Groups Unite Against River Plan

For Immediate Release
October 4, 2004
Contact: Kim Crumbo, Arizona Wilderness Coalition: 928-606-5850; Jo Johnson, River Runners for Wilderness: 303-443-1806; Sue Gunn, The Wilderness Society: 202-429-2676; Chuck Clusen, Natural Resources Defense Council: 202-289-2412.

Bush Administration Plan Puts Wilderness Up for Sale on Colorado River

Groups Say Management Alternatives Cater to Commercialized Interests on River and Fail to Protect Wilderness Qualities for Public

PHOENIX---In the shadow of the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, National Park Service officials at Grand Canyon National Park continue to stomp on the letter and spirit of its own 1980 wilderness recommendation for managing the Colorado River. In the draft environmental impact statement for the Colorado River Management Plan released last week, the Park Service's alternatives do not protect the rapidly disappearing wilderness experience on the river.

"The document presents the legal and moral grounds for why they should be protecting wilderness, but their preferred alternative does not acknowledge or accomplish that," says Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Regional Director for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition and former wilderness coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park from 1980 to 1999.

"The Park Service let down all Americans with this pitiful draft plan," said Chuck Clusen, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's National Parks Project. "The agency didn't base it on the best available science, and the plan won't halt the deterioration of the Grand Canyon or improve conditions for visitors. The draft was bush league."

The document states that existing motorboats are merely a "transient disturbance of wilderness values on the river" and do not preclude wilderness designation for the Colorado. Yet motor engines are the reason that a wilderness designation for the river has yet to be formalized. Motorboats will have to be phased out before full wilderness designation from Congress can be granted.

"The Park Service is operating under constraints of what is at the park now, rather than moving forward and managing for what should be-better protection for the resources of the park and its wilderness character," says Sue Gunn, Director of the National Parks Program with The Wilderness Society.

"The issues that have plagued the river for the last 30 years are not addressed in this plan, including that of preserving the last greatest wilderness experience in the lower 48," says Jo Johnson, Co-Director for River Runners for Wilderness. "This is a feeble plan driven by political pressure, rather than protection of the park's natural resources and wilderness character."

"We have shown the park numerous times that there is a way to maintain existing commercial boating opportunities, increase the number of self-guided trips, and still manage the canyon as a true wilderness," says Don Hoffman, Executive Director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. "The Grand Canyon deserves that and so does the public."

The Park Service will be holding public hearings on the alternatives in the following seven cities: Las Vegas, Nevada; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco, California; Washington, D.C; and Flagstaff, Arizona. The meeting schedule will be available from the park in early October.

Release compiled by: Arizona Wilderness Coalition, The Wilderness Society, River Runners for Wilderness and Natural Resources Defense Council