has always recognized that motorized use in Grand Canyon is far
different from someone blazing along at 200 mph on a jet ski. Motors
are an integral part of the river running community in Grand Canyon,
and they play just as important a role in education and facilitation
of the visitor experience as anyone else.
Unfortunately, wilderness in Grand Canyon is rapidly
becoming a "motor vs. oars" controversy again. Sad but
true, very divisive and, as we see it, quite unnecessary. Months
ago, in our initial comments to the Park about the crmp, and in
the article printing those comments in the Winter '97'98
issue of the bqr, we stated that gcrg is in favor of a potential
wilderness designation for the river corridor, with "...the
use of motorized craft...grandfathered in and allowed indefinitely."
As appealing as this concept might be to many sides, it is not going
to fly with either the environmental community or the Park Service
at Grand Canyon. So now we need some serious input other than anonymous
callers threatening to sue if we mention the "w" word.
We need your help to make a statement about this issue.
Following are short summaries of four different options
regarding wilderness in Grand Canyon: 1) the private boater's
association and many environmental organizations support the river
as full wilderness right now; 2) the Park proposes the river as
potential wilderness; 3) the outfitters' association recommended
the river be declared a non-wilderness corridor while the rest of
the canyon be declared a wilderness and 4) some folks have suggested
removing the entire park from consideration as a wilderness at all.
Where does Grand Canyon River Guides stand? Accompanying this is
a questionnaire regarding which option you feel we should support,
if any. Many people look to us for our opinions and thoughts about
Grand Canyon. It would be a good thing if we could take a unified
stand for something, and so far we have not been able to do so.
Whatever is decided in the long run, we must not let rumor,
speculation and most of all fear drive a wedge between us. We are,
all of us, a community. Our greatest strength lies in maintaining
that connection. That is what we give to our passengers, to ourselves
and to the Canyon in the end.
A Reminder: Remember that the Park has
already been recommended for full wilderness status, with the Colorado
River proposed as a potential wilderness. Until the recommendation
is acted on, the nps is required to manage the recommended areas
as wilderness. Recommending the land for inclusion in the wilderness
system is only the first step. For Grand Canyon to become a Wilderness
requires that an Act of Congress be presented, agreed upon, and
signed. Until that happens, we can only help guide management principles
for the Park and its future.
Full Wilderness Designation For
Grand Canyon and the Colorado River
The majority of the park and the river are managed as wilderness.
Motors and all other mechanized transport save emergency
vehicles are phased out in the park and on the river over a relatively
short period of time.
The crmp planning process continues to design how the river
is run in the futurewhat the parameters of a "wilderness"
experience are in Grand Canyon. Everything about river trips is
subject to debate during this process: trip length, size, crowding
and congestion, technology, etc. The public will design the parameters.
There are no specifics written into the Wilderness Act to define
group size, trip length, number of contacts, phase-out of motors,
The Park is required to use the "minimum tool"
concept in all their actions in the park, deciding what the minimum
requirement (tool, regulation, regulatory presence, technology,
etc.) is to complete the proposed action.
The Park is the managing agency for this wilderness area,
not another governmental agency.
The Future: The canyon, the river and the experience visitors
can have there are better protected against increase in demand and
further environmental degradation and species loss. The river also
gains another level of protection influencing the dam and how it
is run. No matter who is in office, who runs the Park, what power
demands are, who owns the companies or how many people are begging
at the door, wilderness status will be the enduring protection for
Full Wilderness for the Canyon,
Potential Wilderness for the River
The Canyon is protected and managed as a full Wilderness,
with non-mechanization, minimum tool requirement, etc. in place,
as described above.
The Colorado River is managed as a wilderness with one exception:
motorized rafts are allowed to continue on the river for the time
If (this is a big "If") a bill goes to Congress
to designate the Grand Canyon a wilderness, there must be language
in that bill that describes how the question of motors on the river
will be handled. That is something we can all decide. It could be
delayed to the next crmp revision process. People could decide that
motor use will be phased out over the next 25 years. People could
decide to pass it off to Congress entirely.
The important thing to understand is that motors do not
necessarily leave the river right away. There would be time to discuss
the issue, and figure out how best to handle it so that no one loses
jobs or income, and the river is still protected in all other respects.
If a bill passes Congress to create wilderness in gcnp,
the river becomes a full wilderness once the issue of motors is
The Future: The Grand Canyon and Colorado River are protected
The Colorado River As Non-Wilderness Corridor
The river is declared specifically a non-wilderness corridor
while all the rest of the canyon is managed as a wilderness.
Motors are allowed to exist "forever" on the river.
The Future: Anything could happen. It is true that the Park
is currently meeting with outfitters and other groups to discuss
changes and compromises which would make trips more wilderness compatible.
The problem is that these advances now being made by the outfitters,
Park, guides and private boaters could all be erased with a different
set of outfitters, a different park administration, new guides and
a whole bunch more people who demand the right to visit their national
One problem: Designating the heart of Grand Canyon as a
non-wilderness corridor in the middle of a wilderness weakens all
other present and future wilderness areas in the U.S. It is a dangerous
precedent to set for other areas that need protection.
A Second Problem: The ecosystems of the Colorado River will
have diminished protection and less recognition of their inherent
significance than will recreational issues.
Removing Grand Canyon From
Wilderness Consideration At All
Everything stays as status quo (unless things degrade),
and the changes being made right now to the crmp and other management
plans take effect as soon as possible.
The Future: See previous, but for the entire park, not just
the Colorado River.
When Grand Canyon River Guides sent comments to the Park
about the Draft Wilderness Management Plan, they called for two
things: 1) a unified wilderness management plan that includes the
river and all other portions of the canyon (not just the backcountry
trails), and 2) a plan that involves more ecosystem management and
concern for threatened and endangered species and ecosystems. A
unified plan that includes all aspects of the canyon will help guarantee
against the same kind of increases in technology, regulation, crowding
and congestion, habitat degradation and species extinction that
we have seen in the past 20 years throughout the canyon.
Okay, so where do we stand? Included in this issue
is a short questionnaire which we'd like you to send in to
us. Please send in your responses by the end of the year. We'll
be curious to see what the results are, and we'll publish them
in the next bqrthanks.