Every day we go to work to make money or make a difference. Those who work in our national parks, monuments and forests likely fall into the latter category. They are there to be the custodians of God’s creativity and grace. Getting to work at Grand Canyon National Park or the adjoining Kaibab National Forrest is the pinnacle, for many, of such dedication.
There, everyone from rangers to superintendents is reminded of what President Theodore Roosevelt once said about the area:
“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
Well, no person has so honored these words in recent decades more than Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio. Last week, she rejected the application by a development consortium to use Forest Service land under her jurisdiction to facilitate an obscene commercial development on the South Rim boundary of Grand Canyon.
It must not have been easy. The developers for years have been using high-powered lobbyists, raised money for politicians, and even organized the nearby town and packed its town council with its own employees. It was all like something that might happen in Beijing not the birthplace of democracy.
Yet, in the end, the people prevailed, overwhelming the Forest Service with hundreds of thousands of comments in opposition.
While President Roosevelt’s request hasn’t always been respected it is as poignant today as it was when proffered over 100 years ago. Supervisor Provencio may not ever see her face on the side of Mount Rushmore. But hers is now a legacy unquestioned for as Roosevelt warned “man can only mar it.” A brave woman didn’t let that happen.