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Grand Canyon Not Included In Wilderness Act Designation

Grand Canyon
Laurel Morales
In 1980 Grand Canyon officials submitted forms to consider 94 percent of the park for the wilderness protection. They're still waiting on that designation.

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Grand Canyon Not Included In Wilderness Act Designation

Grand Canyon Not Included In Wilderness Act Designation

Laurel Morales

In 1980 Grand Canyon officials submitted forms to consider 94 percent of the park for the wilderness protection. They're still waiting on that designation.

Sept. 3 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The law protects 109 million acres. Most would assume the Grand Canyon is included in that preservation system. But it’s not.

Grand Canyon National Park officials have taken inventory of its 1.2 million acres and have proposed 94 percent qualifies as wilderness. That was back in 1980 and still 34 years later the proposal sits on the Interior Secretary’s desk.

Grand Canyon wilderness coordinator Linda Jalbert said the Interior Department was waiting on the park to complete its river management plan. It did that in the 1980s, so what’s the hold up?

“Grand Canyon has a lot of big issues,” Jalbert said. “And even though some of those issues would not be affected directly by a wilderness designation, the perception is that it could.”

Issues like allowing motor boats on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. But Congress could make that exception in a wilderness bill.

“It’s sort of a no-brainer,” said Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and former Grand Canyon wilderness coordinator. “It would be very important in terms of fulfilling a vision of the park. But provide an additional level of protection for this grandest of national parks.”

Crumbo said the park is still managed as if it has the Wilderness Act protection, but an official designation would give the park more leverage in court, say, against potential developmentaround the park.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.