RRFW Riverwire – Groups Appeal GC Ruling on Park’s 100th Birthday
January 11, 2008
Four conservation groups filed an appeal today to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of their on-going effort to protect and restore the Grand Canyon’s natural sounds and wilderness values from motorized and commercial uses.
The groups, which include River Runners for Wilderness, Rock the Earth, Living Rivers and Wilderness Watch, claim the National Park Service’s new management plan for the Colorado River corridor which authorizes motorboat use and helicopter passenger exchanges in the heart of the Grand Canyon is inconsistent with National Park Service obligations to preserve the area’s wilderness character.
The groups challenged the National Park Service’s management plan in Federal District Court in 2006, claiming that the Park’s own policies require managing the canyon as wilderness. They also claimed that the National Park Service illegally granted the majority of river access to commercial concessionaires thereby forcing members of the general public to wait years for a chance to obtain a permit to float the Colorado River.
In November 2007, U.S. District Court Judge David G. Campbell upheld the National Park Service’s new river management plan. Intervening in defense of the Park’s plan were the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association and the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association.
The groups’ appeal comes on the 100th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt’s declaring the Grand Canyon a National Monument on January 11, 1908.
A century ago, President Roosevelt proclaimed, “We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it.”
George Nickas, Executive Director of Wilderness Watch, builds on that commitment to protection. “No doubt Teddy Roosevelt would be appalled if he were here today and saw how the park service has commercialized the Grand Canyon and allowed the song of the canyon wren to be drowned by the racket of outboard motors.”
Tom Martin, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness agrees. “President Roosevelt was forced to strongly defend his Grand Canyon proclamation against repeated opposition all the way to the Supreme Court. One hundred years later, we are in a similar fight and likewise determined to win the best possible protection for Grand Canyon’s Colorado River” added Martin.
“What’s at stake is incredibly important to all Americans. Not only is public access to our public spaces, without the need to pay concessionaires thousands of dollars, at issue,” noted Marc Ross, Executive Director of Rock the Earth, “but also the idea that there needs to be places where one can go in this country to seek peace and solitude without hearing the roar of engines.”
The groups are represented by Julia Olson of Wild Earth Advocates and Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center.
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