Adaptive Management: the Role of the Guides


   A few months ago, I found myself represent ing GCRG at the Bureau of Reclamation headquarters in Phoenix. The occasion? An all day informal consultation meeting with people concerned about how the dam shall be operated in the future. This was BuRec’s first stab at satisfying important wording of the Grand Canyon Protection Act... “The Secretary [of Interior] shall consult with... [among others] the general public, including representatives of academic and scientific communities, environmental organizations, the recreation industry, and contractors for the purchase of federal power produced at Glen Canyon Dam” for the development of long term monitoring programs, the EIS, and interim flows. That’s the law.

   The night before the meeting, I found myself sitting in a smokeless back room of the Sierra Club office with several other representatives of environmental organizations. We were brainstorming a strategy for the meeting. I found myself privately wondering if I was an environmentalist, recreationist, or power consumer. I wasn’t sure which hat to wear for GCRG and didn’t want to paint us into a corner, so I mostly just listened.

   The next day’s public consultation meeting was co-convened by BuRec (Rick Gold, et. al) and the NPS (Supt. Chandler, et. al). They had already decided who would be the most appropriate organizations to represent as conveners to Secretary Babbitt, but not everybody agreed, particularly the Indian tribes and environmentalists. But, things went along OK. We talked about Adaptive Management of the dam and how this particular consultation process will feed into that process. Somebody asked Rick Gold when the Adaptive Management Work Group process would begin. He said he thought that this was it!

   It gradually dawned on my poor brain that I was attending the initiation of the new and uncharted process for future dam operations. As we groped along, it became apparent that figuring out the best way to manage the dam-controlled riparian system was not going to be nearly as simple as fighting to pass the GCPA. It’s no longer a simple yes or no, stop or go deal. Despite these complexities, it occurred to me that, more than any other organization, GCRG represents a broad array of the public most directly affected by the operation of the dam. So, I’ll put the question to you. What do you care most about? Riparian biodiversity and species preservation, clean energy, lower power bills, or being able to get your boat through Hance. What do you want for the canyon- seasonally adjusted steady flows or low fluctuating flows? The Draft EIS will has been delayed a couple of months. But when it does come out, it will need public input based on real world needs and experience, specifically, yours. This is the future and we are it. See you there!

Andre Potochnik