GCNP: AW's Response to Proposed Legislative End-Run (6/6/2001)

Posted: 01/16/2002
by Jason Robertson

In the week of June 4, 2002, the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association (GCROA) notified us of their intent to move forward with an amendment to the year 2002 Interior appropriations bill. Then, Congressional sources contacted us with word that the amendment could be included in the House Interior Appropriations mark-up session. The National Parks Conservation Association, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association and the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association notified various members of congress about this prosepctive legislation and its adverse effect on our on-going settlement talks regarding the suit to restart the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP). Subsequently, the amendment was not introduced at mark-up.

Our letter to Congress follows:

Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, American Whitewater, National Parks Conservation Association, American Canoe Association

June 6, 2001

The Honorable Joe Skeen, Chairman
Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations
B308 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Skeen:

It has come our attention that an amendment concerning management of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park may be proposed to the FY 2002 Interior Appropriations bill.

This amendment calls for using funds from the Colorado River Fund Government Improvement Account (a river concessions repair and maintenance fund) to complete a Colorado River Management Plan in Grand Canyon National Park. The amendment would also stipulate areas the management plan must consider as well as direct conditions for managing the park over the long term.

Our organizations, which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of American citizens who care about Grand Canyon National Park, strongly urge you to oppose this amendment for the following reasons:

The amendment is an attempt to circumvent active litigation to the direct benefit of a single special interest. A lawsuit underway in federal court already seeks to resolve planning issues regarding management of the Colorado River through the park. Parties to this lawsuit just exchanged settlement positions one week ago and are under a federal court order to enter into mediation. The potential to reach agreement in this case is good and settlement discussion among the parties is the proper venue to resolve this matter. The proposed amendment would clearly limit the rights of the participants and is a clear "end run" by one interest.

The amendment is a direct attack on equitable public access to Grand Canyon National Park. The amendment would perpetuate an unfair and inequitable approach to management of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. By indefinitely extending the current river outfitter concession contracts, Congress would lock in a situation in which commercial outfitters completely control a lopsided share of river use (approximating 80 percent) to the detriment of access by the self-guided general public, who now are forced to wait 18 years for an opportunity to float the Colorado River through Grand Canyon.

The amendment would unnecessarily and improperly limit the ability of the National Park Service to manage Grand Canyon National Park. The amendment seeks special protections and guarantees for the commercial outfitting industry-and even some segments of the industry, such as outfitters that use motorized rafts-at the expense of protecting the unique values and resources ofthe park, such as natural quiet, air quality, and solitude. Special treatment for motorized recreation interests, for example, will severely limit the authority and flexibility of the National Park Service to consider a full range of options for managing the park, which is owned by all Americans.

Our organizations have only recently become aware of this proposed amendment. If this amendment is proposed, we respectfully request that you oppose it or, at a minimum, defer its consideration until such time as our organizations can meet with you to discuss the full extent of the issues involved.

Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,

Wilbert Odem, President
Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association

Jason Robertson, Access Director
American Whitewater

David J. Simon, Southwest Regional Director
National Parks Conservation Association

David Jenkins, Director of Policy
American Canoe Association

Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349