September 24, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Robert Arnberger
testified at an oversight hearing of the House Resources Committee,
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, regarding the Draft
Wilderness Management Plan and the Analysis of Air Overflight Sound
at Grand Canyon National Park. Among others invited to testify were
Mark Grisham of the Grand Canyon River Outfitters' Association,
Brian Merrill of Western River Expeditions, Bill Reffalt of the
Wilderness Society and Robert Lynch of the Central Arizona Project
Association (CAPAnot the CAP). After his
initial explanatory statement, Superintendent Arnberger was questioned
for over four hours regarding his policies in both these areas.
Representatives Stump (r-az), Shadegg (r-az) and Hansen
(r-ut) expressed considerable concern about the planning process
for the Wilderness Management Plan (WMP) and the Colorado
River Management Plan (CRMP). They felt that the public
had not been sufficiently involved. Superintendent Arnberger assured
them that the Park was involving the public and following legal
protocol for both management plans. Representative Shadegg concentrated
expressly on the public process, which he said was hugely flawed.
He urged the nps to hold public hearings on the Draft wmp, despite
the fact that Superintendent Arnberger assured him that this has
and is being done. The representatives specifically asked Arnberger
if the Park plans to ban motors, to which Arnberger replied that
both the wmp and the crmp defer any decisions on this issue until
a future date. This was apparently not acceptable to the representatives.
Shaddeg, Hansen and Stump also expressed the opinion that any area
that has so many roads (i.e. the North Rim) should automatically
be excluded from wilderness consideration. Bill Reffalt of the Wilderness
Society stepped in to explain that the Wilderness Act allows consideration
of areas with non-permanent vehicular trails for wilderness designation,
and that the size of the adjacent forest blocks and the highly primitive
nature of the specific North Rim roads in question were significant
in the ability to consider these sections for wilderness.
Robert Lynch of the CAPA expressed concern
about water rights, despite Arnberger's assurances that the
issue was addressed in a section of the plan. Mark Grisham of gcroa
urged the exemption of the river corridor from wilderness consideration.
He said there was no resource crisis in Grand Canyon and that the
commercial users of the Canyon were environmentally responsible
operators. Brian Merrill of Western River Expeditions stated that
the river corridor should be specifically designated as a non-wilderness
During the hearing, Superintendent Arnberger stated that
he was not the enemy, nor was he the problem, and that the Park
was fulfilling its responsibilities for public input as dictated
by law. He stated and reiterated that Congress would have the final
say when a Wilderness bill was presented to them.
There is some concern that there will be an attempt to get
Congress to legislate changes to the WMP or the CRMP
before the planning process is finished. Grand Canyon River Guides
sent comments to the committee members supporting the Park's
process of public involvement in both the wmp and the crmp, and
urging that Congress not take any action before the process is completed.
We believe that this process should continue to completionwhether
you agree or not with the issues, no matter what side of the fence
you are onthis is a democratic process that must run its course
before any action is taken. It is the public's national park
and we all need to be able to give input into how it is managed.
If action is taken prior to completing the public process, it negates
this and all other such public input processes, and simply assures
that special interests may buy legislation from our government.
We may not always have seen eye to eye on issues with the Park,
but we need to support them in their efforts to bring this planning
process to completion, or we all lose in the end.