March 2002. River Runners For Wilderness (RRFW), a new river resource protection organization, has formed as a direct response to the threats to the wilderness reaches of the Colorado River basin. RRFW will formally launch June 15, 2002, at the boat ramp at Lee's Ferry, Arizona.
"There's just no other multi-day wilderness white water river run like the Grand Canyon. As river runners, we want to do our utmost to preserve this wilderness resource, while maintaining fair and equitable river access for all river runners," said Jo Johnson, RRFW Grand Canyon coordinator, as she discussed reasons to launch a new group. "The National Wilderness Preservation system is missing a key resource--the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. There's no other group dedicated to wilderness river running. Once you embrace wilderness management, many of the conflicting river issues we see today are resolved."
Longtime wilderness advocate Jeff Ingram, also with RRFW, is pleased to see this issue alive again. " The public, as it did every time it had a chance in the 1970's & 1990's, will support a motor-free Grand Canyon Wilderness. Lets not let the same Hatch-Watt-Marks back room ploy be used again. Let's work for an open, public, democratic process on wilderness and river management, starting with a comprehensive Park Service planning effort and ending with a Congressional establishment of a real, complete Grand Canyon Wilderness."
Among those excited to see the new organization get underway is Tom Martin, also a RRFW Grand Canyon coordinator. "The do-it-yourself, muscle-powered river runners wait in an almost 8000 river-trip-long backlog, while the park's river outfitters continue to make a mockery of the river wilderness. The 32 folks on an outfitted trip pay a king's ransom to see the canyon on motorized tour boats operated by unpaid or underpaid river guides, then end their trip boarding a waiting helicopter at the river's edge less than 2/3 of the way through the canyon. What kind of wilderness is that?"
The group will host a "launching" party at Lee's Ferry, Arizona, on Friday afternoon/evening, June 14, and Saturday, June 15, 2002, in concert with Living Rivers and the Grand Canyon Restoration Coalition. The launch will be part of Living Rivers 700 mile long "Sediment-al Journey," building support for the restoration of Grand Canyon and the reformation of the Bureau of Reclamation. Festivities will get underway with a cookout and program talk Friday evening, followed by river music, dance and good cheer. Saturday morning will begin with outreach at the boat ramp, then a ceremony commemorating the founding of RRFW. This will be followed by a float from Glen Canyon Dam back to Lee's Ferry where the festivities will continue into the evening. Among the participants include: Jeff Ingram, a longtime Grand Canyon wilderness activist; Kim Crumbo, a Colorado River guide, former wilderness coordinator for Grand Canyon National Park, and currently the Grand Canyon representative for Arizona Wilderness Coalition; John Weisheit, a Colorado River guide and conservation director for Living Rivers; Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth and veteran of 400 successful dam fights over 32 years; musician and author Katie Lee; and additional riverside music from Peg Millet, Bill Oliver and Peter Neils. For more information visit http://www.RRFW.org (web site under construction) or Living Rivers at http://www.livingrivers.org/media/article.cfm?NewsID=282
For more information, you can contact River Runners For Wilderness, PO Box 466; Moab, UT 84532 435-259-1063; Fax: 435-259-7612