Being Environmentally-Conscious at a Natural Monument

Written By: Sabrina Taylor
November 16, 2018
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The Southwest region of the United States offers some of the most incredible feats of nature known to man. From raging rivers to deep-cut canyons to winding underground passageways carved within the earth, sights like these are simply found nowhere else on the planet. Undoubtedly the Grand Canyon is the most recognized and popular of the landmarks found in the Southwest. For millions of years, wind and water have carved this colossal fissure in the earth and continues to chip away at it to this day. Long after humans have left the planet, the Grand Canyon will continue to evolve and erode. Nature is taking its course, but what happens when humans are introduced? There are over 9,000 animals and insects and over 1,700 plants thriving within the Grand Canyon. At the same time, the Grand Canyon hosts upwards of 5 million visitors each year - how do we ensure that never-ending human contact has as little effect on the environment as possible?

Of course there are hired individuals tasked with monitoring park conditions, but unlike other tourist favorites like the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge, national parks and natural monuments can't receive routine maintenance to keep up their appearance. The preservation of these natural wonders is the responsibility of not just rangers and park service employees, but of the park's visitors as well.

So what should you do when you visit a place like the Grand Canyon?

Human interference is the greatest threat to any natural environment, but a conscientious visitor will leave no trace that they were there. This includes leaving trash behind as well as removing pieces of the environment. At the Grand Canyon (and other national parks) signage is posted throughout the park reminding tourists that they are strictly forbidden from removing any natural piece of the land. Even so much as picking a flower can result in a hefty fine. Only researchers within scientific communities are permitted to remove rocks, dirt, and plants - and that's only after their proposals are approved by the National Park Service. Sure, sneaking a small stone into your pocket seems like a harmless and free souvenir, but if every of the canyon's 5 million annual visitors removed a piece, eventually the surface would be significantly altered. Besides, the nearby shops offer a wide array of gorgeous handmade and natural gifts.

Like any other natural habitat, the Grand Canyon's plant and animal population operate as a delicate food chain. It is extremely important that guests do not interact with the animals living within the park. Many of the local wildlife - particularly the squirrels and crows - are very familiar with humans entering their territory and know that we don't pose an imminent threat. Many squirrels and birds will actually approach visitors and beg for food. When these animals get their food from outside sources, the ecosystem's balance becomes increasingly disrupted. And don't worry - despite its stark appearance, the Grand Canyon has plenty of food for its critters.

But what about the environmental effect of helicopters and airplanes at the canyon?

Scenic recognizes the immeasurable importance of preserving this incredible natural region and are dedicated to leaving as little impact as possible. We are committed to keeping our air tours as eco-friendly and quiet as possible, to preserve the tranquility of this magnificent landmark.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a life-long lover of the Grand Canyon and regularly urged the public to leave it in its pristine condition. He believed that there was nothing humans could do to improve upon this magnificent sight. In fact, he did not even agree with any buildings being built within the territory. While the canyon rim has since been modernized a bit with hotels, shops, and notably the Skywalk Bridge, the efforts to preserve the landscape and surrounding environment would have likely impressed Roosevelt today. Do your part when you visit the canyon to ensure that it looks just as beautiful for future generations.

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