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01/29/2013

Grand Visions for Grand Canyon

We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.                                                                                                                                                       -Theodore Roosevelt

We often speak of Theodore Roosevelt as one of the greatest stewards of our public lands.  He was determined to see them protected for generations to come, and did so quite effectively.  Over the course of his presidency, Roosevelt created 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 National Forests. His fearless efforts protected approximately 230 million acres for all American’s to enjoy in perpetuity.  Roosevelt was also one of the nation’s greatest and most famous allies of the Grand Canyon.  It is he who protected the area first as a national monument in 1908. 

House Rock Sunset_bw

photo courtesy of Kim Crumbo

As we noted last week in our blog, President Obama hinted at a desire to establish his own conservation legacy in his recent inaugural address, and set forth a bold agenda and call to the nation to address climate change.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 

One of the Obama Administration’s great successes in the first term was the moratorium established on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, helping to protect one of our nation’s most storied and recognizable landscapes.  Unfortunately, this moratorium is only temporary, and in order to protect this region permanently, we need bolder action.  Luckily, when it comes to restoring a comprehensive approach to protecting America’s public lands, President Obama has the power to act, an opportunity to lead, and four more years to establish a conservation legacy. 

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.                                                                                                                                                                                    -Theodore Roosevelt

It was President Roosevelt who signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, granting the President of the United States the authority to protect public lands for the public good.  President Obama exercised his authority under the Antiquities Act four times in his first term, acting wisely to protect land all across America– and we urge him to use it again to protect one of our nation’s most treasured icons, the Grand Canyon. 

Like so many of our special places, the lands and waters of the Grand Canyon Watershed proposal define America’s history and provide unique cultural, archeological and environmental value, offering clean water, clean air, and access to the outdoors for hunting, hiking and other recreational activities.  In fact, active outdoor recreation – much of it tied to the Grand Canyon – supports about 82,000 jobs and produces almost $5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Arizona.  Americans wishing to experience the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon visit from across the country, bringing with them more than$685 million for the economy in northern Arizona each year—and supporting 12,000 jobs. 

We all know and love the Grand Canyon as an icon of America's majestic wild places. The surrounding area is equally stunning, home to arid deserts and old-growth pine forests, as well as animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.  Protecting this entire region is crucial to keeping the Grand Canyon healthy, thriving and a place to enjoy for generations to come.  That’s why we are urging President Obama to build a conservation legacy during his second term. Now is the time to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife dear to not just the generation of Theodore Roosevelt, but to our generation and generations to come.

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