It’s Time to Protect the Greater Grand Canyon

O.A.R.S. Founder George Wendt was supposed to accompany me on my first adventure down the Grand Canyon, but instead I took his memory and his spirit. As I spent a week deep in the Canyon in the flow of the mighty Colorado—gazing up at red rock walls sculpted by water and time, some layers dating back more than a billion years—time, in essence, stood still.


This magnificent landscape and the simple fact that I, and other fortunate humans, have access to an experience this life changing is what I’m fighting for.

I served as an Army officer in Baghdad right before, and at the start of, the massive surge of troops into the country. Before that, I worked clearing landmines in Angola, Abkhazia, and before that, I was in the Army for the first time in Bosnia. When I came home, the outdoors gave me my life back and it’s why I’ve dedicated my life to introducing people to the power and awe of wilderness.

I look up to those like George who came before me. This was his life’s mission: Deliver people into the heart of the wilderness, give them the experiences and connection to these wild rivers and landscapes, and turn them into advocates. It all started with the Grand Canyon, and we’re still here fighting for it today.

George used to say, “Conservation is a fight that is never over.” And now, looking into the next four years this could not be more true. We have fought and won battles to stop dams on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, we have and continue to fight damaging developments on the rim, but these threats aren’t going anywhere—and if the President-elect stands by his word, these threats will only escalate. Our Canyon is surrounded.

Grand Canyon | Photo: Steve Markle, O.A.R.S.

As Kevin Fedarko said after emerging from his sectional thru-hike of the Canyon, “What happens in the Grand Canyon matters. Decisions made here reverberate across public lands everywhere in America. Battles here that are won or lost have a significance far beyond this abyss that runs for 277 miles. We have set aside these parks, but they won’t stay the way they are in perpetuity. They have to be actively fought for and protected every day by each succeeding generation of Americans, and each generation has to decide if they are willing to do this. I know that is not something I can walk away from.”

We have a historic opportunity right now in the last weeks of Obama’s presidency to permanently protect the public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park as the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.

This is what I fought for, our country, its people and its lands—and the fight isn’t over. It’s just beginning, again. And if we have any hope to bring our kids and grandkids down this river trip of a lifetime, we have to step up.

Here’s how you can get involved: 

  1. Take action online. Encourage your friends and family to take action too!
  2. Call President Obama and tell him that now is the time to protect the Greater Grand Canyon as a national monument. Call: (202) 456-1111.
  3. Share this story on your social networks. Now more than ever, we need to rally the troops!

Photos: Monty Pollack (top); Steve Markle (bottom)


  • ColoPigskinPoster

    I just spent a week in the Grand Canyon area last month. We were mostly on the North Rim, in the Kaibab Natl Forest, BLM and in the GCNP of course. Explored miles of dirt roads where hardly anyone goes. Then we hiked rim-to-rim. I too love the Grand Canyon.
    Where would this Natl Monument be? The Natl Park already covers the area below the rim from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. Grand Canyon Parashant Natl Monument is already established Northwest of the Grand Canyon. The BLM and Forest Service have established substantial tracts of wilderness on both rims. The tribal lands cannot be taken away.
    With all due respect, the Grand Canyon area does not seem particularly threatened right now. What am I missing?

    • Cari_Morgan

      Hi Doug, the Greater Grand Canyon area is largely under threat from uranium mining and logging. The National Monument designation would permanently protect 1.7 million acres of public lands (likely encompassing much of which you described above) surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. You can learn more and see a map of the area here: Appreciate the conversation.

  • AZ Roger

    Of all the development and resource extraction proposals for the Grand Canyon area that I have seen, it is uranium mining that is of paramount concern. That is because damage caused by leeching radioactive waste into the Grand Canyon watershed is essentially permanent and irreversible. The Grand Canyon has already been scarred by radioactive waste as a result of mining activity. Examples include waste from the Orphan mine on the south rim that taints Horn Creek thus making the water unsafe as well as the radioactive waste placards on mining waste heaps on Horseshoe Mesa. For these reasons I am completely opposed to any uranium mining anywhere in the Grand Canyon watershed. Now the question is what is the best way to protect the Grand Canyon from such further damage.

    At first blush it would seem that having the Obama Administration declare and establish the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument would be the best move. I’m not so sure. The reason is this: although no president or congress has ever rescinded a prior administration’s establishment of a National Monument, Park or Wilderness area, it is my understanding that there is no federal law that prevents such an action. I do not think anyone can confidently say that if the Obama Administration were to establish the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument that the incoming administration and congress would not consider such an action as provocative and justification to rescind it. That could well set a precedent for rescinding protection to other fragile and magnificent landscapes for the sole benefit of the mining, logging, and real estate development industries.

    There are still ~15 years left on the 20-year moratorium on uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area that the Obama Administration put in place. A strategy worth considering is
    whether to leave things as they are for now and avoid a provocation that could result in threatening all lands that are considered “protected” at this point and await a more environmentally friendly administration and congress sometime over the next 15 years.

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