Public To Be Bypassed Again

October, 2003. Grand Canyon National Park

River Runners for Wilderness has learned that a Recommendation for Wilderness Proposal has been submitted to the park by Representative George Radanovich (R-CA, Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands).

Chairman Radanovich is proposing a wilderness recommendation which excludes the Colorado River. Grand Canyon National Park staff are responding to a request from the NPS Directorate to prepare the necessary documentation. Representative Radanovich and committee staff members intend to introduce this alternative through the congressional process as a wilderness bill.

"Here we go again." commented Tom Martin, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness "We are in the middle of a public process dealing with the river-wild, where the public, as it has for over 30 years, is clamoring for preservation of the wilderness character of the river, and in steps Congress to bypass the public. In fact," Martin notes, " we are possibly only two months away from seeing the release of the long awaited preferred alternative for the Colorado River Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement. Just like this spring, the summer of 2001, and in 1980, we're seeing an attempt to muzzle the public process. This recommendation not only shuts down the public process," he continues, " but it flies in the face of a court ordered settlement from two years ago to include a wilderness alternative."

Grand Canyon Superintendent Joe Alston and staff are in the process of producing a map that reflects the Chairman's intent, which excludes the river from Wilderness designation. The park is providing narrative explanation that delineates further exclusions besides the river, as defined in the 1993 Final Wilderness Recommendation. RRFW has also learned that the 1993 recommendation will also be included for reference purposes. These documents will be submitted to the NPS Office of Congressional Affairs for final drafting services. The information is being provided as a service to the Chairman and Subcommittee staff, who will then handle all further liaison activities with the Congressman's office relating to the proposed recommendation.

"The river rafting public has discovered that wilderness rivers are an incredibly unique and scarce resource. This recommendation eliminates 240 miles of the best wilderness river running in the world. There are no motorized boats on the river for three months of the year, and no jet-boats at all. The loss of wilderness protections will change all that." remarks Jo Johnson, also of River Runners for Wilderness. "Most importantly, allowing 80% of the public river access to be given to park rafting concessionaires, 75% of which use motorized tour boats to run through the canyon, while the do-it-yourself paddler waits in a 20 year backlog for access, is inconsistent with wilderness management. Thirty years of access wars over the character of the river have taught us that outdated fixed allocations are not what wilderness river running is supposed to be all about."

This recommendation will result in a reduction in wilderness acreage at Grand Canyon National Park. The 1993 Final Wilderness Recommendation proposes 1,139,077 acres. By excluding the river, the amount is reduced by 12,190 acres to 1,126,887 acres of wilderness. RRFW has learned that Grand Canyon National Park has taken no position on this recommendation at this time.

All river runners are encouraged to contact the following congressmen and ask to speak with the environmental staffer. Politely request that the Radanovich Grand Canyon Wilderness recommendation not be introduced while a public process to sort these issues out is ongoing. Even if the listed congressmen below are not in your district, you are all encouraged to contact them as this is a National Park, and therefore a national issue.

Rick Renzi 202-225-2315
Mark Udall 202-225-2161
Tom Udall 202-225-6190
Raul Grijalva 202-225-2435
George Radanovich 202-225-4540
John McCain 202-224-2235