When the U.S. Forest Service last week rejected an Italian investment group’s plan for a sprawling development near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, it was a rare victory for the natural world over the relentless onslaught of tract houses, beauty spas, parking lots and shopping malls. Here are six reasons to celebrate Earthjustice’s victory for Grand Canyon National Park and the delicate landscapes that surround it:
- The lack of need for another shopping mall.
The 3 million square feet of commercial space planned for the tiny town of Tusayan was large enough to accommodate the gargantuan Mall of America. It would have brought traffic, parking, noise, air and water pollution, trash and nighttime lights to the raw windswept landscape. It would have defaced the surroundings of an extraordinary natural treasure, making much of the area just another strip mall.
- Havasu Creek and its amazing turquoise waterfalls.
The blue-green waters of Havasu Creek and the iconic Havasu Falls are spring-fed. The developer never ruled out tapping into the aquifer and its finite water supplies that feed the creek in order to serve the 2,100 housing units, conference center and commercial space planned for the Tusayan development. Lowering the aquifer’s—and thus Havasu Creek’s—waters would have threatened the source of life and culture for the Havasupai Tribe, which is centered in the town of Supai along the creek in the Grand Canyon. Unsurprisingly, the tribe opposed the development. Without all the development’s plumbing, the Havasupai’s sacred waters and gorgeous Havasu Falls are safe.
- The sunrise.
Thousands of hikers hit the trails in pre-dawn darkness to be surrounded by the silence and the jaw-dropping views as sunrise transforms the canyon from purple to crimson, orange and pink. Close to 40,000 people camp overnight in the spectacular setting. They go there expecting to be protected from the everyday annoyances of urban life.
- …and the sunset.
More than 5.5 million visitors came to Grand Canyon National Park in 2015 and the adventurous ones took a cold beverage to the south rim at dusk to watch the rock walls reflect the fading light and plunge into darkness. The celestial show in the desert night sky also will be protected from the inevitable light pollution that would have been produced by the development at Tusayan.
- California condors.
These majestic endangered birds have been making a small, tentative comeback in the Grand Canyon region. If you’re a lucky visitor to the park, you can see them soaring overhead. Let’s just say, the birds don’t come here looking for nightlife.
- President Roosevelt’s remarkable vision.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt called on the American people to preserve the incomparable Grand Canyon for future generations. “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” His comments are memorialized in the park on a plaque at Roosevelt Point.
Message received. The spirit of the father of America’s national parks is alive and well—for now.