaway-Gap Chapter President Raymond Don Yellowman states his strong opposition to the proposed gondola project. Mr. Yellowman lays out a long set of very personal experiences about the struggles of people in the western Navajo Nation, including the Bennett Freeze, coal and uranium mining, and development threats. He states very strongly that the Escalade proposal has deeply divided the community, and is not a solution that the Navajo Council should approve.

Robert Redford speaks out too!

Actor and activist Robert Redford recently went public in support of the people most closely connected to the Escalade project, the Navajo families of Save the Confluence. In his short video, Redford asks “Are we close, to losing the Grand Canyon?” I think we can all agree that the risks to the Grand Canyon are many, and the Escalade project certainly tops the list. Take a look.

And on a lighter note – two friends of American Rivers walk the canyon

Photographer and film maker Pete McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko recently completed their journey to walk the length of the Grand Canyon – nearly 800 miles end-to-end. McBride fully completed what is known as a “sectional through-hike,” being the 34th person to traverse the entire length of the canyon, in sections, from Lee’s Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs. Kevin Fedarko, author of the book The Emerald Mile, chose to leave a small section of the through-hike unfinished, as he wanted to illustrate the grandeur of the canyon and the issues that threaten it, over listing it as a milestone. The walk was supported by the National Geographic Society (and a community of Grand Canyon hikers) and the pair have been nominated for Adventurers of the Year.

Stay tuned for more Grand Canyon updates as they happen!


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