An ecological case for designating the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

An ecological case for designating the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

Recent work by CSP finds that the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument (GGCNHM) — one of the last truly wild areas in the West — presents a unique opportunity for protecting ecological functions.

CSP has been engaged in various landscape-level analyses to identify areas of high ecological value in undeveloped lands throughout the western U.S. A recent connectivity study conducted by Brett Dickson and others[1] identified three notable areas in the West with high ecological flow. One of these areas is the proposed GGCNHM in northern Arizona. If designated, the monument would permanently protect 1.78 million acres of land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park that are currently threatened by increased development, logging, and a resurgence of uranium mining.

Earlier this year, CSP and the Center for American Progress (CAP) initiated a study to further assess the proposed GGCNHM’s ecological importance. CSP had previously collaborated with CAP on the groundbreaking Disappearing West project, which found that we are losing natural areas to human development at an alarmingly fast rate. CSP’s role in GGCNHM study entailed conducting a West-wide comparative analysis of various key indicators that included resilience to climate change, ecological connectivity and intactness, biodiversity, and remoteness. The analysis demonstrated that this area far exceeds other similar-size western landscapes in terms of ecological connectivity and intactness, geophysical uniqueness, and richness of rare and irreplaceable species. According to CAP, the study “makes an irrefutable scientific case for protecting this area.”

The proposed designation clearly presents a unique opportunity to conserve key elements of ecological function within the region. What may be less obvious is the opportunity this presents for the entire western U.S.; designating this monument would strategically strengthen our existing network of protected areas in the face of climate change. The GGCHNM’s value in sustaining large, contiguous landscapes that support high levels of regional biodiversity should not be underestimated.

Read “A strategic, practical solution to conserving biodiversity and habitat connectivity in our Disappearing West” to learn more about the importance of connecting protected areas.

Visit the CAP’s web site to learn more about the proposed GGCNHM designation.

[1] Dickson, B.G., C.M Albano, B.H. McRae, J.J. Anderson, D.M. Theobald, L.J. Zachmann, T.D. Sisk, & M.P. Dombeck. 2016. Informing strategic efforts to expand and connect protected areas using a model of ecological flow, with application to the western US. Conservation Letters. DOI:10.1111/conl.12322