Developers have been attempting for years to build a massive 420-acre resort hotel and aerial tramway right on the rim of the Grand Canyon. In February 2018, Western Navajo citizens unanimously opposed allowing this destructive project on their land, effectively ending the threat to this landmark national park and its deeply significant cultural sites.

In 2011, Scottsdale-based developer R. Lamar Whitmer brought together a small group of business partners to form Confluence Partners LLC , filing legislation with the Navajo National Council in 2016 to approve a master plan for the proposed resort hotel, known as the Escalade development. The company had planned to build the hotel and tramway at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, a sacred site for many tribes and a part of traditional origin stories.

NPCA is one of many conservation organizations that adamantly opposed this development for the unacceptable and irreparable harm it would have done to the Grand Canyon’s waters, wildlife, night skies and other rare wonders.

The plan would have caused massive environmental impacts from pumping groundwater and disposing sewage, including damage to the nearby Blue Spring. The spring is the perennial source of water for the Little Colorado River and the only remaining breeding habitat for an endangered fish, the Humpback Chub. The resort would have also brought noise and light pollution to one of the most isolated and undeveloped parts of the canyon.

The developer’s plan was not a new one. The proposal was previously turned down due to concerns by the Navajo Department of Justice. It was also opposed by the current Navajo administration. A dedicated group of Navajo residents who live in the area formed Save the Confluence, an organization that conducted relentless public outreach efforts and ultimately convinced the Navajo Tribal Council to vote down the legislation 16-2 last fall. These residents spearheaded opposition that included conservation groups, the Diné (Navajo) Traditional Medicine Man’s Association and many traditional Navajo, as well as the Hopi and Zuni tribes and the All Pueblo Council of Governors, representing 20 native pueblo groups.

The unanimous vote on February 24 by the Bodaway/Gap Navajo chapter prevents new legislation on this matter and stops the development cold. Chapter Vice President Leonard Sloan said, “Bil ni’dzil gaal,” or the development is “clubbed to death,” in the Navajo language.

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