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Press Release: Arizona Wilderness Coalition Develops Solution to 20-Year Conflict at Colorado River

Proposal Answers Commercial Concerns and Protects Unique Wilderness River Experience

June 19, 2003

Phoenix— The Arizona Wilderness Coalition (AWC) will unveil a highly anticipated multi-point resolution that will protect the wilderness character of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park and still allow commercial outfitters the chance to continue their river trip business.

Crowding and noise on the river will be eased to preserve the wilderness experience, and the wait for private boaters to access the river will be greatly reduced by simply extending the primary Grand Canyon boating season an extra month in the spring and fall. Commercial river outfitters can keep all of their existing user days under the Coalition’s proposed plan.

For an easy-to-read comparison of current conditions on the river compared to AWC's wilderness resolution scenario, click here.

AWC will announce its resolution to the National Park Service, media, and a variety of stakeholders at two public meetings in Phoenix on June 24th, 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm, and June 25th, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 2577 W. Greenway Road. A public forum and discussion will follow the Tuesday, June 24th session from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Everyone is invited to attend and participate.

“It’s high time we cease our bickering over who gets what from this river and act to protect what makes it unique in the first place,” says Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Regional Coordinator for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, former Grand Canyon Wilderness Manager, and a former Colorado River guide. “The more we continue to degrade the canyon’s wild character with more motor boats, pushing crowds of people down the river, the less it remains a special, awe-inspiring experience. This resolution addresses many concerns from a variety of stakeholders by balancing wilderness protection with commercial allocation.”

Under AWC’s proposal, the total possible number of people accessing the river within popular summer months remains the same as current levels, but would reduce the number of times boat trips come in contact with other parties. Commercial outfitters’ permit allocations to run the river would remain the same as current levels. And to the relief of more than 7,000 people waiting for do-it-themselves entry to the river—currently a wait of approximately 20 years—access for self-guided river runners during the summer season will double.

“This is by far the most realistic alternative for keeping the outstanding wilderness opportunity at the Colorado River alive and well, including the business interests that thrive off the river’s wilderness appeal,” says AWC Executive Director Don Hoffman. “The Park Service needs to remember the primary purpose of its own wilderness recommendations made more than 20 years ago.”

The wilderness river issue at Grand Canyon has become volatile and divisive recently. Conservationists learned of a closed-door request sent to Interior Secretary Gale Norton from 10 Arizona and Utah lawmakers, asking that she remove the Colorado River from wilderness protection at the park through administrative proclamation.

For more information, contact:

Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Regional Coordinator, 928-606-5850;

Don Hoffman, Executive Director: 928-339-4426;


-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement