Grand Canyon tram plan shot down by Navajo lawmakers | News | DW | 01.11.2017
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Grand Canyon tram plan shot down by Navajo lawmakers

Developers had promised jobs and prosperity, but environmentalists and activists have said the plan smacked of colonialism and would impose on sacred land. Navajo council lawmakers voted the proposal down 16-2.

Native American lawmakers on Tuesday voted down a multimillion-dollar proposal to build a tramway into the US Grand Canyon National Park.

The Navajo Nation Tribal Council voted 16-2 against building the aerial tramway and associated hotel and retail complex on the remote land.

Developers had hoped to have the tramway running by May 2021, had the proposal been accepted. It would have transported tourists down into the canyon to a riverside boardwalk.

 Traditional livelihoods in peril

The Grand Canyon Escalade Project press release map (Stephanie Smith/Grand Canyon Trust)

Opponents of the plan decried the possibility of 10,000 being shuttled into the canyon each day

The Confluence Partners development group said the project would have employed up to 3,500 people. Half the people in the Navajo American Indian reservation, America's largest, are unemployed and many more are facing joblessness when a coal mine and power plant shut down in 2019.

The former Navajo President Albert Hale is among the management team of the developer. Under the proposal Navajo Nation would have earned a minimum of eight percent of gross revenue.

Opponents of the plan included those with grazing licenses in the area and those who wished to build property in the sacred area. The proposal would have precluded other developments within a 15-mile (24 kilometer) radius.

Lawmakers also raised concerns about public safety demands and about the amount of money the Navajo people would have to pay to fund infrastructure improvements. The Navajo Nation would have been on the hook for $65 million (€€56 million) to advance the project.

The plan was also opposed by numerous environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts.

Read more: A crowded paradise: New Zealand's tourism boom faces backlash

"They heard us," activist Renae Yellowhorse told the Associated Press, referring to the council members. "We needed to be a presence there to let them know we're not going to go away. We're going to always be here to defend our Mother, to defend our sacred sites."

Yellowhorse also told Fox News that the promise of jobs and prosperity smacked of colonialism.

The proposal had been discussed for years but only voted on on Tuesday.

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