Grand Canyon Litigation Update

A scheduling conference was held Friday, February 2, 2007, between the National Park Service and legal representatives of a coalition of groups challenging the National Park Service's Grand Canyon Colorado River Management Plan in court. The Plan was challenged just days after the Plan was finalized in March, 2006.

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

The case schedule will require a supplemental administrative record be filed by February 23, 2007. The opening brief by the coalition is due May 25, 2007, and this 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 will be due September 3, 2007, with a reply by the National Park Service due October 3, 2007.

In the initial challenge, the coalition charges that 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."

The coalition charged in its litigation that 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 groups challenging the park's River Management Plan include River Runners for Wilderness, Wilderness Watch, Rock the Earth and Living Rivers. The coalition is represented by Julia Olson of Wild Earth Advocates and Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center.

Two groups intervened in the litigation in support of the new River Management Plan, the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association, and the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.