This is a guest column by Marni McKinney, vice chair of the Sierra Club Foundation Board of Directors.
This past September, I had the pleasure of joining The Sierra Club Foundation executive director Peter Martin and Sierra Club Our Wild America campaign director Dan Chu on an inspiring tour of the Grand Canyon Watershed along with my dad Robert McKinney and brother Kevin McKinney.
The Grand Canyon Watershed is the site of a proposed new national monument, covering 1.7 million acres of desert grasslands, old growth forests, towering cliffs, deep canyons, and freshwater springs that flow into the Colorado River. The Sierra Club, with support from the Sierra Club Foundation, is currently working locally and nationally to secure a presidential proclamation designating a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. During our 4-day trip that included visits to the Kaibab National Forest, the North Rim, Vermilion Cliffs, the Navajo Bridge, and the town of Flagstaff, we met with tireless Sierra Club national and chapter staff and volunteers, working to secure permanent protection for this special landscape. Along the way we solicited advice and guidance from local partners including elected officials, business owners, and tribal leaders.
On our last day, we met with Navajo legislator Jamescita Peschlaski and Grand Canyon Chapter director Sandy Bahr for a tour of the Canyon uranium mine near the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property, a sacred Native American site. Despite a 20-year uranium mining moratorium covering one million acres placed by the Obama administration in 2012, the Sierra Club, along with the Havasupai and the Grand Canyon Trust, continue to legally defend Grand Canyon from development plans on pre-existing uranium leases.
National monument status would protect areas of great cultural significance to the region's indigenous people, including over 3,000 archeological sites, and more than 300,000 acres of intact, ancient forests, including the largest unprotected old-growth ponderosa pine forest in the Southwest. California condor, mountain lions, mule deer, and northern goshawks reside here, as does the Kaibab squirrel, found nowhere else in the world.
My family was deeply moved by this spectacular landscape and is proud to support efforts toward securing the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. President Obama has the opportunity to leave a conservation legacy that rivals the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter. Our family, in partnership with the Sierra Club and others, will do everything in our power to make this vision a reality by building widespread local and national support for the Monument. But, ultimately, the decision is up to one person, President Obama. I hope you get the chance to experience the treasures of the Grand Canyon Watershed and feel inspired to join us in supporting the proposal to designate the area as a national monument for future generations to enjoy.
Photo by Jim Dougherty.