Coalition Urges Public Comment to Protect Wilderness in Grand Canyon: American Canoe Association, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Bluewater Network, Friends of the Earth, Living Rivers, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Northwest Rafters Association, River Runners for Wilderness, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Wilderness Watch
Current Colorado River Management Plan fails to protect Wilderness
July 30, 2002 - The National Park Service (NPS) announced June 13 the start of public scoping meetings for the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) to determine the future of recreational use of the river as it passes through Grand Canyon National Park. At issue in the management plan is the need to enhance the natural river ecosystem and whether the river will be managed for its unparalleled wilderness characteristics or primarily for commercial tourism. The river corridor and 94 percent of land in the park have been proposed as wilderness by the Park Service for more than 20 years, yet the current management plan contains no reference to the agency's obligation to manage the Colorado River for its wilderness qualities.
"The Park Service has an obligation to manage the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park in order to maintain the unique wilderness experience it provides," said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. "We hope that in preparing this new plan the agency closely follows its own policies, which are very clear regarding their responsibilities in managing wilderness."
For several decades, NPS has allowed motorized raft use on the river and has permitted helicopters to ferry commercial boating passengers in and out of the canyon. A new management plan that accurately reflects the Park Service' s wilderness recommendations would include a decision to stop the current large-scale motorized rafting and helicopter operations that have become the dominant river use.
Also at issue is access to the resource by the general public. Present management sets aside 80% of all river access for the parks river concessions, while the self-guided paddler has a forecasted 20 plus year wait for a permit to float the river.
"At this rate, folks applying this year for a self-guided permit to raft the Grand Canyon should put it in the name of their unborn grandkids," notes Don Hoffman, Executive Director, Arizona Wilderness Coalition.
The public is invited to participate in the planning process. Scoping comments will be accepted until September 15, and scoping meetings will be held August 1 in Denver, August 6 in Salt Lake City, August 8 in Flagstaff, August 13 in Las Vegas, and August 15 in Phoenix (see www.nps.gov/grca/crmp for exact locations).
"This is an opportunity for the public to get the Park Service back on its mission of protecting and preserving the best that America has to offer for future generations," said Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "Removing motors from the river isn't about closing any group out. Rather, NPS must shift the quality of the experience back to the way it was intended when President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it a National Monument."
The Alliance represents over 1 million members and is growing.