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RRFW Riverwire – 1975 Act May Stop Tramway
July 17, 2014

Language in the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act of 1975 may hold the key to stopping a proposed tramway in the Grand Canyon.

The tramway and associated structures are to be located at the far southern end of Marble Canyon at the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. Proposed by Phoenix developer Lamar Whitmer, the construction would cause major impact to the Grand Canyon on land under Navajo Nation jurisdiction immediately adjacent to lands in Grand Canyon administered by Grand Canyon National Park.

Criticized by local Navajo families, the Hopi, NPS, and a broad range of environmental and park user-advocacy groups, the tram developers have scoffed at all opposition to their scheme. What they have overlooked is a mandate for the Secretary of Interior from Congress in the 1975 Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act to pursue cooperation with the Navajo in the management of the entire Grand Canyon.

The 1975 Act stated that the U.S. Congress recognizes that the entire Grand Canyon is a natural feature of national and international significance. Congress recognized the need for the further protection and interpretation of the entire Grand Canyon including all the lands the tramway would directly impact. The Act authorized and encouraged the Secretary of the Interior to work directly with Native American nations “providing for the protection and interpretation of the Grand Canyon in its entirety.”

RRFW Riverwire contacted Jeff Ingram, one of the architects of the 1975 Act. According to Mr. Ingram, “Congress declared that the United States has a national interest in the well-being and public comprehension of the Grand Canyon, all of it, from beginning to end, from rim to rim, with the plateaus that give access to it.”

Ingram stated that “Navajo ownership was secure, but Congress made it part of the Secretary's job to find ways to work with the Navajo on projects that would further Navajo purposes, protect the Canyon, and provide for the public's fullest enjoyment and understanding of it.” Ingram added, "The sponsors of the Enlargement Act were worried even back then about destructive and inappropriate building both within and on top of the rim of Marble Canyon. The Navajo wanted to keep their Grand Canyon land, of course, so Congress ordered the Secretary to work with them for Navajo benefit, while together keeping the Canyon safe from crazy and downright bad proposals like this tramway."

A letter from River Runners For Wilderness to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, dated July 15, 2014, completely reviewed the above legislation, and noted that a mechanism is in place to cooperatively develop this area with protection and interpretation in mind. The letter was also sent to Navajo and Hopi Nation representatives, the Arizona Congressional Delegation and National Park Service representatives.

The entire letter to Secretary Jewell may be seen here:
https://rrfw.org/sites/default/files/documents/SecretaryJewell7-15-2014.pdf

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