March 21, 1991
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023
Re: Draft Supplemental EIS/Development Concept Plan
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your plan.
A global view of the situation in the Park is necessary in order to do what is right ("Think globally, act locally", right?). All over the world, it has become clear that the automobile, its relatives, and its facilities (roads, parking lots, gas stations, etc.) are ruining the earth, its inhabitants, and the quality of their lives:
1. Ozone depletion: the greatest contributor in the U.S. is the automobile air conditioner, via CFC leakage;
2. Global warming: the greatest contributor in the U.S. is the automobile;
3. Wildlife destruction and extinction, via road kill, habitat fragmentation, and allowing human access to fragile ecosystems;
4. Air, water, and ground pollution: the auto vies with industry for first place in destructiveness;
5. Loss or degradation of vital open spaces, recreation areas, and farmlands;
6. Wasting of vital resources (financial and otherwise) in highly inefficient road transportation, while numerous serious threats to our survival and the survival of all life on the planet continue unchecked.
We are going to end up practically alone on the planet, if we don't immediately designate large areas for wildlife, including effective wildlife "bridges" connecting them; remove the roads and limit human access -- even, in many cases, prohibiting it altogether; immediately halt all expansion of road, highway, and freeway space; and begin substituting environmentally sound transportation modes for the current oil-dependent, destructive ones. In particular, all long-distance travel should be by rail whenever possible; short-range travel should be by walking, bicycling, light rail, or (only when the others fail) bus.
Ignoring this major concern will only allow more highway construction to go on and make reversing the trend toward more automobile dependence ever harder to reverse. If we environmentalists can't lead the way, who will? Please join the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, Earth First!, and many transit activist organizations in recognizing the key importance of halting roadway expansion.
"Improvements in parking and circulation" are no longer rightly considered improvements. That traffic must be sped up to improve air quality is an old myth perpetuated by the highway lobby. Recent research has shown that speeding up traffic (e.g. by expanding roads) causes drivers to get better gas mileage, but more importantly, causes them to drive so much more (because it has become more convenient) that emissions and fuel consumption actually increase! Thus, your statement on p.4-9, "Abatement of the traffic congestion at Grand Canyon Lodge has the potential to improve air quality" is nonsense. Air pollution is related primarily to vehicle trips (due to the "cold start" and "hot soak" effects), next to miles travelled, and last and least to congestion, according to the California Air Resources Board.
You should increase responsible (minimal impact) access to the park, but decrease irresponsible access (that which involves the use of the automobile, or which brings city-style amenities to the park). The urban lifestyle is totally incompatible with wilderness and viable wildlife habitat. All overnight accomodations within the park should be in the form of campgrounds, except for the few park personnel who must remain in the park overnight. People who want city amenities should stay in the city, not bring the city with them into the wilderness!
Traffic congestion is like nasal congestion: you will accomplish nothing by trying to widen the nose! Address the cause, not the symptom! The cause is too much dependence on, subsidy of, and catering to, the automobile. Of all places, our parks should be places where responsible, sustainable living is taught (mostly, by example). If not there, then where???!!! Humans can vote and speak for themselves; wildlife can not. We must look out for their interests.
I fully appreciate the great amount of work that has gone into this report. However, it represents a type of thinking that is obsolete and which we need to jettison as soon as possible. Please leave parking lots, cars, wide roads, and other bad habits outside the park.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.