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Know the West

Outward Bound and Canyonlands

  Dear HCN,

The reasons the Colorado Outward Bound School is opposed to the Canyonlands Backcountry Management Plan are far greater than group size limits as implied in Florence Williams' article, "Outdoor Groups Fight Camping Limits' (HCN, 6/27/94). In fact, the plan proposes to eliminate permits for commercial and educational backpacking groups altogether, thus denying public access to the park.

Outward Bound is not "asking for a more lenient management plan." Far from it, we are asking for a "more rational" plan. We want a plan that recognizes the value of wilderness education and does not preclude our very presence through widely complex and inconsistent strategies for a new permitting process.

The Colorado Outward Bound School has for over 30 years limited its backcountry "patrols' to 10 students and two instructors. The proposed group size of six would mean half the amount of instructors and students, which creates a situation that is unsafe and economically unfeasible. As a nonprofit school, we try to keep tuition at the lowest possible level and we provide scholarship funds for students who cannot afford the tuition. We also thoroughly instruct our students to diligently avoid cryptobiotic crusts and to travel and camp on slickrock. Minimum impact travel is one of our highest priorities.

The Management Plan deals with only 4 percent of the users of Canyonlands - those who venture into the backcountry for multi-day trips. It does not deal with 96 percent of the day use. Overall park use has increased 400 percent since 1984, but backcountry hikers represent a small percentage of that increase. Outward Bound has not increased its use for over eight years.

Mark Udall

Denver, Colorado

The writer is executive director of Colorado Outward Bound School.