GCPBA and the RRFW Lawsuit - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-20-2007   #1
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,002
GCPBA and the RRFW Lawsuit

The last series of exchanges between Tom Martin and I touched on a very important topic -- why GCPBA intervened in the lawsuit against the Colorado River Management Plan (CRIMP). I want to comment on it here because GCPBA members who follow the Buzz should be provided an explanation of this issue.

First of all, GCPBA intervened in the Rock the Earth lawsuit (to which RRFW is party) on behalf of Joe Alston, NPS, GCNP, et. al., without regard to what GCROA (the outfitter organization) was doing. We are an independent intervener and so is GCROA. There is no connection between the two intervenors other than we may agree to look at each others' filings. Neither of us is tied to any action or language or intent of the other. GCROA petitioned us passionately to jointly intervene with them but we declined (even though that's a more costly option) because we wanted to retain our status as independent actors in the court setting.

The purpose of intervention was to prevent a reversion to having no CRMP at all. That would probably be the first remedy imposed by the court in the event of a ruling in favor of RRFW et. al. That could mean another ten years or so of the allocation situation of the last 40 years. We thought, and still think, that the CRMP was thoroughly researched and determined by all prescribed methods and is a reasonable approach to the recommendations that GCPBA presented in the public planning process.

While non-commercial boaters could certainly make a case that an allocationless system is "more fair," that is by no means the only case that could be made. The Park harvested opinions from everybody who cared to submit comments and they listened and acted on all of the substantive comments. Unfortunately, not every comment could be made into part of the CRMP. Also unfortunately, some people whose ideas weren't chosen believe that their ideas were ignored. Some of GCPBA's ideas were not chosen either, but we understand that they were not ignored, just not implemented.

We preferred to not lose the 18-day summer trip. We preferred to have a reservation calendar along with a lottery and a waiting list. We preferred to have more summer launches. We preferred not to have the no-repeater rule. We preferred to have equal maximum trip sizes for all sectors. These were not what the NPS chose to implement based on their analysis of the data. We accept the science of the CRMP but we remain vigilant for ways to improve our own situation now and for future iterations of the public administration process. For the moment we believe that the existing CRMP is a vast improvement for the boating community. We believe suing the Park over a plan that we rather -- like even with its warts and wrinkles -- is not in the interest of our members..

If others see the situation differently they are welcome to pursue their own agendas. The lawsuit brought against the NPS regarding the 2006 CRMP is based on a "wilderness first" agenda. The agenda of GCPBA is access first. Just as we cannot hold two priorities foremost, neither can the plaintiffs nor the defendants. We choose to defend our top priority and we have no prejudice against those with a different top priority. Indeed, we value wilderness as well -- but think a different path in that direction is likely to be more effective over time. And now that the issue is in the courts, they will decide what they decide, just as they decided in our favor (not actually, but virtually by an out-of-court settlement) in 2002 when we, at great expense and effort, forced the NPS to restart and complete the CRMP.

Our members are individuals and we represent them. We do not pretend to represent all private boaters, although we reach out to a wider audience -- and learn from those contacts. Our board reviews all policy and we agree on it, but rarely is policy made unanimously or without earnest and intense discussion. Once we arrive at a policy, such as our support of the CRMP, we speak with one voice. We find that most of our members understand this and are willing to live by our decisions. After all, they elected us. We encourage their comments to us and we listen. It's the way a board-driven organization works. Thankfully we have a large and educated board to guide our policy rather than being an autocracy with no voice for the common person.

I hope this helps explain GCPBA's position relative to the CRMP and lawsuits attacking it. For those interested in an even more complete review of this subject, it can be found at Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association

Rich Phillips

Join Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association at Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association. click on "Join", and support active, ongoing private boater representation on Grand Canyon issues. And follow GC issues on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gcpba/messages

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Old 06-20-2007   #2
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,002
Can't seem to find the "Edit" button this morning.

I want to clarify that the intervention status GCPBA chose was actually more costly to us than if we had agreed to join with GCROA. The phrase in the parentheses in the second paragraph is poorly worded, and one might infer that we chose the less expensive option, when in fact it was the opposite. We did that precisely so we could retain the ability to act independently in the case.

Sorry for the confusion.

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Old 06-20-2007   #3
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,165
Thank you for your efforts - it is great to know that passionate intelligent people are working towards greater access for all private boaters.
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Old 06-21-2007   #4
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 928
Hi Mountain Buzz readers,

You all might want to start by reviewing an agreement the GCPBA board of directors made with the river concessionaires trade association. This agreement limits what GCPBA members can support, and states very clearly the GCPBA does not support wilderness protection for the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park:


The next thing you all might want to do, to decide the issue for yourself, is to look at the River Runners for Wilderness litigation:

http://www.rrfw.org/article.php?file=20070525.Document.Summary_Judgeme nt

Here you will find a brief review of the history of the issue (material facts), and the present memorandum.

Additional court documents in this case can be found at:


Have a great day, Tom

Tom Martin, Co-Director
River Runners For Wilderness
River Runners for Wilderness - Protecting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and Its Tributaries
Moderator, Rafting Grand Canyon WIKI and [email protected]
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