Conservation is a Fight That’s Never Over

Grand Canyon Dories: Marble Canyon_Pete McBride

“There’s a mystic thing about a dory. There’s a soul about it.” —Martin Litton.

Martin Litton, legendary Grand Canyon river guide and conservationist, first floated the Grand Canyon in 1955. Humbled by its beauty and grandeur, he was driven by a will to save this special place from inevitable threats to come. Less than a decade after his first trip down the canyon, Martin started Grand Canyon Dories. The boats were practical, graceful and as Martin said in a word, “beautiful.”

The dories came to stand for much more than just a boat. In Kevin Fedarko’s book, The Emerald Mile, he wrote that Martin “inaugurated a tradition of naming every craft after a natural wonder that, in his view, had been heedlessly destroyed by the hand of man‘to remind us of places we’ve destroyed without any necessity, so that maybe we’ll think twice before we do it again.’”

Over the years, this tradition evolved to include not just places lost, but those that faced threats and that were worth fighting for. Martin, along with preeminent conservationist David Brower and the Sierra Club, faced down two proposed dams that threatened the Grand Canyon in the 1960’s—Marble Canyon and Bridge Canyon. Because of those like Martin who understood that our rivers and special places must be shared, enjoyed and fiercely protected, we can still experience the Grand Canyon in its natural undammed state.

This summer, a small group gathered at Lees Ferry for the dedication and maiden launch of the Marble Canyon. Veteran oarsman Duffy Dale spent five months handcrafting the dory as a tribute to Martin, who passed away on November 30, 2014.

OARS founder and president George Wendt said at the dedication: “May it be a reminder to all of us that conservation is a fight that is never over. Even this place – the crown jewel of the National Park system and the Grandest Canyon on the planet – faces continued threats from development and mining and it’s up to all of us to ensure it’s protected now and for future generations.”

As we head into a new year, let us take a moment to reflect on conservation battles won and lost, and those still left to fight. Please join us in urging President Obama to put a permanent stop to uranium mine pollution in Grand Canyon National Park and to protect the Canyon’s sacred waters by proclaiming the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. Thank you for continuing to stand up with us and fight the good fight. And for a little more inspiration, we leave you with a word from the one and only Martin Litton: “Nature has its rights. It has a right to be here untrammeled, unfettered. Man doesn’t have to screw everything up.”

See the trailer for Martin’s Boat at Plus, catch the premiere at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA taking place January 14-18, 2016 and on tour nationwide this spring.