Last month, while bureaucrats and scientists convened in Phoenix’s premier downtown office tower to discuss the disintegrating health of the Grand Canyon, activists led by LIVING RIVERS gathered outside to demand results.
The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG) gathered January 17-18, five years and $40 million dollars into a process that so far has not yet put in place a plan for pulling the Grand Canyon ecosystem back from the brink of collapse, where it teeters today.
Although AMWG is mandated to provide a mechanism for public input, it rejected such input when offered by LIVING RIVERS, Sierra Club and other groups who collectively submitted a ten-page letter demanding immediate action. The organizations pointed out that in spite of Grand Canyon Protection Act requirements, the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam on Grand Canyon are not being adequately addressed.
The dam holds back nutrient-rich river sediments vital to many Grand Canyon native species, keeps water temperature unnaturally cold in the canyon and eliminates the river’s life-giving flooding regimes. The result: a Grand Canyon that is slowly becoming sterilized of its native life forms.
More than forty Phoenix-area activists responded to LIVING RIVERS’ call for support for action on behalf of the Grand Canyon. Michelle Harrington with the Center for Biological Diversity spoke of the plight of native fish in the Grand Canyon. “Three of the canyon’s native fish species have disappeared, a fourth is in serious trouble, and a fifth should probably be listed,” she said. “Worse, the only population of endangered humpback chub in Grand Canyon is now experiencing a sharp decline.”
Dr. Robert Witzeman of Maricopa Audubon Society and dean of Arizona’s conservation community, spoke of the complex web of life in the Grand Canyon ecosystem and the evidence that it is becoming unraveled, beginning with the very base of the food chain. He ended his speech with advice for forcing action from the powers-that-be: “Constant pressure, constantly applied.” When the AMWG convenes again this summer, LIVING RIVERS will be there again, with an even larger coalition.