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  Arnberger Testifies Before Congress
  BQR ~ fall 1998

n 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 (CAPA—not 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 corridor.

  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 completion—whether you agree or not with the issues, no matter what side of the fence you are on—this 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.

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