The battle for Crozier Canyon

 

Arizona mirrors the paradox of the modern West - how to secure the future of tourism without butting heads with traditional, extractive industries. Discount for the moment the public lands, even Grand Canyon National Park, whose establishment may hardly be credited to Arizona. Theodore Roosevelt demanded that Grand Canyon be preserved, and he was a president from New York.

The question today is much the same as it was for President Roosevelt: Is the West committed to protecting natural beauty that is not owned by the federal government? Or does the West conveniently evade any responsibility for protecting lands controlled by private individuals?

In Arizona, that question has abruptly come to the fore on historic Route 66. Twenty-five miles east of Kingman, the highway enters a landscape of tumbled rocks and boulders; beautifully layered and shaped, they blanket entire hillsides and fringe the encircling mesas. Sunset recasts the cliffs, highlighting individual rocks in a russet glow. This is a landscape like no other in Arizona or the West.

A guide on the Internet lists Crozier Canyon's many historical and natural attributes, including Crozier Ranch, traces of the Beale Wagon Road and old Route 66. It is also the main line of the Santa Fe Railway, whose early postcards featured Harvey Girls suggestively perched among the rocks.

Even a century ago, Crozier Canyon was hardly untrammeled or "pristine." As the only natural pass through the mountains, it invited its share of fortune-seekers, settlers, cattle ranchers and developers. But none of them mined the rocks, laying bare the canyon walls. That is a recent practice - the one that threatens to do the canyon in (see story page 4).

Trucks and cherry pickers are growling now, hauling off the rocks to Phoenix and Los Angeles. Apparently, Sunbelt yuppies love to ornament their skyscrapers and housing tracts, even if that means picking the face of Arizona like a scab. Apparently there is a growing, virtually unlimited market for boulders as design ornaments for commercial buildings and housing developments. In the boulder-rich settlements of Kingman, Hackberry and Truxton, it is called "rugged individualism." It is our land, the rock hunters say; we can do with it as we please.

Tourists and all those who love natural landscapes will not be pleased. Germans especially love Route 66; it is their symbol of the West, thanks in part to movies and the television series "Route 66." But developers look down the highway and see nothing but a string of gravel pits. Consequently, tourists in the future are likely to take it only once, vowing never to return.

Of course, there is still Grand Canyon National Park, and northern Arizona is its major gateway. On the other hand, if there is no reason to explore and linger along historic Route 66, why not just fly across the canyon and get the journey over with? Already, hundreds of thousands of visitors do just that, traveling not through Arizona but rather disembarking from the airport in Las Vegas.

This time, there is no Teddy Roosevelt waiting in the wings to save Arizona from itself. As a natural and historical landmark, Crozier Canyon deserves our love and care. I have seen too many wonderful places die just because no one seemed to care. Crozier Canyon deserves to stay where it is, not be carted off piece by piece. There are more responsible ways to ornament suburban developments without removing native rocks and vegetation.

Alfred Runte is an environmental historian living in Seattle, Wash. He is the author of Trains of Discovery: Western Railroads and the National Parks.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Board of Diablo Trust is seeking applications for full-time Program Manager with duties of overseeing the coordination and administration of the Diablo Trusts ongoing...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • SECLUDED TWO-STORY CUSTOM LOG HOME
    in 16-acre pinion pine forest with year-round stream, mountain views, wildlife. Garage, root cellar, wood shop, one-room cabin, RV shed, pasture, garden. [email protected]
  • BEAUTIFUL, CUSTOM RASTRA BLOCK ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME
    Mature, six-acre Ponderosa forest, open pasture. Spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountain & valley views. Well maintained, paved county road, easy drive to world-class skiing &...
  • OJO CALIENTE RIVERSIDE SECLUSION
    Private, 2bd/2bath green home on 2 acres on the Ojo Caliente River between the confluence of the Chama & Rio Grande Rivers. Close to hiking,...
  • CLASSIC NEW MEXICO MOUNTAIN VIEWS
    of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. 3.19 acre lot to build on to escape the crush of city/town life. Short distance to trails, skiing, fishing,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • ASSOCIATE OF PROGRAMS
    The Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...