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Old 02-14-2010   #11
BackCountry's Avatar
Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 86
The NPS has always skewed river access in the Grand Canyon strongly in favor of the commercial outfitters. A friend of mine from collage is the person in charge of permitting commercial and private groups. (Sadly this has never helped me draw a permit) I asked him why it was so difficult for private groups to pull a permit. His response was that he has been strictly instructed to make sure that commercial groups got the majority of the permits and to keep permit distribution to private parties at a minimum. The simple fact being that the government makes much more money from commercial groups.

As far as the motorized traffic goes, I could personally care less. From my point of view they come by and are gone so quickly that it doesn't bother me. Same goes for dirt bikes or snow mobiles in the back country - the momentary noise passes quickly. Public lands are supposed to be multiple use after all. It is not for anyone to say one form of recreation should have more priority or be banned over another form of recreation. That is my problem with Wilderness Areas (or land of no use). I have witnessed them proliferate around my area in my lifetime and with them I have seen the once used trials fall into disrepair and non use. Jobs in the timber and mineral industries lost along with a down turn in tourism as a result of these lands no longer being accessible by mechanical means. Deer and Elk populations become unsustainable due to lack of access for hunters and susceptible to starvation and disease. In my opinion land of no use does no one any good. Good stewardship of the land does not mean wilderness areas or a free for all of commercial utilization. It is a balance of using the resources while protecting them - something America sadly seems to struggle with.

While I would like to see a somewhat more even distribution of private to commercial permitting, I don't think it will happen. The government is too greedy and private groups can not match the easy monetary gains guaranteed by the commercial groups.

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Old 02-14-2010   #12
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: May 2006
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Originally Posted by Chip View Post
So the ugly bulldozed heliport and the noisy back-to-back flights hauling the commercial dudes out are protecting the Canyon?

Pretzel logic, at best.
Dinosaur was saved from a dam because the Hatch family and the Sierra Club got people down the river - often with motors. Marble Canyon was saved from a dam because enough people knew about the canyon that they wanted to protect it.
There is a reasonable push being made right now by a small subset of the water buffalos to remove Glen Canyon dam because of the evaporative loss of having two half-empty lakes rather than one full one. If everyone who was helicoptered out believes that Grand Canyon is a resource worth protecting, there's that much more pressure on USBR to pull the plug. So, yeah, I think higher volumes of tourists is a good thing - especially if it gets me to float through Glen Canyon some day.

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Old 02-14-2010   #13
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Originally Posted by BackCountry View Post
A friend of mine from collage is the person in charge of permitting commercial and private groups. (Sadly this has never helped me draw a permit) I asked him why it was so difficult for private groups to pull a permit. His response was that he has been strictly instructed to make sure that commercial groups got the majority of the permits and to keep permit distribution to private parties at a minimum. The simple fact being that the government makes much more money from commercial groups.
Hi BackCountry,

I'm sure a lot of folks here would like to know about how that works, when there is a fixed, published allocation between private and commercial groups, and a lottery to assign private launches. Not to mention that whole system has just gone through three Federal court reviews.

[Now, inserting my tongue firmly in cheek.]

You can do something really historic here, because this is a situation both Tom Martin and I could heartily agree needs looking into.....

So if there is a system like that in place, by all means, tell us more. Off-list. Using an anonymizer. Through an Uzbekistanian server, routed via Bulgaria and Argentina. We'll protect your identity. Just tell us how....

Have a good one.

Rich Phillips
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Old 02-15-2010   #14
BackCountry's Avatar
Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
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What I have stated is really all he told me. This was before the recent change to a lottery system. I don't know how that has affected his job or how he now manages the permit allocations currently. I only speak to him these days once every few years or keep in contact with what is up through other friends. I will see if I can dig up any more information.

He did say that he was required to take a minimum of 3 (free) commercial trips down the Grand Canyon every year as part of his job to check up on the commercial outfitters. Sounded like not such a bad job - fully catered trips competing to make life as easy on you as possible for the chance at getting a larger chunk of the river access allocation...
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Old 02-15-2010   #15
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,906
Would RRFW's plan provide more private boater user days?


Using the number of launches, number of passengers, etc. is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Those many commercial passengers spend many fewer user days in the Canyon. The allocations are based on user days, and the current allocation of commercial to private usage is nearly 50-50.

Would I like to see the summer allocation for private boaters increased? Of course.

Do I want to go on a mid-January trip? Not really.

I'll admit, I'm not totally thrilled with the scheduling of the private boaters' allocation, however I am glad that there's much greater allocation, particularly in the shoulder seasons when motors aren't allowed and the temperatures are below 110 degrees in the shade.

Its my understanding that RRFW's main goal in their lawsuit was to get the GC basically declared a wilderness and thus implement a ban on motorized travel. This would mean that all commercial trips would be oar powered, with many more commercial boatmen supporting trips lasting about 14 - 18 days just like private oar trips in summer. From what I understand, computer modeling using the GC Trip Simulator program revealed that under a "no motor" scenario, the pre-CRMP user day allocations would need to have been even further reduced to minimize the contact between trips and achieve an acceptable experience under Park guidelines. This is because, instead of passing by in 5 minutes, commercial trips would much more slowly pass by, and would be in view of private trips for a much longer period, thus making the river seem much more crowded. The idea here is that, had RRFW prevailed in their lawsuit, the user day allocations, including summer, would have been significantly reduced from the pre-CRMP level of about 58,000, rather than increased to about 113,400 user days as in the current CRMP.

The GC would be a wilderness, yes, but there would be a substantially decreased number of people allowed to go enjoy that experience than there were even before the new CRMP allocations.

If you can tell us whether RRFW's plan would provide more private boater user days throughout the year than the current CRMP we're all ears.


On a related note, someone recently asked the question on the GCPBA email list about the organization's position on motors. Brady Black of Moenkoepi had this response:

From: gcpba-at-yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of brady black
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 3:04 PM
To: gcpba gcpba
Subject: RE: [gcpba] GCPBA position on Motors, Wildnerness and User Allocation

Tough questions, and answers,

If idealogy was the question who wouldn't jump on the "wilderness" bandwagon. I'm in! Sounds Great!? I'm all about "Wilderness", I lead with my heart! But as one probes farther into the question one can see that it is a tricky subject. If one thinks that todays GC participant #'s both commercial and private are the approved NEPA, RRFW, GCPBA, NPS, GCROA, USGS, and AZRA #'s for sustainability than all we can do is argue about allocation. Year round 1% NEPA, 5%USGS, 5% NPS, 39.5% RRFW & GCPBA(Don't forget we are the same dum dums, 39.5% GCROA. Right?

Though I don't prefer to run downstream with a motor, I do recognize the benefits of running people through the canyon in 5 days(commercial) on a motor triop with todays sustainable compromise. If people are going to willingly volunteer for a 5 day trip, in order for me to do a 16-25 day trip with 5 day bonus baby below diamond, I will willingly agree Unfortunately, what ideologistical groups(RRFW, ?) don't explain is, how "our wilderness" fantasy ideals will effect the public that backs them. Who wouldn't back River Runner's for Wilderness! I am certainly a river runner for wilderness?

If we stop the mostly commercial motor trips, that zip the public through in 5 days(saving us camps, giving us ice, and impacting us with a barely audible motor for 5 min as they pass with permagrinned brothers), and MAKE them take their equally deserving customers through the canyon in 16 days instead of 11-14? Guess how our now, low impact, more "wilderness" trip than ever(due to the equal spacing(computer model) and bump inability), trips will be? We will soon be in the beach assignment, nightmares of other rivers, or considerably decrease access! How lame is the San Juan now with beach assignment? It's not even a busy river!

If deserving(commercial) people approve of a 5 day trip down the Grand as their trip of choice? Thanks the god's is what I say! Thank the god's someone wants to pilot a motor rig as a job, and thank the god's we don't FORCE them to take 16 days or more to experience the canyon. What a nightmare. Either we would be talking about 12 day standard trips, with beach designation, like the commercials have to do, or a GIANT decrease in allocation. Computer Model that problem! 1011000011100111000111000111..... = IT WILL SUCK for us!

Zip em threw on the commercial end 5-12 days, and we'll take our time!

Can we improve the system? You bet. After we get the waitlist system fairly*** through the system, we can get a better look(it will take years, be patient) at what is actually happening. After seeing the current administrations awesome efforts as fair, and over the top cooperation, I have high hopes he will help to encourage this fair allocation to equal distribution.

***I willingly profess my guilt as a private boater who gamed the past system and placed more than 50 people on the waitlist who would never and some still don't know that they want to do a GC trip I'm sorry to all involved Knowing this, the administration did a valiant effort as providing the waitlist a fair and equitable chance at a trip. Thanks for all you do. It's easy to coin "the man" in charge of allocation but actually it is a bunch of hardworking underpaid folks like Linda Jalbert, Shioshanya, etc. that STRUGGLE to provide us with a great wilderness trip.

Though I personally don't prefer motor trips, I think it's a great way to KEEP THE WILDERNESS!

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 02-16-2010   #16
placerville, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Apr 2004
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tried, but could not let backcountry's quote about dirt bikes and snowmobiles slip by.
while I also do not get bothered personally by motorcycles and snowmobiles in the backcountry, the problem is the damage they do, not the inconvenience they pose to other users. I am sure that many feel strongly about having their backcountry experience diluted/disturbed by these motorized vehicles, and I understand where they are coming from, i just try and not let it bother me personally. But, no one can argue that they do damage to wilderness areas, and that some of those users couldn't give 2 craps about the signage explaining where they can and can not go. There is plenty of room for everyone, and plenty of designated space for motors, but I feel the motors should be kept out of the wilderness.
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Old 02-16-2010   #17
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
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Re: Motors in the wilderness

It is true that a small percentage of dirk bikes, ATV's, and snowmobiles in 'wilderness areas' tear them up - often causing ugly and highly visual scars on the land. However so long as we are talking about 4 stroke outboard motors attached to J-Rigs and their ilk we don't need to worry about most of the same consequences. Forrest meadows are quickly destroyed by Dirt Bikes and ATV's, but water is only minimally affected by a passing motor.

Wilderness designation also bans bicycles. This has baffled me for a long time. Is the impact of a mountain bike greater than that of a hiker? I enjoy riding my mountain bike through the wilderness and my tire track is no greater impact than a foot print.
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Old 02-16-2010   #18
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 817
Your post touches on the problems...

Hi Andy, your note that you don't want to raft GC in mid January and you would like to see the summertime allocation increased, and that is exactly my point.

As RRFW has all along pointed out, a modified B alternative, somewhere between B amd C, has the potential to greatly increasing self guided river access year round, would balance trip starts and number of people off the ramp in the summer, all with decreased motorized use.

For everyone who says the motorized tour boats come and go, they pass us by, well yes, and they pull into the camp you were headed for. And they increase congestion at attraction sites.

The computer model was based on data from a motorized summer access plan. As the model was pushed to run motor-free scenarios, the model itself begain to fail.

The GC is managed by the NPS. The RRFW litigation goals were clearly identified in the litigation. We were and still are going to be looking for ways to increase self-guided trips in the summer and decrease the use of motorized equipment on the river in the summer. The legal tool never was intended to get the river declaired a wilderness. That is Congresses job. The NPS is suposed to manage the river for its wilderness character, and the courts have said they can do a poor job of that if they want to. They have been doing that for some time.

The NPS admits the apples to apples comparison is in trip launches. We argue it's in trip launches of similar group sizes. Given the present imbalance in the distribution of both launches and groups size, we have a long way to go.

We can't just keep on increasing use on the Colorado in Grand Canyon. At one point we will start to have to look at redistribution of the available use. The NPS came up with a good first step at doing this, but the GCPBA and outfitters trade group scuttled that idea, for now anyway.

These issues, as you point out, are not rsoloved and are not going away anytime soon.

All the best, Tom
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Old 02-16-2010   #19
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Gunnison, Colorado
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There are always bad apples with any group. This is one of the reasons rafters have a conflict with private land owners. Any group can cause impact. I see the damage done by mountain bikers to be equal to or surpass that of dirt bikers. The thin tires dig deeper trenches in the trail - the dirt bikes smooth and widen the trails. Locally where I live, the mountain bikers tend to cut many more trails and give back little in maintenance of these trails. Dirt bike and ATV users must pay a fee that is used locally to improve the trails and re-rout or fix the wet areas of the trails so the scarring caused in these areas are kept to a minimum. Neither is allowed in wilderness areas. ATV riders going on single tracks cause immense damage. All of the above riding wet trails or cutting new braids in the trails have serious impact. Some of the worse damage I have seen comes for horse back riders in wilderness areas. Heavily used horse trails become wide swaths of mud and almost impassable to hikers. ALL USES IMPACT OTHER USES. People simply need to be educated to take care of the land no matter what their choice of recreation is. The self centered "it's all about me, I could care less about anyone or anything else" philosophy that permeates all of America is the root to our problems.

Having 4 stroke outboards push paying tourists down the Grand Canyon is a mild inconvenience that I can live with. They pass by quickly and introduce more people to the sport. People who would previously think nothing of water diversions or private land owners closing access to rivers may remember their guided raft trip and support keeping the waters flowing for public use.

In my opinion the motor issue should be put on the back burner and focus should be on a somewhat more equitable distribution of permits for river access.
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Old 02-16-2010   #20
The next zone, .
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,200
Well I just had to chime on the the lies or misinformation about snowmachines.. The bunny hugger types just love to put out flat out lies or other misinformation about snowmachines...

On normal snowpack a snowmachine puts less lbs per sq in of pressure on the ground than your mtn bike or footprint for that matter.. This is a true statement backed my many independent studies.. It is also fair to say and studies have proven that the average mtn biker has more impact on the ground than the average snowmachine.. This is why snowmachines can ride the same terrain year in and year out with no, nada, or zero impact on the ground (again many studies back this up).. This is not true of any other type of recreation.. Even walkin in has more impact on the ground.....

If you dont like motors stay in a wilderness as there are no motors there.... And agian if you cant find a wilderness here in colorado pm me and I will send you a map to all of them but then again I bet most bunny hugger types are not lookin for one........

From where I sit I think the best way to keep a wilderness a wilderness would be NO HUMANS for any reason in a wilderness area as we are the ones who have the impact and it we as humans will no doubt screw it up..

Sorry for the hijack of the thread but the misinformation presented about snowmachines got me to speak up..

Also thanks for the info about the Grand interesting..

"I feel better than any other time when I am in the mountains and uh I cant explain it ya know...." - Shawn Farmer..........
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