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  Out of the Frying Pan...
  BQR ~ fall 1998

t's been a big season on the river so far—lots of strange things happening. A woman falls on a routine part of the Stone Creek Trail and is permanently paralyzed from the waist down. A young boy is lost at Havasu, another young girl almost drowns there. Two of our guide community almost died—one from Hantavirus, another from a ruptured cyst. Boats wrapped, boats going into the Ledge Hole regularly, fires, flash floods and changing rapids. Is something weird up, or is this just business as usual?

   Is there such a thing? Probably not on the river and it sure doesn't seem so with gcrg. We are heading into our next ten years and we sometimes still have a hard time defining our goals and mission, especially when issues gets scary and divisive. I guess the message from the river is to never get too complacent—it certainly works around here as well.

   I like to imagine the river 30 years ago, in 1968: fewer than 500 people had ever been down the canyon, only a few companies running the river, private boaters just jumped on the water with no wait, army surplus was state of the art for equipment.

   Now come forward 30 years: more than 22,000 bodies going down this river every year, a large percentage of them leaving part way through by helicopter, 15 companies, crowds of people at Havasu and Deer Creek, food handlers licenses, drug testing, a 10-year (or longer) wait for a private permit...

   What will the status quo be 30 years from now in 2028? Is it possible that we might have 70,000 souls on the river, a 30-year wait for a private permit, only three large mega-corporations running trips in Grand Canyon? It may seem far-fetched, but I'll bet Norm Nevills would have thought 20,000 people far-fetched back in the '40s. Hell, Ives figured this locale was "profitless." Boy, was he ever off-base.

   So how best to protect the canyon and the river for the future—that's the 64,000-dollar question and everyone has an idea about how it should be done. No one wants to lose jobs or income or a way of life. That's a scary thing, and it creates a lot of fear that makes it hard to listen and talk. But I think it's possible to stand by our goals and still maintain our very unique lifestyle and community. I looked around the room at a recent Board Meeting and realized that for the first time in my 9 years with gcrg, the entire Board and two of the three officers are currently active, full-time or close to full-time boatmen. We've got men and women, motor boatmen and oar boatmen, old-timers and new guides. Bob, Chris, Lynn, Mary Ellen, Jon, Nicole, Jeff and Lynn are a great group and there is no better time than now to have the board that we do.

   So what do we see as our goals for gcrg over the next year? We'd like to clarify this whole Wilderness question and see if we can't come up with a statement from gcrg that most of us can agree on. But even if we can't agree on a position in this issue, there are still a lot of things that we'd like to accomplish and continue. Among these:

• The bqr is our most valuable visible product, one that educates and informs over 3,000 people every time it goes out. Brad Dimock, the god of the bqr, has been almost solely responsible for transforming the journal from a 6-page xeroxed newsletter to a fine piece of journalism. We're going to miss him, but he's training his successors as you read. If anyone out there wants to help carry the torch, our feelings wouldn't be hurt...

• We feel pretty strongly that the gts and other educational efforts we make are really valuable and should be continued and expanded wherever possible. We believe in our mission of being a forum for all opinions and voices. Our Adopt-A-Beach program is well-respected and well-received by the scientific community—we'll continue that as long as there is funding for it. Lew Steiger's oral history interviews are incredible, the bqr wouldn't be the same without them.

• We need to stay involved in conservation and science issues such as the Adaptive Management Work Group, overflights, the crmp, air quality, etc. You'd be amazed at how many people look to us for advice, thoughts and opinions on these and other issues. We just received a river advocacy award from American Rivers (see the notice in this bqr). We know the canyon, the river and our visitors' experience better than anyone else (don't let anyone tell you otherwise), so we have some great input in these areas.

• We are trying to put together some ideas for the outfitters on possible benefit packages, help with health insurance, wage increases, etc. for the guide community. We aren't going to become a union, so the only way to try and accomplish these advances for the guide community is by talking. If we can show that companies like Arizona River Runners, Arizona Raft Adventures and Canyon Explorations/Expeditions can increase guide pay substantially, start a profit-sharing program and help with health insurance for their guides, then maybe we can all encourage other companies to do the same for their guides. gcrg can't make this happen, we can only come up with ideas, show what's working elsewhere and try and open dialogue. We'll all need to go talk to our outfitters as well, individually. It's high time we all started valuing ourselves more as guides. We are the reason these companies are so successful and we give our hearts, souls and bodies to our jobs. We have trained and sweated, read, listened and learned, paid money for health certificates, first aid and interpretive training. We are asked to be professionals—we deserve to be treated as such. Enough said—keep your eyes open for information in upcoming bqrs.

• Our efforts with concepts like the Whale Foundation are really important and need to be supported and expanded. All of us know how hard it is to make the transition from guiding in Grand Canyon to any other kind of lifestyle and the more support and information we can pass along to our community the better.

   We need to go back periodically and revisit our stated goals. "Protecting the Grand Canyon" has always been first and foremost on our agenda. It is what gives us credibility and power. Tom Moody used to call it "Taking the High Road". If we ever choose to change that, we need to consider what road we will be walking down in the future. The more voices and opinions and well thought-out input we can get from all of our membership, the more we can keep in touch with the needs of the canyon and the community and guide this organization in a direction that we all feel good about. So I know you've heard it before, and you'll probably hear it again, but: please come to the Board meetings (usually the first Monday of every month at the gcrg office—5 p.m.—we have pizza!), come to the spring and fall meetings, come to the gts, read the bqr, call or write if you don't understand something we say or publish... This is one river trip that we're all on together, and it'll work better if we all have a say. Looking at the community and all the people whose shoulders we're standing on—I couldn't ask for a better group to go downriver with...

Christa

big horn sheep