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06/21/2012

Protecting the Grand Canyon Watershed

Grand Canyon_NPS Photo courtesy National Park Service

Ranging from arid Great Basin deserts to lush, boreal Rocky Mountain forests, the Grand Canyon Watershed area is an ecological wonder. It embraces one of America's most spectacular landscapes--the Grand Canyon-- and encompasses a wild, rugged array of towering cliffs, deeply incised tributary canyons, grasslands, and numerous springs that flow into Grand Canyon National Park's Colorado River. 

This area holds lands of great significance to the region's indigenous people. The more than three thousand ancient Native American archaeological sites that have been documented in the region represent just a fraction of the area's human history. Ranging from settlements or habitations, to temporary camps, granaries and caches, and rock ard, some of the sites date from as far back as the Paleo-Indian period--11,000 BCE. 

Dramatic escarpments, plateaus and canyons support a unique diversity of native plants and animals--at least 22 sensitive species including the endangered California condor, mountain lions, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer. The area also shelters one of the highest concentrations of northern goshawks known in North America. 

The Grand Canyon Watershed is also home to the Southwest's largest unprotected old growth ponderosa pine forest. Emblematic of this endangered natural system is the handsome Kaibab squirrel. The squirrel is found nowhere else and depends on this extensive but shrinking habitiat. 

Protecting the Grand Canyon Watershed as a national monument would allow for continued public access, sightseeing, hiking, wildlife watching, birding, hunting, fishing and many other activities, including traditional tribal access and uses. 

National monument designation would also support the northern Arizona economy. The desire to experience the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon draws visitors from across the country, generating $687 million for the economy in northern Arizona each year while supporting approximately 12,000 jobs.

Recent studies show the postive impact of national monument designation on communities in the West and that conserving public lands draws new residents, tourists, recreationists, and businesses. For example, communities adjacent to Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante experienced job growth after these areas were designated as monuments. Monument designation for the Grand Canyon Watershed would reinforce preservation of the natural and cultural treasures that sustain the surrounding communities' economy. 

- Kim Crumbo

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