WT History Professor Publishes Book About Grand Canyon


Nov. 22, 2019

CONTACT: Dr. Kristina Drumheller, 806-651-2816, kdrumheller@wtamu.edu


WT History Professor Publishes Book About Grand Canyon

CANYON, Texas Dr. Byron Pearson, professor of history at West Texas A&M University, has finally seen 25 years of research about proposals to build dams in the Grand Canyon come to fruition in the newly published Saving Grand Canyon: Dams, Deals, and a Noble Myth, published by University of Nevada Press in October 2019. Dr. Byron Pearson publishes book about Grand Canyon.

During the 1960s, the federal government attempted to build massive hydroelectric dams in Grand Canyon that would have altered the national park we know today. This important work traces the history of efforts to dam the Colorado River in the canyon as well as efforts to halt the projects.

“I grew up in Arizona and have spent a lot of time in Grand Canyon. I have researched attempts to develop the Colorado River in the canyon for most of my career,” said Pearson. “Grand Canyon National Park, which turned 100 years old this year, is currently threatened by new dam proposals, uranium mining, and real estate development. I felt it was important to publish another book to remind people that even America’s most sacred places will only remain protected if we care enough to act.”

Although the heart of this book is about how Grand Canyon was protected from dams, it also debunks false narratives. The book demonstrates how the National Environmental Policy Act came to be and how the Sierra Club created a grand narrative that it saved Grand Canyon and became one of the leading environmental organizations in the world as a result. Pearson argues that the entrenched narrative has so captivated historians, writers, and filmmakers that the documented historical record is ignored in favor of a good story.

“The reasons why the dams were defeated are incredibly complicated and are more of a function of how the political process worked at the time rather than due to the efforts of the environmentalists,” Pearson said.

Saving Grand Canyon is a compelling story that sets out to correct what has been falsely asserted for more than 50 years. This book will appeal to people interested in national parks, the American West, and the protection of landscapes, who want to know about attempts to dam the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, the most iconic natural wonder of them all.

Pearson’s research and publications earned him WTAMU’s award for Excellence in Intellectual Contributions in 2019.

Pearson teaches U.S. history courses in WTAMU’s department of history, including Environmental History. Saving Grand Canyon is a follow up to Pearson’s first book in 2002, Still The Wild River Runs: Congress, the Sierra Club, and the Fight to Save Grand Canyon 1963-1968, published by University of Arizona Press.