Lost in the Wilderness of Wilderness?

Are you one of the many confused about whether Grand Canyon is a Wilderness Area or not? The Grand Canyon (including the river) is officially a proposed "potential" Wilderness. All categories of Wilderness , whether potential, proposed/study, or recommended, are to be managed the same as officially designated Wilderness areas, according to law and policy, until Congress designates them Wilderness.

This makes sense-the intent was while an area is being considered, it has full protection, making sure the very characteristics that qualified it in the first place aren't degraded (so it will still qualify). Any condition that might prevent its eventual designation must be eliminated. "The reason it is proposed as potential wilderness is due to the non-conforming motorized use, something that was to be phased out by 1985," says Kim Crumbo, long time Grand Canyon wilderness advocate, " NPS Policy requires the agency to make every effort to eliminate nonconforming uses in "potential" wilderness".

The 1980 Colorado River Management Plan would have done just that, had it been adopted. It was 10 years in the making. The public wanted it designated wilderness and wanted the motors gone. So what happened? It was discarded in favor of a very different, hastily created plan after Congress adopted Senator Hatch's rider to an Interior Appropriations bill. This rider barred the elimination of motors only for the fiscal year, but it changed the direction of the Park Service in Grand Canyon for the next 25 years and without your help, into the foreseeable future. For a complete and very interesting story of the history of Senator Hatch and his involvement with Grand Canyon planning, please see "Motorized Rafting"An Illegitimate Industry?- by Byron Hayes at www.rrfw.org (posting date of May 1, 2002).

While nearly all non-commercial trips travel as primitive, wilderness-compliant trips, most concessions trips do not. Wilderness policy applies not just to motorized watercraft, but to the range of support services available, group sizes, trip length, helicopter use, and type of activities offered.

River Runners For Wilderness encourages you to take a minute and write another comment to Grand Canyon National Park planners during this open time of public comment for the Colorado River Management Plan review. Tell the Park how much Wilderness means to you. Let them know they should hold fast to America's wilderness policies, and that National Park wilderness policies should apply to all the Colorado River's visitors.

Send comments or make them in person at one of the 4 scoping sessions coming to a city near you in early August. For more information on these sessions, visit www.nps.gov/grca/crmp. What? The meetings are not near you? Can't attend because you work swing shift? Not to worry! To comment by mail: CRMP Team, Grand Canyon National Park, PO Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023, or by email: grca_crmp@nps.gov as a text file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of encryption. Don't forget to include your name, email address, and mailing address in your message.