RRFW Rejects Lawsuit Intervention Attempts

On July 25, 2006, the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) joined its partner, the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association (GCROA), a trade association, in attempting to intervene in the River Runners for Wilderness (RRFW) lawsuit to address problems with the Colorado River Management Plan. River Runners for Wilderness, with its partners, Rock the Earth, Living Rivers and Wilderness Watch, sued the National Park Service days after the final plan was released in March 2006.

Attorneys for River Runners for Wilderness and its co-plaintiffs opposed GCPBA’s arguments to join the lawsuit in defense of the National Park Service in a brief filed Monday, August 8, 2006.

In the opposition, the plaintiffs contend that the NPS alone is the responsible party during the merits phase of the case. River Runners Co-Director Tom Martin explains it this way: “The NPS alone sets policy and guidelines that follow laws for managing the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. The NPS is solely accountable for a river plan that is supposed to follow the laws and policies of our government, and it alone must answer for violation of those laws.”

More crucially, the plaintiffs’ lawyers submit that GCPBA did, upon signing an agreement with the concessions trade association in early 2005, abandon the very causes that it sought to advance in its first lawsuit in 2000. The 2005 agreement forces the GCPBA into the awkward and legally untenable position of appearing in court on the opposite side of the same resource protection and allocation questions the GCPBA stood for in 2000.

In replying to the GCPBA motion for intervention, the plaintiffs’ opposition brief notes “The GCPBA has flip-flopped on the issues and is seeking to intervene to defend the NPS’s CRMP – seeking to defend a CRMP that authorizes certain types and levels of use that the GCPBA specifically challenged in its original lawsuit…. In this case, Plaintiffs allege that the NPS’s concessionaire friendly permit allocation system is “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with the Organic Act.” Complaint at ¶166. If successful this claim will actually benefit noncommercial users such as the members of the GCPBA.” The short legal response to GCPBA’s motion to intervene can be read at River Runners for Wilderness’ home page  at www.rrfw.org under “Headlines.”

Additionally, the plaintiff’s lawyers point out that since GCPBA signed an agreement to advance GCROA’s political agenda against wilderness and equitable access and in support of concessionaire operations, it must file one brief together with GCROA.

The court has already agreed to consider the case in two parts. The first part is based on the merits of the case, while the second will be a remedy phase deciding how to move forward to address issues raised in the case. The plaintiffs’ legal team has asked the judge to limit the participation of both GCPBA and GCROA to the remedy phase of the case. Martin notes that the Judge has broad discretion to allow or deny intervention, regardless of the points raised.