Canyonlands National Park: Fifty Years of Conservation Conflict, 1964-2013

Authors: Tate Pashibin*, Ohio University, Natalie Mumich*,
Topics: Natural Resources, Environmental Perception
Keywords: national parks, external threats, Canyonlands
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Palladian, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2013, preservation advocates proposed a Greater Canyonlands National Monument that would bring together Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Manti-La Sal National Forest. The proposal proved controversial from the beginning. While the stated goal was to protect the greater canyonlands ecosystem, opponents such as fossil fuel interests argued that park expansion would place unfair limits on industry and infringe on the rights of states and individuals. Critics of the plan embraced many of the same arguments that park opponents adopted in 1964 when the boundaries of present-day Canyonlands National Park first were established.
Today, national parks such as Canyonlands are surrounded increasingly by fossil fuel operations and other developments that threaten park resources and diminish tourist experiences – many of the same threats park supporters identified in the early 1960s to justify the creation of a new park.
In this paper we use interviews, oral histories, and archival sources such as newspaper articles and government documents to compare the proponent and opponent campaigns to establish and expand Canyonlands National Park. Our findings suggest that deferment of critical decisions by the National Park Service in 1964 contributed to the controversy that emerged during the 2013 debate.

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