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Old 10-29-2007   #1
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 818
RRFW Riverwire –Judge Hears Grand Canyon River Litigation Case

RRFW Riverwire –Judge Hears Grand Canyon River Litigation Case
October 29, 2007

Arizona District Court Judge David G. Campbell held two hours of oral argument on litigation pertaining to the new Colorado River Management Plan in Grand Canyon National Park. The hearing was held Friday, October 26, 2007, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The court hearing addressed the merits of the case, including Grand Canyon National Park’s concessions use of motorized tour boats and helicopter exchanges that continue to destroy the river’s wilderness character.

The case also contests the Park Service’s commercialization of the river. At present, 14,385 concessions passengers travel with only 2,270 self guided river runners during the same summer season—a ratio of over 6 commercial guests to each do-it-yourself river runner.

Matt Bishop and Julia Olson, attorneys for the four Plaintiff nonprofit organizations River Runners for Wilderness, Rock the Earth, Wilderness Watch, and Living Rivers, both answered the judge’s questions on various aspects of the case with sound factual and legal points.

Julia Olson was queried by Judge Campbell on what was the significance of the fact that the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) thought the River Plan was fair. Ms. Olsen replied that there was no legal significance, that there was no data to show that splitting the user days 50-50 was either fair or that the percent of disappointment in obtaining a river trip would be fair in that case.

Ms. Olson also pointed out that one of many measures of fairness could be to flip use patterns year to year, with one year of concessions trips happening in the winter and the majority of summer access going to non-commercial river runners, then swapping seasonal use patterns the next year.

The Defendant in the case is the Department of Interior, while the Defendant Interveners are the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association (GCROA) and the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.

When asked by Judge Campbell, neither counsel for the Defendant nor the Defendant Interveners could tell the Judge exactly where a determination was made in the Management Plan that the present level of concessionaire motorized tour boat use was calculated to be necessary and appropriate.

The Plaintiffs requested, and Judge Campbell agreed in October 2006, to separate the merits phase of the case from the remedies phase, a legal procedure called “bifurcation”. Read more about the legal procedures at RRFW’s website at: http://www.rrfw.org/article.php?file=20061104.RRFW_Riverwire.Judge_Det ermines_Parties_in_GC_Lawsuit.

Friday’s hearing was attended by ten staff members from Grand Canyon National Park, eight representatives from the various Plaintiff and Defendant Intervener groups, and four law students.

Judge Campbell closed the hearing by stating he would make a decision on the case in the next few weeks.
RIVERWIRE is a free service to the community of river lovers from River Runners for Wilderness. To join, send an e-mail address to riverwire@rrfw.org and we'll add it to the RRFW RIVERWIRE e-mail alerts list.

Join RRFW’s listserver to stay abreast of and participate in the latest river issues. It’s as easy as sending a blank e-mail to Rafting_Grand_Canyon-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

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Old 10-30-2007   #2
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
Can you clarify a few things?

What is the goal of the lawsuit in terms of a new CRMP?

I think RRFW wants:

The canyon to be motor free - no motorized rafts and no helicopters or airplanes. Designation of the Grand Canyon as a wilderness by Congress (I assume this applies only to the river corridor and not the south and north rims). What other implications does the wilderness designation have compared to current practices in the canyon? There are a lot more commercial launches, but since 80% (I think) are motorized they spend many fewer user days in the canyon. Will the total number of user days change? How will longer commercial trips (due to no motors) effect private trips?

Wants the permit system to be a lottery for all users - the winners then decide to do a private trip or to hire a commercial guiding outfit. But nobody, commercial or private has a pre-set allocation so the outfitters get thrown into real turmoil and private boaters get equal footing with commercial customers for access in theory. Can you explain how this works in reality or how I have mis-stated your goals?

Currently private boaters choose to apply for a 8 or 16 person trip. Commercial customers just call and get the right number of spots for their party, be it 3, 5 or 25 on a first come first served basis. Remaining permit spots get filled by the outfitter.

Does that mean a family of 5 would have to apply for a 8 or 16 person permit and fill remaining spots themselves? Or can they sell them directly to others like tickets or through an outfitter (does this create a black market of grand canyon ticket scalpers)? Can outfitters combine permits up to their current trip size limits or do trip size limits become universal among all trips? Or do you allow people to just apply for the number of spots that they want/need? How does this effect the number of parties launching trips each day in peak season?

If everyone has to apply for permits will a lot more average people now apply for the lottery knowing that they have to probably try for years to get a permit? Will this actually result in equal launch dates for private and commercial boaters or could more commercial clients in the lottery mean fewer permits for private boaters (market based allocation)? Or will the lottery be segmented into one group for those who want commercial trips and one for private boaters?

Will balancing private vs commercial users be achieved through number of launches, numbers of people traveling the canyon, user days or will it be allowed to be set by lottery entries? Would we go back to a waiting list?

I don't love the current CRMP, but it seems like a step forward in a complex issue. What I really want to know is how life would be different if RRFW gets their way.

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Old 10-30-2007   #3
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Hi Rich, while you are free to think whatever you want, and pontificate on that, the RRFW litigation is seeking two things.

First, clarification of the law. It's asking for clear direction about preserving a National Park resource for wilderness values. It's also asking for clear direction about how a National Park may provide equitable access to a fixed resource.

The second part of the litigation hinges on the first. Once a legal position of what the NPS duties to preserve wilderness and to uphold equitable access are, the Park will proceed with this foundation in a new River Plan.

Once again, you have painted a false picture of what RRFW is seeking.

There are a lot of ways for the NPS to arrive at a river plan that protects wilderness resources’ and allow for equitable access to same.

You mention an all user lottery. That's one of many ways. Another is a reservation system. These various access models that embrace free market competition, and such management plans are already in place throughout the country (Boundary Waters, John Day, Deschutes, Grand Canyon Backcountry, to name a few).

These plans ensure competition in the guiding community, and guiding businesses, along with the regional economy that serve the do-it-yourself public, thrive. Each plan is unique to the resource where it is in use. Again, there are many ways to do this. That's what public participation is about.

Yours, Tom
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Old 10-30-2007   #4
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
I am not Rich, my name is Sean. Check out my last 100 or so posts if you don't believe me. But thanks for telling me I pontificate, it makes me feel smart.

I have seen a lot of posts from you and Rich verbally sparing on here and mostly on other e-mail lists. I also see both of you engaging in what appears to be transparent spinning of events to better serve your point of view in your respective news releases. And then you seem to get a lot of posts on places like Idaho whitewater asking that you stop posting Grand Canyon related content there.

I am personally interested in alternatives to the current river management plan - I think it is far from perfect. After reading through a fair bit of the documentation (stuff like other alternatives that were proposed in the last process) and most of the stuff on both of your websites I still don't know exactly what your vision would be for a better system. GCPBA's (Rich's) point of view seems straight forward - keep the current system at least for a few more years. But straightforward dosen't mean better.

In my previous post I specifically say: "
Can you explain how this works in reality or how I have mis-stated your goals?" I am not trying to "Paint a false picture." I am trying to understand your goals.

Here are my questions:

1. How would you propose to allocate users days/launches in terms of private/commercial mix and in terms of seasons?

2. How would people apply for the system? Lottery, waiting list, or some other system?

3. How would you change the number of total user days, launches, group sizes and other specifics from the current system?

Without knowing what RRFW's actual goals are it is hard to write letters to my Congressional reps and encourage my friends to support you little les make up my own mind.

From your last message it sounds like you would like there to be a new process, but with a court defined wilderness directive and a court defined definition of equitable access, that would then allow the park service with public comments, to come up with a new plan.

I want to know how you would like/envision that process to turn out. Personally I think the devils in the details when it comes to complex issues like this one. I also acknowledge the the outfitters, guides, GCPBA, NPS and others (including the Courts) will have strong voices in any new plan so you can't guarantee that your vision will win out.

Thanks, Sean

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Old 10-31-2007   #5
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Hi Sean, please accept my apologies for thinking you were Rich. My mistake. As to your three questions, here’s replies:

1. How would you propose to allocate users days/launches in terms of private/commercial mix and in terms of seasons?

There are many methods to allocate equitably. Lotteries, weighted lotteries, registrations, and waiting lists (Waiting Lists work when supply is very close to or exceeds demand).
Equtiable systems either allocate following actual demand (track changes in demand annually and make correctioins as the NPS initially proposed in the latest River Plan) OR, the agency lets the public decide what sort of trip they want, and does not allocating at all. This avoids having to track demand and is real time demand following.
As to seasons, We find it curious when an agency forces one user group into a secondary season because they are unable to equitable distribute use in the primary season. There’s no scientific data I know that supports differential access based on the season of the year. The demand curves we are looking at now for the GC lottery show the majority of applicants are trying for mid summer launches.

2. How would people apply for the system? Lottery, waiting list, or some other system?

Again, there are many methods agencies use to do this. Check around in your own state. You’ll find federal lands managers use lots of options.
3. How would you change the number of total user days, launches, group sizes and other specifics from the current system?
One such access model (certainly only one of many) is posted on the RRFW web site:
Here, group sizes are equalized at 16, launches are standardized 365 days of the year (as almost all other year round wilderness’s are managed). This plan is a slightly modified plan the NPS was going to implement in Grand Canyon in the early 1980’s. We recognize this plan is but one of many options to preserve wilderness character, protect the resource, and allow for public visitation.

Yours, Tom
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