On January 11th, 1908 Theodore Roosevelt used the powers granted the President by the Antiquities act to create Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona Territory (Arizona did not become a state until 1914). Using these words, and the stroke of a pen, he sought to set aside this wonder of nature forever: “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” Then he went and shot something.
Of course, nothing is ever protected forever. We have to keep on fighting the same battles of conservation over and over again. Today, the Eastern Grand Canyon is threatened with a ludicrous development scheme to bring tourists down to the Little Colorado and Colorado River confluence via a Disney-esque aerial tramway and river-walk. The excuse used is economic development for the Navajo Nation. Some Navajo seem to be in favor of development while many that live in the immediate area are deeply opposed. The Hopi, who also hold this area sacred, are not at all crazy about the idea either. Back in TR’s day there where any number of cockamamie ideas to develop the Grand Canyon, up to and including an impossible railroad to be built through the inner gorge along the Colorado. Guess they’d never seen it during spring flood. But the Great Outdoorsman’s words are just as true today as they were back in 1908. We can only mar it. My plea to the noble Diné is, please, let’s not do that. Let’s agree to never do that.