The job description for a professional river guide might read like this: Must possess John Wesley Powell's fearlessness, Julia Child's culinary skills and the patience of Job. Now, add another requirement: Must pass a drug test.
Periodic drug testing began this past season for
outfitters licensed in Grand Canyon National Park and may soon be
routine in Utah's Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National
Monument. While the Park Service won't test the guides itself, it
will require rafting companies to complete detailed reports on
their substance-abuse monitoring program.
Outraged river guides and outfitters are
fighting the new policy. Four Grand Canyon guides have hired an
attorney to bring a lawsuit while others have formed an
Arizona-based nonprofit, Guides Defending Constitutional Rights.
"With each level of these regulations, we're
driving the small, independent companies and individuals out of the
river-running business," says 25-year Colorado River veteran Tom
Moody. "What the average tourist will get is Denny's."
Park Service officials say drug testing of
professional river guides is required by a 1988 federal law.
"Whether boatmen like it or not, their job is a public safety
position that is no different from being a bus driver," says
Canyonlands National Park Superintendent Walt Dabney.