You might say there's trouble in river city.
A coalition of groups representing river runners is suing the National Park Service for deciding to continue the practice of permitting motorized rafts to run through the Grand Canyon and for allowing helicopters to descend into the canyon to pick up or drop off passengers.
The action follows last week's announcement that Grand Canyon National Park officials had finalized their management plan for the Colorado River.
"We feel that the recent Park Service ruling fails to properly fulfill the National Park Service mandate that the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon must be managed as wilderness," says Marc Ross, executive director of Rock the Earth. 'We're fighting to make sure the National Park Service does the duty all Americans entrust them with: protecting this beloved natural treasure."
The groups behind the lawsuit include Rock the Earth, River Runners for Wilderness, Living Rivers, and Wilderness Watch. In addition to calling for a ban on motorized craft through the river corridor, the groups take issue with the way the park dispenses river-running permits. They maintain that commercial tours receive priority over privately run trips.
"The distribution of use is so skewed that public river runners have little or no chance of ever gaining a permit through the proposed lottery," claims Jo Johnson, co-director of River Runners for Wilderness. "It is scandalous discrimination against those choosing to do their own trips while tourists can buy their way onto a high-priced tour almost immediately."
The groups also worry that the Park Service is failing to protect the Grand Canyon's ecosystem from human use.
In the record of decision regarding the Colorado River Management Plan, park officials specify that between April 1 and September 15 motorized and non-motorized craft will be allowed down the river between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, while only non-motorized craft will be permitted from September 16 through March 31.
The complete ROD can be found here.