The Grand Canyon Is In Peril

May 16, 2015

 By Carl Taylor

Former Coconino County Supervisor


As a massive development project threatens to impact the Grand Canyon the words of Theodore Roosevelt are still true, “Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see."

Those words carry renewed meaning as The U.S. Forest Service considers granting road access to Italian development group Stilo in order to pursue a project that would add three million square feet of commercial space and thousands of homes to the Town of Tusayan which borders the Grand Canyon National Park. It is my understanding that Stilo wants development access to a Forest Service road to connect the Kotzin Ranch portion of the project to Highway 64. There are equally destructive components proposed for the Ten X Ranch area as well as Camper Village.

I’m Carl Taylor and it was my privilege to serve as Coconino County Supervisor for District One for eight years. That district includes the Grand Canyon National Park. Having such a national treasure in my district carried with it a great measure of responsibility. It is in that spirit that I write to draw attention that this national treasure is in peril.

The Forest Service needs to hear from those of us to don’t want the Grand Canyon to be permanently scarred by this enormous and disastrous development. Whether you mail, email or hand deliver a letter to the Forest Service please keep a few instructions in mind.

In your comments, please consider telling the Forest Service to

1.     Prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement because of the significant impacts of the road and utility corridors combined with the Developments.

2.     Analyze in detail all of the impacts of the Developments for all parcels- not just the impact of the road/utility corridor’s footprint.  This includes the lack of available water to support development at the proposed scale.

3.     Hopefully, this will lead to rejection of Tusayan’s (Stilo’s) application.

You may submit your comments to the Forest Service electronically through this link: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=46776.

When writing to the Forest Service, it is important to address the context and intensity factors. The more specific you can be about the potential impacts of the road and utility corridors to Stilo’s Developments, the more effective your comments will be.

Context refers to the scope of the action - to society, different locations, and various environments, along with the short and long term effects of the project. These would include the fact the completed project likely would dry up seeps and springs that feed the Grand Canyon National Park and the Havasupai Indian Community. The development would forever alter the pristine nature of the area surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park this altering the visitor experience that has been enjoyed by millions over the past century

Intensity refers to the severity of the potential impact. The road would create massive amounts of vehicle traffic bordering a park where children play. The area is also home to a future school site. This is a direct threat to public safety - which is why the Grand Canyon School District is opposed to the project.

The Arizona Wetsalts Tiger Beetle and MacDougal's Yellow Tops, a flower in the aster family, are found only in the canyon's seeps and could be driven to extinction by groundwater pumping on the Coconino Plateau, including the Tusayan area. There is great uncertainty about the project as the developer continues to evade questions about a sustainable water supply or to provide specifics as to what would be built.

The plans that I have seen for these developments represent culs-de-sac, because they would provide only one means of exit from a developed area during an emergency (flooding, forest fire, etc.).  Extensive and dense developments not have a legal second and separated egress is not something that Coconino County or knowledgeable planners would condone.

You may submit your comments electronically through this link: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=46776.

Or you can write a letter
ATTN: Deirdre McLaughlin

Kaibab National Forest Williams Ranger District
742 S. Clover Rd.
Williams, AZ 86046

The fax number is (928) 635-5680

There are public scoping meetings are scheduled as well.

May 18, 5 to 8 p.m., Williams Elementary-Middle School, 601 N. 7th St., Williams
May 19, 5 to 8 p.m., Grand Canyon Squire Inn, 100 Highway 64, Tusayan
May 20, 5 to 8 p.m., Doubletree Hotel, 1175 W. Route 66, Flagstaff.

Grand Canyon National Park Supt. Dave Uberuaga has said the Grand Canyon National Park is facing its greatest threat in its 96 year history telling the Los Angeles Times, "When you have that size and scope of potential development that close to the park, it will impact our visitor experience."

Mr. Uberuaga is not alone. The Stilo project is opposed by scores of groups, including the Sierra Club, The City of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon School District. They understand that high-density development will forever damage and irrevocably alter the experience of visiting the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon doesn’t belong to Tusayan, Coconino County, or even the great state of Arizona. It is a world wonder and should not be turned into a theme park to benefit the bank accounts of developers and their business partners. Once the profits are made and the investors have moved on, we would be left with a Grand Canyon that is diminished and degraded. That damage will be there long after those profits are spent.

NOW is the time for citizens to engage in this vital conversation.