GCNP: Arnberger's Decision to Halt CRMP (2/24/2000)
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK MOVES IN DIFFERENT DIRECTION WITH PLANNING EFFORTS FOR RIVER AND BACKCOUNTRYFeb 24, 2000
Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Robert Arnberger announced a decision to halt any further work to merge the planning process for the Colorado River Management Plan and draft Wilderness Management Plan into a single planning effort through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Both planning efforts are identified in the park's 1995 General Management Plan (GMP). Primarily focusing on the developed areas of the park, the GMP included vision and management objectives for undeveloped areas as well. The plan called for the revision of the park's 1988 Backcountry Management Plan and suggested the park's 1989 Colorado River Management Plan be revised when needed to conform to GMP management objectives.
A decision was reached by the park to undertake the development of a revised Colorado River Management Plan and public scoping of issues began in 1997. A draft Wilderness Management Plan and Environmental Assessment (EA) (intended as a revision of the 1988 Backcountry Management Plan) was prepared and released to the public in 1998. Although the purpose of the draft Wilderness Management Plan is to provide park management guidance on how lands contained in the land-based "proposed wilderness" areas will be managed, the plan quickly became confused with the Wilderness Recommendation - a proposal which awaits congressional action.
Throughout the planning process issues were identified by the public that were complicated by the lack of wilderness designation, including the use of motors on the river, user day allocation between commercial and noncommercial users, the closures of roads in proposed wilderness areas, and appropriate administrative use.
Over the last several years the National Park Service (NPS) has dedicated substantial financial and human resources to address these issues through the two planning processes and associated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. The most recent undertaking examined the possibility of combining the two planning efforts and completing the necessary EIS for this expanded effort. However, polarization among the backcountry and river user groups and interests have intensified to the point of reducing the park's ability to bring together divergent perspectives toward collaborating and reaching acceptable resolution.
Due to the inability to resolve many of these issues prior to the resolution of the park's wilderness recommendation, and to the lack of available fiscal and human resources to complete a comprehensive planning effort, the NPS will halt work on any further combined planning effort and on the Colorado River Management Plan. Further effort to merge the two planning efforts into an EIS will be deferred until such a time as congress formally acts upon the wilderness recommendation and/or until the NPS has both the financial and human resources to complete planning and NEPA compliance. The current Backcountry Management Plan approved in 1988 and Colorado River Management Plan approved in 1989 will continue to be the guiding documents for management. National Park Service Management Policies require areas recommended for wilderness or potential wilderness designation, to be managed as wilderness. No management actions will be allowed that would endanger the wilderness designation.
The decision to halt the process of combining the two plans is clearly within the discretion of the Superintendent. "It is not without some level of trepidation that I make this decision as we have invested significant time, energy and money in these efforts. It was not made in a vacuum; numerous staff briefings and discussions with a number of parties were held to seek input and guidance," stated Robert Arnberger, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent. "The decision to halt this process is not a decision to halt progress on the resolution of key issues," Arnberger continued. "There have been actions and initiatives taken to date, either concurrent with planning or separate from that activity that can, and will, bring us benefits. We will continue to seek improvements, within the parameters of National Park Service Policy and other guiding documents, to those issues identified by the public."
Some of the improvements that the NPS has been working on include:
Everyone that has been involved in the public process will be notified of this decision and informed of further opportunities for input. Additional information can be obtained by writing to Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Linda Jalbert, Outdoor Recreation Planner, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 or on the park's web site at http://thecanyon.com/nps/, click on Future page. Comments can be sent to Ms. Jalbert at the above address or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maureen Oltrogge (520) 638-7779