April 2004. With the anticipated May release of the Draft Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) just weeks away, all signs indicate that the National Park Service (NPS) will favor a plan that sacrifices resource protection and fair access in order to give big commercial operators the corporate welfare package they have been lobbying for.
Bush Administration Expected to Favor Greed over Stewardship & Fairness
Over the past year, even as NPS was supposedly considering public input, Bush Administration officials have been expressing concern to the Congressional leadership that Wilderness advocates will be able to challenge the final plan in court. Add to that an NPS decision to freeze self-guided river trip reservations while allowing commercial reservations to continue, and the CRMP planning direction seems pretty clear.
Whether it is catering to big oil in the arctic wildlife refuge, the snowmobile industry in Yellowstone, or in this case, big commercial outfitters in the Grand Canyon, this Administration predictably will always favor corporate greed over public need.
What We Expect
We expect that the NPS will list a variety of management alternatives and recommend one that ignores wilderness protection and strongly favors commercial operations over self-guided use. It is likely that such a plan would:
Allow use of loud, polluting, 32-person motorized rafts.
What it means - The NPS is ignoring the "potential wilderness" status given to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon by allowing a non-conforming use to continue. The NPS is also turning a blind eye to public input that supports a phase out of "motor rigs," studies that show the elimination of the "motor rigs" would not financially burden commercial outfitters, and the adverse impacts these "motor rigs" have on non-motorized recreation.
Continue an arbitrary allocation of river use that gives most of the use to commercial operators. NPS will likely favor a lopsided average ratio of 75% commercial customers to 25% non-commercial river runners that worsens to 87% and 13% respectively in summer. Change the current 20-year wait list for self-guided river trips to a lottery, and speed people through the Canyon by reducing the time allowed to complete trip.
What it means - The NPS is not willing to assess public demand and fairly distribute recreational river use to the public. Despite the dramatic contrast between the existing 20-year backlog of self-guided trips and the instant trip availability for commercial customers, NPS is unwilling to shift any commercial allocation to the self-guided public. A change from a waiting list to a lottery does nothing to improve self-guided opportunities, it only eliminate a visible representation of the current inequity for public relations purposes.
We also expect a plan that accepts a high degree of resource degradation and claims that those impacts can be mitigated, that attempts to placate self-guided river runners by giving them some additional off-season use, The best way to fight for a responsible CRMP is to have overwhelming public support for a fair and protective alternative reflected in the comments NPS receives once the draft plan is released. River Runners for Wilderness hopes that you will take the time to comment at that time.
Stay tuned for additional updates!!!