Plans for aerial tram across Grand Canyon voted down by tribe
A tribal council has voted against multi-million dollar plans to build an aerial tram at the Grand Canyon.
The Navajo Nation Tribal Council voted 16-2 during a special session in opposition of the legislation, which could have seen a 1.4-mile line built from the rim of the canyon to the bank of the Colorado River.
The proposal had received a cold reception from politicians from the nation's largest American Indian reservation even before Tuesday's lengthy debate.
Some had raised concerns about the development resulting in more public safety demands, while others questioned a requirement that the tribe help fund infrastructure improvements in the remote area.
The development on 420 acres of the reservation that borders Grand Canyon National Park would have required 65 million US dollars (£49m) from the tribe for roads, water and power lines, and communications.
The legislation also would have prevented other development within a 15-mile radius and along access roads.
Developers had said the tram and accompanying retail and hotel sites at the East Rim could be running by May 2021 had everything gone as planned.
Critics - including families who hold grazing permits and leases to build homes in the area - showed up to urge the council to oppose the project as the debate finally got underway on Tuesday afternoon.
They said the area is sacred and the proposed development would mar the landscape where the Colorado River meets the blue-green waters of the Little Colorado River.
They had vowed to keep fighting had the project been approved.
They praised the council's vote on social media, declaring victory over what they termed as a "monster".
Environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts also decried the measure.
Actor Robert Redford released a video last December voicing opposition, and an online petition against the proposal has collected thousands of signatures.
The vote came ahead of a tribal election year and as the tribe prepares for the loss of hundreds of jobs with the expected shutdown of a coal-fired power plant and its supply mine in 2019.
Lamar Whitmer, part of the Scottsdale-based Confluence Partners development group, had said previously that the East Rim project could employ up to 3,500 people on a reservation where half the workforce is unemployed.
The management team includes former Navajo President Albert Hale and others who have helped develop resorts and theme parks.