Grand Canyon Groups Stop Change to One Trip Rule

Grand Canyon National Park has reversed a decision to relax the one-trip-per-year rule during the winter to make unclaimed winter do-it-yourself river trips more attractive. 

The reversal came after three groups representing commercial river services objected to the change. 

The one-trip-per-year rule was adopted by the Park in 2006 as part of the revised Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP), and applies to both commercial passengers and self-guided river runners year round. 

In June 2009, River Runners for Wilderness (RRFW) encouraged the Park to consider an exception to the rule to help alleviate the large number of self-guided trip permits that go unclaimed in the winter months. 

The NPS responded positively in July of 2009. In a letter written to RRFW, the Park agreed that evaluations of the number of trips that either cancelled or went unclaimed despite follow-up lotteries, argued for a possible modification of the policy. 

The change was to take place in early November, in time for the 2009-2010 winter season. 

Tom Martin, RRFW co-director, noted “It makes sense for winter self-guided river trip applications to operate under different rules than summertime applications.” 

However, in late October the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association, Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, Grand Canyon River Guides, and the Grand Canyon River Runners Association submitted a joint response to the Park Service requesting a postponement of the rule change only days before the Park’s decision to ease the winter permit restrictions was to be announced. 

Subsequently, the three commercial groups submitted letters in early December opposing the change. 

Grand Canyon River Runners (GCRR) Vice President Pamela Whitney wrote that “After discussing this proposal with our river community colleagues, GCROA, GCPBA & GCRG, we are in agreement that it is too soon to make a change of this sort to the CRMP.” Grand Canyon River Runners represents the interests of concessions motor boat passengers. 

But Jo Johnson, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness points out that the 2006 CRMP is at the half way point for the life of the plan. “The NPS was beginning to make needed changes, especially after acknowledging a consistent problem over five winters that can be easily corrected.” 

Lynn Hamilton, Grand Canyon River Guides (GCRG) Executive Director, stated in her letter the belief that the implementation of the proposed change could jeopardize the level of cooperation between her group, the Trade Association, the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association and commercial river runners. 

Johnson remains unconvinced. “It’s too bad these groups put their cooperation with each other ahead of seeing self-guided river runners get on the river in the winter.” 

Superintendent Steve Martin reversed the decision to relax the rule in a January 4, 2010 letter, “for the foreseeable future”. The Park offered no reason for the reversal. 

According to Park officials in response to a RRFW Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association did not submit formal or informal comments about the proposed change. 

The correspondence RRFW received and cited in this Riverwire through that FOIA request may be seen here.