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Know the West

Let's not ram corporations through the Grand Canyon

  Drifter Smith is correct that interest in floating the Grand Canyon has increased dramatically in the last three decades (HCN, 2/21/05: Let's not ram more boats through the Grand Canyon). There are many reasons for this. Rafting equipment has become safer, more reliable and less expensive. Opportunities to learn boating skills, low-impact camping skills, and wilderness medicine have increased. Most importantly, the mythical aura of the "Grand Canyon River Guide" has been debunked: Private boaters have known for decades that they are quite capable of running safe, low-impact river trips in the Grand Canyon without need of for-profit corporate "concessionaires."

The 1,100 people who floated the Grand Canyon prior to the completion of Glen Canyon Dam didn’t need a corporate outfitter. And nobody needs one today. No corporation should be allowed to deny a private citizen access to a public river. Not in the Grand Canyon. Not on any river in America.

For-profit concessionaires have enjoyed the privilege of operating in our national parks when it was erroneously believed to be "necessary and appropriate for public use and enjoyment of the park," according to the National Park Service. Since there are some 8,000 individuals (representing well over 100,000 private citizens) who paid to get on a 25-year wait list in order to gain access to the Colorado River, it is clear that for-profit corporations are neither "necessary" nor "appropriate" in Grand Canyon National Park. These corporate entities are asserting that their traditional public-resource welfare benefits have become a private-property right. And they use that claim of a private-property right to deny public access to what they openly refer to as "their" river.

Mr. Smith is absolutely correct: "(T)he canyon, and the experience, are too precious to destroy." If Mr. Smith and the Grand Canyon River Guides truly want to protect this national treasure, then they should advocate first for the elimination of corporate/ motorized allocation of user days, and then for a complete elimination of all corporate-controlled boating in the Grand Canyon.

Mick Ondris
Pine, Colorado