Grand Canyon Litigation Update

Opening briefs have been filled May 25, 2007, by legal representatives for a coalition of groups challenging the National Park Service Colorado River Management Plan in court.

The Plan was challenged just days after the Plan was finalized in March, 2006. The groups challenging the park's commercialized motorized river plan include the non-profit River Runners for Wilderness, Wilderness Watch, Rock the Earth and Living Rivers.

Legal representation is being provided by Julia Olson of Wild Earth Advocates and Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center.

The case is being heard by David G. Campbell, U.S. district court judge for the District of Arizona.

In the initial challenge, the coalition stated the Colorado River Plan inequitably allocates "use on the Colorado River between private commercial concessionaires and non-commercial users. The 2006 ROD and CRMP give preferential treatment to commercial concessionaires and users who can afford to pay for guided trips down the Colorado River by giving them guaranteed access to the Colorado River during the high demand summer season. In contrast, members of the public who cannot afford to pay for or do not wish to take a commercial trip must wait decades to gain access and, under the CRMP's lottery system, may never obtain a permit to access the Colorado River."

The coalition also stated the new River Plan illegally authorizes "motorboat use and helicopter passenger exchanges at levels that have caused, and continue to cause, adverse impacts and impairment to the wilderness character and natural resources of the Colorado River corridor."

Two groups intervened in the litigation in support of the present inequitable allocation, including resisting wilderness protection for the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. The two groups are the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association and the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.

The May 25, 2007, brief will be followed by a response/opening brief by the Park Service due August 3, 2007. The coalition will then file a response/reply, which must be submitted no later then September 3, 2007, with a final reply by the National Park Service October 3, 2007.

The documents filed May 25, 2007, including a history of river management and a review of the issues in question, have been posted as PDF documents on the River Runners for Wilderness web site. The documents appear at: