The newly released Final Environmental Impact Statement/Colorado River Management Plan missed a terrific opportunity to manage the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park as the American treasure it is. The new plan does nothing to improve management of the river and actually makes matters worse by allowing critical issues to fester from now until the next CRMP. This very flawed plan:
- Ignores relative demand between different user groups for access to a scarce resource.
- Ignores the impact of increasing recreational use of a fixed resource in light of a just released 13-year study of best available science showing recreational river use is already too high (USGS Circular 1282, seen at http://www.gcmrc.gov/products/score/2005/score.htm ).
- Ignores the preservation of America’s vanishing Wilderness resource.
- Ignores how recreational use will be decreased in the event use must be cut back to preserve the resource.
- While summarily rejecting an all-user reservation system (as is used in Boundary Waters and on the Deschutes) as an undue burden for the concessionaires and too complicated, the park adopted a weighted lottery system that appears to be very complex.
- Ignores massive public comment and forces one user group to race through Grand Canyon without addressing how the loss of two to five days in trip length will affect safety margins, congestion, and visitor experience.
- Applies this new lottery system to only one user group.
- Increases campsite competition.
- Ignores any semblance of justice and burdens one user group with 4-year visitation restrictions.
- Ignores natural soundscapes and allows more helicopters on the river at Whitmore Wash.
- Increases the number of people a day launching at Diamond Creek to 600, while ignoring the Park’s own data indicating this use level will adversely impact the resource and escalate take-out problems at Diamond Creek.
- Ignores the 5,000 or so folks who have patiently waited on the waiting list for a date certain and who are now thrown into a lottery, where chances of actually getting a permit are uncertain.
- Ignores the NEPA requirement for public comment on necessary and appropriate commercial services, continuing to cater almost exclusively to a small subset of wealthy individuals (2003 GCNP Commercial River Visitor Study).
The purpose of a River Management Plan is to identify issues and solve them in ways that protects the resource while providing for recreational value to the river running visitor. For the resource and river runners, this plan falls far short of reaching those goals. The Park’s solution of simply increasing access in the spring, fall and winter is a band-aid solution to an extraordinarily complex and contentious problem.
River Runners for Wilderness is exploring legal options to protect the Grand Canyon’s incredible river and gain fair access on behalf of the noncommercial river running community. Please support our effort with a generous donation to us at: PO Box 17301, Boulder, CO 80308 or at our website at www.rrfw.org/store. We deeply appreciate the response we have so far received from our supporters.