Science Friday: Defunding Grand Canyon research would be harmful to science, citizen’s safety and our natural world

This Feb. 22, 2005 file photo shows the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, background, as tourists hike along the South Rim in Grand Canyon, Ariz. Lower snowfall in recent years at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is prompting tourism officials to expand the visiting season for tourists. The North Rim typically closes from mid-October to mid-May because of snow. But the one road that goes into the lesser visited part of the Grand Canyon now often doesn’t have snow by Dec. 1. Tourism officials say climate change could work in their favor to bring in more visitors and revenue to the region. (AP Photo/Rick Hossman, File)

Recently, the Trump administration has proposed another political move that will threaten environmental science and the world at large. The federal government is about to defund Grand Canyon science and research programs. The Grand Canyon has been a national park for nearly 100 years and since then has been a key contributor to archeological discovery, a source of hydraulic power and a haven for endangered species.

This defunding will be disastrous to the current environmental efforts that have been running for decades.This new proposal aims to take money out of programs that protect endangered wildlife as well as the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program which provides safe, clean water and hydropower to millions of people. Not only would this decision take certainty of water safety away from 40 million people in the West, but it would also take away jobs from these scientists. The 23 million dollars from the parks programs will be funneled instead into the U.S. Treasury. The U.S. Treasury, whose role it is to stimulate the economy and create jobs, will be taking jobs away from scientists who contributed to the environment, public health and the development of natural resources.

To add insult to injury, in the past months the Trump administration has been landing tough blows to national parks as well as endangered species. In December, the government moved to reduce the national monument, Grand Staircase Escalante, by 46 percent. This land was recently assessed and found to not be beneficial despite evidence that archeological listings in the area doubled and vandalism has gone down since it was declared a national monument. Not only is this administration defunding National Park programs, but they are taking away land and potentially selling it to private energy producers and, knowing the presidents affinity for fossil fuels, we can all guess what businesses would be coming in. Regardless of what their business is, having a development on protected parks and monuments is extremely damaging to local ecosystems. Once a piece of land is developed it is forever impacted, the natural landscape can never be recovered. Through disrupting these areas of untouched nature, we would be advancing human impact closer to the ecosystem, fragmenting habitats and insularizing species, forever altering not only the land, but the ecology of the parks and monuments.

This July the president also proposed to roll back the Endangered Species Act rules. These changes would lead to greater freedom for regulators to avoid designating land for endangered species as well as weakening the protection of threatened species for future listing. Instead of getting the same amount of aid as endangered species, which helps to increase populations and stop them from becoming such, threatened species will now receive less attention. So in addition to their support programs being defunded, now species will be receiving less aid in general and have their protected lands taken away from and developed on.

The Trump administration’s proposal to defund Grand Canyon science and research is a direct attack on the environmental progress that has already been gradually undermined. They are launching a full on attack on the ecology of a historical and long-standing preserved piece of land through taking money out of programs for endangered species. They are taking money out of science and research that provides renewable resources and safe water to millions of people, both of which are vitally important and currently in short supply. Over the past few months the government has laid the groundwork to pull the rug out from under environmental science, now the field is trembling and we are starting to see what is in danger of falling.


Samantha Pierce is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at samantha.pierce@uconn.edu.