More on Gunnison Gorge Preliminary Alternatives

Comments are due today, Tuesday, December 17, 2002, not November 17th as listed in some copies of yesterday's Gunnison Gorge Preliminary Draft Alternatives Riverwire.

Gunnison Gorge NCA has received the results of a user satisfaction survey conducted by Arizona State University over 2 years (2 seasons), according to Bill Bottomly, Planning and Environmental Coordinator at the Bureau of Land Management unit.

"We were happy to hear that recreational users are generally very satisfied with their visits here", he said. There was a notable exception, however. Guests of commercial outfitters were very unhappy with what they perceived as "excessive crowding" of the river canyon during their visits, rating their satisfaction at 2.9 out of a possible 10.

Ironically, GGNCA's boating outfitters are calling for an increase in their launches, currently set at 2 per day, and in their group sizes from the 12 allowed now to 16. They also would like to conduct guide training trips outside of their current allocation instead of using some of their launches for training purposes. This additional use would seem to run very counter to the wishes of their clients.

He also confirmed that Alternative D-1 is a relatively new concept in EIS drafts. "While our status quo, Alternative A, seems to be filling most users' needs, we know that with increased visitation we will have to find better ways to deal with use and safeguard the resource without sacrificing user satisfaction" he stated. "We hope to accomplish with Alternative D".

Alternative D-1 establishes a "Wilderness Recreation Strategy" by meeting 5 specific outcomes: 1) Analysis of visitor use and resources and consideration of the existing outfitter system and noncommercial use, 2) Identify needed changes to existing system to consider additional use by all visitors and possible reallocation of current use. 3) Process for expanding opportunities for new outfitting companies 4) Possible changes to all recreational management to protect wilderness values and 5) Methods of assessing and monitoring visitor satisfaction and resource protection over time.

The alternative would also form a citizens group to assist the BLM with managing the resources, providing feedback on management, educating users, monitoring and improving conditions and providing volunteer assistance with facilities and trails maintenance.

Comments are due today. Direct them to: Angie Nelson, Tetra Tech, Inc., at fax number 720.406.9114 or by email to: Environmental and wilderness laws have established conduits for public involvement and direction in how our lands are protected and used. RRFW urges you to participate in the process when and where you can.