A Grand Solution
When I first started working on Grand Canyon issues 7 years ago, the private permit wait list was only a decade long, now it is nearly 25 years and at least 2% of all applicants die before they can fulfill their dreams. In addition, the commercial outfiiters, private boaters, and even the Park Serrvice were at loggerheads and would barely speak with each other after decades of frustration. We've come a long way in 7 years and the most fundamental shift is that by communicating and working in cooperation with the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA), American Whitewater has been able to build bridges with the outfitter community while continuing to fulfill our core mission work in a climate of mutual respect.
On January 25, 2005 American Whitewater joined the GCPBA, the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association and Grand Canyon River Runners Association in making a historic joint recommendation to the Park Service that includes equal annual allocations of commercial and non-commercial use, the continuation of an appropriate type and level of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities, seasonal adjustments that would result in fewer river trips happening at one time, and improvements to the non-commercial river trip permitting system.
The two most significant outcomes of this compromise for the private boating community are an increase in the number of user days equal to the number of commercial user days, and an increase in the number of launches that is closer to the number of commercial launches.
The joint recommendation is based largely on the park's preferred alternative and is designed for the greater good. We've reached a responsible and historic compromise that truly achieves something for everyone.
This agreement was made possible by the high regard that boaters of all stripes and backgrounds place on the environment. Over the past 30 years since the first and second management plans were implemented, boaters have embraced leave no trace practices, which are central to leaving a minimum footprint on the environment. The beaches and water are cleaner now, ash rings and campfire scars are largely a thing of the past, and boaters have developed a broad appreciation for protecting historic artifacts and sites. By being good stewards of the environment, we have proven to the park that a moderate increase in use is acceptable. For that, every park visitor deserves a pat on the back.
Most importantly, this agreement provides breathing room for the park to fully implement the recommended changes to the management plan and demonstrates the visitor commitments to responsibly protecting this national treasure.
Our shared hope that that our recommendations will be fully implemented and that individuals will be able to fulfill their dreams of visiting the Canyon in a timely manner whether they wish to explore the canyon for themselves in a self-guided trip or as a guest of an outfitter.
For more details, I encourage you to read our Joint Recommendations and Press Release (1/25/2005). American Whitewater will be drafting separate comments by the end of the week based on our discussion of the draft environmental impact statement at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/archive/article/1257/. The Park's management plan is available at http://www.nps.gov/grca/crmp/index.htm.
American Whitewater Managing Director
Pictures from the American Whitewater Archives, posted by Daniel Webb.