In June 2015, the Coalition, along with over 200,000 other commenters, strongly opposed a permit request from the Town of Tusayan and a commercial development corporation (Stilo Development Group USA, LP) for an easement to improve roads through Kaibab National Forest (KNF) near Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA) in Arizona. The proposed roads and other improvements would have enabled the construction of over 2,000 dwelling units and 120 acres of commercial development on currently undeveloped land just a stone’s throw from the park’s popular South Rim.
In announcing her decision to deny the request, KNF Supervisor Heather Provencio stated: “Based on information received in the record, I have determined that the Tusayan proposal is deeply controversial, is opposed by local and national communities, would stress local and Park infrastructure, and have untold impacts to the surrounding Tribal and National Park lands…The development that would be enabled by authorization of the proposed use of National Forest Service lands could substantially and adversely affect Tribal lands and the Grand Canyon National Park.”
Provencio’s announcement [http://goo.gl/i6B8vW] referenced the strong outcry of opposition to the proposal declaring, in essence, that the approved Forest Plan requires that she consider how decisions made for KNF will affect neighbors and related lands and resources. The Coalition’s comments [http://protectnps.org/tusayan-roadway-easements/] highlighted the potential for significant adverse impacts to a broad variety of sensitive resources in GRCA if the roads were improved and development went forward. Among the concerns highlighted were the likely adverse impacts to critical aquifers, cultural resources and values, night skies, wildlife, and natural quiet, all key to the fundamental character of GRCA both as a national park and as a World Heritage Site.
Coalition Chair Maureen Finnerty praised the Forest Service decision, noting that “This is a case where the collective voices of park advocacy have truly made a difference.” This decision, while heartening, likely does not spell the end to such challenges to the well-being of GRCA. Unfortunately, other commercial development and resource extraction schemes remain a possibility on lands surrounding this iconic national park. The Coalition will continue to monitor these threats both through official processes and, equally importantly, through the eyes and ears of our members. But, for now at least, we should take a moment and celebrate a tremendous victory for the park!