River Runners for Wilderness has learned that Grand Canyon National Park is planning to avoid public review of the need for and appropriateness of, commercial river concessions services on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. The park is nearing completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for recreational river running in the park's proposed wilderness. The draft EIS, called the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP), did not include any consideration of a range of commercial services. By law, the park must evaluate what type, how much of and even if concessions services are necessary given the huge public backlog of pending do-it-yourself non-concessions permits.
The park is drafting a renewal process for its ten-year river concessions contracts based on the CRMP. In doing so the park continues to allow river concessions services without public input and a National Environmental Policy (NEPA) Review which, by law the Park Service is required to formally conduct. According to TinaMarie Ekker of Montana based Wilderness Watch, "The National Park Service can't rely on the CRMP as its NEPA "needs" assessment for the river concessionaires, the CRMP doesn't even address the issue!"
For the last two years, River Runners for Wilderness and other groups have pointed out this deficiency to the park through unanswered written correspondence. "We clearly showed the park they were remiss in their planning compliance, and they have done nothing to correct it" notes Jo Johnson, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness. "With this in mind, we have begun a litigation fund drive and are asking for donations to raise enough funds to bring this issue to legal review."
This summer for the first time, river concessions are attempting to sell empty seats on their river trips through Costco.com and eBay. "This allocation dumping is bitterly ironic because the park permanently stopped new applications to the waiting list for a do-it-yourself permit to raft the river. Those lucky enough to already be on the do-it-yourself list will wait 15 years or more to raft the river with their family and friends" says Johnson. "This long wait blatantly discriminates against recreational paddlers."
"Handing access to a small group of commercial river concessionaires while the river running public is barred from do-it-yourself access, along with the park's refusal to follow mandated NEPA compliance, has forced RRFW to initiate a litigation fundraising campaign" continues Johnson. "Lawyers experienced in NEPA compliance are not cheap. Our goal is to raise $60,000 in 6 months."
To donate to RRFW's legal campaign, visit www.rrfw.org/store or send contributions to River Runners For Wilderness, PO Box 17301, Boulder CO, 80308.