Forest Service rejects development bid near Grand Canyon

The U.S. Forest Service has rejected a proposal that would have enabled a sprawling real estate development near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The U.S. Forest Service has rejected a proposal that would have enabled a sprawling real estate development near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Conservation groups, Native Americans united in bid to oppose real estate speculation near national park

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service has nixed a tentative plan to develop a new mega-resort near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

As proposed in April 2015, the the plan would have resulted in major real estate sprawl around the village of Tusayan, with up to 2,100 residential units and 3 million square feet of retail space along with hotels, a spa and conference center.

The Forest Service had to decide whether to permit road and infrastructure improvements on publicly owned lands near the Grand Canyon that would have facilitated the development. Last week,  Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio rejected the plan.

In a March 4 letter to Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson, Provencio said the 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.”

According to Provencio, a lack of water was one of the main factors in her decision.

The National Park Service saw the development as a significant threat to Grand Canyon because it would have required vast quantities of water and potentially dried up seeps, springs and streams that support wildlife and recreation on the park’s South Rim.

Groundwater pumping need to supply water for the development would likely lower the aquifer that is the only source of all water for the famed aquamarine Havasu Falls, the cultural foundation of the Havasupai tribe.

Both the Hopi and Havasupai tribes wrote comment letters formally opposing the development scheme, and public outreach by environmental organizations and park advocacy groups highlighted potential environmental and cultural threats, and help spur a flood of tens of thousands of comments opposing the development.

“This is a great day for Grand Canyon National Park, and those who love its stunning vistas, abundant wildlife, and rich cultural heritage,” said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski. “The Forest Service was right to say yes to the public interest by protecting one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth, and no to the bloated development plans that threatened the park,” Zukoski said, explaining that the development proposal threatened a landscape that is revered around the world.

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