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Wed, Oct. 23

Havasupai Tribe reject's Stilo's latest development plans
Proposed development on South Rim comes under fire by Canyon tribe

Supai Village is tucked into Grand Canyon's western rim and is home to the Havasupai Nation. (Loretta Yerian/WGCN)

Supai Village is tucked into Grand Canyon's western rim and is home to the Havasupai Nation. (Loretta Yerian/WGCN)

SUPAI, Ariz. — The Havasupai Tribe is urging the United States Forest Service to reject a proposal by Stilo Development Group and the Town of Tusayan who want to build a road and other infrastructure through the Kaibab National Forest.

In a statement, the tribe said the road would be the first step toward opening 355 acres for residential construction and building thousands of new hotel rooms, an RV park, a conference center and a resort. The tribe said it is is gravely concerned about the proposed development’s impact on its primary water source and sacred places.

In the proposal, Stilo and the town of Tusayan indicate that the new housing units will be supported by groundwater pumped from the town’s existing wells, which draw from the Redwall-Muav Aquifer (R-Aquifer). This is the same aquifer that supplies the tribe’s sole source of drinking water and its world-renowned blue-green falls. According to the tribe, the town’s groundwater withdrawals already threaten to reduce the flow of Havasu Creek on the Havasupai Reservation; this new housing would further strain this parched resource.

“The Havasupai Tribe cannot allow any new developments that would further endanger our people’s precious water source, the R-Aquifer,” said Muriel Uqualla, Havasupai Tribal Chairwoman. “These waters are essential to our people’s way of life — so essential that we call ourselves Havasuw ‘Baaja, the People of the Blue-Green Waters.”

The tribe asserts the project would also threaten its religious, cultural and historic sites, particularly Red Butte, which is considered an especially important site to the Havasupai people; the butte is located near the proposed development.

By bringing more people into Kaibab National Forest, the development would likely damage Red Butte and the tribe’s ability to practice Havasupai traditional beliefs, customs and traditional way of life, according to a tribal spokesperson.

The project cannot continue without permission from the Forest Service. The Forest Service rejected a prior version of the proposal in 2016, in large part due to the tribe’s strong opposition. The Forest Service at that time concluded that the project would have untold impacts on the tribe and surrounding lands.

“This resubmitted proposal does little to address the significant problems that led the Forest Service to reject it in the first place several years ago,” said Havasupai Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy. “The Tribe strongly urges the Forest Service to once again reject the proposal as contrary to the public interest.”

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