Hi Andy, thanks for your thoughts.
Yes, the RRFW plan was outside the two NPS motor free alternatives. This is not sloppy or misleading.
It was sloppy and misleading for the NPS to not produce a workable motor free alternative. The two alternatives the NPS put out needed a lot of work. We offered a solution. You don’t like the offering. And your point in a public process is...?
Andy, a lot of these issues were gone over years ago. The allocation levels RRFW uses are based on studies of user day ceiling done in the 1970s, BEFORE we got better at cleaning up after ourselves.
To Be Very Clear, the present plan increased do-it-yourself use in the winter as a way to avoid equitable summer access. This is a real issue you and the GCPBA never address. And this is a KEY point RRFW continues to raise.
If you are saying the GCPBA and AW got nothing in exchange for a lousy deal, I will agree with you.
Your understanding that there was data showing self guided river runners on the waiting list wanted shoulder season access and did not want equitable summertime access in incorrect. And the river concessions already HAD the lions share of summer access, given to them because they asked for it in 1972. Your claims that there is less demand in the summer season for self guided trips over commercial trips is bogus. There is no data to show this.
What we can do to look at demand, and the only data we have, is to look at lottery applications. That data is available here:
Grand Canyon National Park - Helpful Links for Noncommercial River Trips (U.S. National Park Service)
The stats from the 2011 lottery have just been run. There were 3726 applications competing for 274 launch opportunities. That may average to a one in fourteen chance, but trips in the dead of winter went unclaimed, while over 680 applicants wanted that prime launch date just after the end of the motorized season. Your chances for that date were one in 680.
This demand shows most folks want to go boating in the summer season (April through September), not the fall-winter-spring season (October-March). We have no demand figures for the concessions world. None.
As to the computer model, we have said this before...the computer model was based on data showing how the river worked in 2000 With motors. Any modeling without models showed serious flaws in the model, not the potential to have a motor free river with equitable access.
Yes, RRFW discovered the backroom deal, a deal the river concessions characterized as having their cake and eating it to. A deal that had it not happened, and according to the trade association staffer, would have had the river concessions going it alone "...the outfitters against everyone else."
The river community would have had real leverage to force the NPS to produce a better plan.
So now, here's what we have...
*Nearly doubling private boaters user day allocation, accessible in the winter
*Private boaters share the Canyon roughly 50-50 during the shoulder seasons, 3,221 concessions passengers (no crew numbers reflected0 to 2,926 self guided folks)
*Motors are now prohibited for much of the shoulder seasons and during winter, in a time they never ran historically
*Self guided folks get an additional small group launch every other day in summer, but still only get 123 groups of 16 people and 62 groups of 8 people compared with 476 concessions groups of 32 people
*In the summer, 14,385 concessions passengers travel the river compared to 2,270 self guided folks
*Commercial oar and motor trips have shorter trip lengths than before, as do self guided river runners even though two studies showed concessions passengers and self guided river runners alike said they wanted longer trips
*Helicopter exchanges are limited to April through September instead of year round, thought they never ran year round, only flying April through September before the latest plan came out,
*Commercial group sizes are decreased from about 40 to a maximum of 32 (guides now included), and this was the historic average
*Commercial groups are off the river for 5 months out of the year which is the same as the last river plan
You are quite right to say RRFW refers to the result above as a "sell out."
You now head on off and seek to destroy a different view, ignoring the mess above...
In responding to your points, the river concessions would make money if they ran all oar trips. And they would still run short trips to Phantom, so folks wouldn’t have to spend a mandatory two weeks on the river, even though the only studies on trip length showed concessions passengers want LONGER trips, not shorter trips.
Then you mention litigation. I agree with you it would have been better to have the river concessions sue the NPS, and have the court say the agency has discretion to manage the river as the Agency see’s fit...
Instead, a self guided river running group (GCPBA) and the river concessions trade association fought against another river running group trying to get better summertime access.
I agree with you that the commercial outfitters would put up a protracted, vigorous, and well-funded fight and the river concessions admitted they would lose that fight…unless…they could get a few groups to join them…and that’s what happened.
You make an accusation that RRFW splintered the boating community. Wow. That's incredibly misguided. It was after all AW and the GCPBA and the trade association that said they would use their best efforts to "discourage their respective members from engaging in any activities that would, if undertaken by the Parties, be inconsistent with the Joint Recommendations and the terms of this Agreement. The Parties will not support any efforts by their respective members to engage in any activities that would, if undertaken by the Parties, be inconsistent with the Joint Recommendations or the terms of this Agreement." Talk about splintering the river running community.
Bottom line, the river is still commercialized and motorized in the primary use season, and there is still huge unmet demand by real self guided river runners for real river trips in the summer.
Thank you for this opportunity to present the "rest" of the story and to help remind folks of one more thing...we are talking about management of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Management of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon should be the best we as a society can make it, not something that is mediocre at best, and damages wilderness character of the resource at worse case.
Happy river trails, Tom