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This was originally published on National Geographic on April 29, 2016.

By Tia Jones

If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you know that it’s something worth protecting, and our forefathers knew that as well. Theodore Roosevelt declared the canyon a U.S. National Monument over a century ago, and since then he’s been succeeded by generation after generation of preservationists and activists dead-set on keeping the canyon safe from mining operations and deforestation.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s description of the canyon still rings true, “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison — beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Now, today’s generation is seeing one of their first chances to protect America’s most important stretches of untouched wilderness. The creation of the Grand Canyon Watershed Monument would extend current National Monument borders far to the north and south, protecting not only the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River within, but huge stretches of the Kaibab National Forest as well as many species of plant and animal that can’t be found anywhere else in the world – including 22 sensitive species that could be plunged into extinction. Also protected would be two massive stretches of northern Colorado River, a source of water for over 25 million people.

The Grand Canyon National Park has faced its own threats before, and still faces them, but the surrounding area is in greater danger without the protection of the federal government. Logging and mining threatens this area, potentially destroying millions of acres of wildlife and polluting the Colorado River. Reckless uranium mining operations could completely ruin the area for generations to come, and it’s time for action.

Many hunters and outdoorsman have spoken out about these issues, almost unanimously in support of an extended National Monument. Hunters don’t want to worry about noisy construction equipment ruining the serene wilderness they’ve come to love, and without an active hunting community keeping wildlife population in check, it’s difficult to predict what problems would be created if they were forced to find a better place to hunt.

The creation of national monuments serves to keep a stretch of wilderness safe for the community that depends on it as well as future generations of explorers, hunters, scientist, and wilderness enthusiasts of all kinds, and we believe that the Kaibab National Forest, the Colorado River, and all of the lands between the two are worth protecting – for the people of Arizona and for the United States of America as a whole. Grand Canyon hiking wouldn’t be the same with a backdrop of heavy machinery and noise.

As the world becomes more barren and industrialized, it’s important to take a stand to protect the few stretches of untouched wilderness – as well as the species within – before it’s too late. Where do you stand on these issues? What other places in American do you think are worthy of this treatment? Let us know in the comments section below!

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