Updated 13 November 2017
What does victory sound like to someone who loves the outdoors? It sounds like a river running, birds chirping and wind blowing. Not included in that picture: engines running, cell phones ringing and people working.
That’s sound we conjured upon recent news that the Escalade Project has been stopped, at least for the time being. On October 31st the Navajo Nation Council voted 16-2 in opposition to the developer’s proposal for the Escalade Project, nearly a year after we first reported on it (see below).
Before you nature lovers pop your corks, know that the reasons cited have more to do with the “one-sided nature” of the deal, which made it difficult for members of the tribe to sell their arts and crafts, the exempted the developer from taxes, and made it impossible for the Navajo tribe to expel the developers from operating the project for any reason for 20 years.
These provisions have more to do with the actual running of the development than the sanctity of the land. Navajo unemployment is around 50 percent, so it’s reasonable to assume that if an attractive deal lead by less greedy developers emerged the tribe might take it.
Given that reality, a sensible strategy for environmental activists should help the tribe find ways to bring good jobs to the area. They don’t necessarily need to be local factories, either. The NYT recently reported on the high level of job satisfaction at a call center in Durham, N.C., a remote job in which people can even work from home (no development needed).
Another alternative is the sort of reverse insurance done to keep the forests around the Panama Canal standing so as not to disturb the water in the canal. Whatever the tact, to address the future health of the Grand Canyon, we’d be wise to support people who live there, too.
Land developers often get a bad rap.
Many of them want to build impressive things that help diminish our footprint on this here blue marble while also creating places for us to live, work, play and commune. And those ones are A-OK.
But then you've got your bad apples. This is about one of the bad apples.
Like the plot of a Carl Hiaasen novel, some very vile real estate developers have hatched a scheme that would add a gondola and retail outlets to one of our nation’s most iconic and special places:
The Grand Canyon.
Yes. That canyon. That most astounding ravine on planet earth is now the subject of an odious real-estate proposal called the Escalade Project, the fate of which hangs before a crucial vote by the Navajo Nation Council, who can scupper the deal.
The project is estimated to cost around $65M and will sit at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. There is no plan for how to handle and maintain sewage, and there is a great chance that the project will threaten a fragile ecosystem as well as the water supply of those downstream.
The Navajo Nation will only receive between 8-18% of the revenue; the lion’s share will flow to outside interests. There’s also a noncompete clause stipulating that even the Navajo can’t build anything within 15 miles of the development. It’s in violation of Navajo Diné Law, which considers this stretch of earth sacred ground. So basically it’s a raw deal all around.
Good people, we can’t let this happen.
You can start by signing the petition to protect the Grand Canyon. And if you have more time, email firstname.lastname@example.org and voice your opinions. The petition is due September 3rd, so time is of the essence.
For more information check out the Grand Canyon Trust.
P.S. If you're one of the people who wants to visit a tacky desert development, Las Vegas is a short drive away.