Man Fined, Banned From Grand Canyon National Park, For Guiding Without A Permit

A man who was guiding backpack trips in Grand Canyon National Park without a permit has been fined and banned from visiting the park for a year.

Brian Thompson, 42, of Cottonwood, Arizona, also was banned from running any guiding trips, paid or unpaid, in national parks or national forests for a year, according to a park release.

The man was arrested on August 31 after he received payment to guide a multi-day backpacking trip into the canyon, the release said.

On September 12 Mr. Thompson appeared in the U.S. District Court of Arizona and pleaded guilty to violating Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 5.3, Engaging in Business without a Permit.

As a result, he was ordered to pay a $200 fine and was sentenced to a one year term of probation, during which time he is banned from Grand Canyon National Park, cannot provide tours or guiding services (paid or unpaid) in any national park or national forest, and cannot advertise that he conducts tours or guiding services in national forests or national parks.


What is "guiding" under the NPS rules and what is not? A family going hiking under the guidance of one adult, who knows the park, obviously is not. A group of close friends going with one of them making all the arangements for accomodation, choosing the route and what ever probably is not guiding as well.

But how about some more loosely connected people that share some common connection but don't necessarily know all of the others? With one of them choosing the route, organising transport, giving out a list of necessary equipment beforehand and doing the classical "guiding" on the trail with explaining about nature, talking history, making sure, no one stays behind and gets lost and carries a small emergency kit? Is such an outing of say some members of a group or association already illegal guiding?


I believe it comes down to the fact that the individual received payment to be a guide. You need to have a permit if you are providing this type of service (as a business, for a fee) in a park. Being a guide is one thing; requiring people to pay for the service is another.



Thank God the authorities have made the parks safe from this fiend and his nefarious activities. We can all breathe more easily knowing that the guiding threat has been neutralized.


The NPS requirement that anyone conducting a buisness, and yes charging people to take them hiking in a National Park is a buisness, is no different than your local municipality requiring buisness permits. The permit's require that the individividuals have things like insurance, proper training and experience. For this type of activity probably even some form of EMS training. Other wise if and when these folks making money off the parks screw up and one of their clients gets hurt or even dies, you the tax payer ends up covering the bills for their messes.

Hi, Old Ranger,

What you say makes sense. I sometimes allow myself to get carried away with my sarcasm. I think I was overreacting to what I perceive as excessive NPS regulation of many things. But I was overreacting, and you're right to have politely suggested as much.

imtubke, nice response to the Old Ranger. I must agree with the old ranger and appreciate your open mind on the issue. I had much experience with this issue, well that certainly does not make me expert, but I can tell you that the vast majority of park rangers work very hard to limit restrictions. Sometimes they are necessary, as in this case, and often times they are law or policy of the congress or agency. I have my moments, like yourself, when I question some regulations, but on balance there is a real effort to be low key and responsive to the park visitors. Always read your posts and am now convinced you do try to look at both sides of issues.

Ron Mackie: A bit off topic With your sense of things I wondered if you might take a look at the principals and the process that ended with the reduction of over 75% of the Inner Grand Canyon Mule Rides that were so transformational for so many. You are one of the few I could expect that would deliver something other than the party line. I have had so many people, of all ages, that had life changing experiences of discovery on these rides that I feel the topic needs proper analysis. I just have a sense that you might be the one.


Or better yet you could decline to beat that dead, horse here and leave keeper to his seething.

Keeper, I am not informed on the Grand Canyon decision process resulting in the reduction of mule rides. I have been on the trails there and I am one of those who does not object to the mule rides, or the droppings, etc., It does seem to me, just off the top of my hat, that the 75% reduction was extreme, perhaps others on Traveler have more information. The Traveler has had many discussions on the issue of horses and mules on park trails, strong feelings on many sides. I do support such use. Its interesting to note, in the case of Yosemite National Park (and all park areas are different), when I first started working on the trail crew there in 1960, 95% of backcountry travel was by horse and mule or supported by horse and mule. By the middle seventies, that figure was exactly the opposite, 95% hiker, 5% stock, half of which was agency or outfitter. The explosion in backpacking began with the space age technology, before that, backpacks, as the old timers know, where Trapper Jim's, sleeping bags were Korean War casualty bags, etc, that stuff was really heavy. Also, park visitation increased 4 fold during that period, the pressure on the trails was becoming an issue. In any case, once the means of travel changed, so did the politics. This is probably a very over simplified comment on my part, but many trail users look at stock as something that should not be there. I do know that many young American Corps, California Conservation Corps, other youth groups that get involved in backcountry projects, develop a very strong interest in the horses and mules supporting their work activities. A final comment, while the change was happening from the packers and horse people to the backpacker, there was much discombobulation among the traditional stock users and some had difficulty in adapting to both the hiker and a new environmental sensitivity. Its an interesting issue, I do not have the answers, but I do think there is place for private stock users and commercial outfitters.

Well, thank you, Ron. I appreciate your kind words. I try to be open-minded and constantly aware of my biases. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. But enough about me . . . it's interesting for me to read that most rangers try to limit restrictions and not act in a high-handed manner. Perhaps there should be a conference someday in which the rangers meet in D.C. en masse with the NPS brass, go over the Code of Federal Regulations volume for the NPS, and suggest deleting X rule and adding Y rule. One would think that the rangers would have a lot of expertise that isn't easily found in the D.C. headquarters.

Ron: About as I expected with one correction:) I'm actually looking at this moment at my father's Trapper "Nelson" pack (not Trapper Jim's:). Will be using it this weekend on a sort of memorial trip into the Canyon. Much lighter and suffisticated packs in my arsenal but it's special:).

Sometimes with the culture's ambitions to rush ahead creating new worlds of their own making they leave behind the hard earned lessons of life that their parents and grandparents learned. A good bit of humbling and discernment is often needed to really feel like one has arrived. The backcountry experience with equines is often the ticket by being connected to a living being that judges you by how you make them feel and respond in kind. A great confluence of forces that truly fits in the environent, I and others believe.

Thanks for your comments and hope we'll have discussions again.

you the tax payer ends up covering the bills for their messes.

How is that different if he doesn't charge to guide?

Anon 8:45: Your post could reference any number of offenses to individuals or cultures. Some rediculously contrived, perpetuated and grossly mistaken. I will reference just one more example where, in all likelihood using your solution of just leave them to seeth, destroyed with no possibility of reconciliation the cultural significance to Native Americans of the Hubbell Trading Post community (and to us). I hold to the belief that reconciliation can occur with transformational results to all involved. I've seen it happen many times to myself and others.

Thanks for your response

imtubke, a very interesting comment. I think you are correct, we sometimes implement rules to deal with a specific problem, but once the problem is solved, the rule is still on the books and becomes part of the enforcement culture. It then is very difficult to change. Please forgive the length of this, but one rule that I participated in writing was the 6 persons per campsite in Yosemite. In the late sixties and early seventies, there were many people involved in anti-war (Vietnam) demonstrations and other cultural issues including "youth returning to nature" experiences (some called them "Hippies"). These groups would move into the campgrounds and overnight there would be 100-150 young citizens just sprawling over two or three sites with all the associated problems. We had no enforcement regulation to deal with this at the time, so we thought up putting a limit per campsite to deal with the communes that were developing. Of course a rational was needed, so it was suggested that the basis of the rule be six people, as that is what the average camp table could accommodate. Of course there other issues as well, but that is what it boiled down to. Well here it is 2012, and I do think this rule has outlived the purpose it was intended for. Many populations travel in large or extended families, this demographic should be looked at and the rule re-visited. For example, here in California, it is common to see Latino family's traveling in groups of 8-15. That requires 3 campsites at 20.00 each, or 60.00 for one night of camping. The 6 persons per campsite was designed to deal with the counterculture groups, not make it difficult for ethnic groups. Actually, what happened was the communes just moved to the backcountry areas, a mile or two off the trail, so we then needed a rule to deal with that issue, that explains the 4 mile backpacking regulation out of the Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. In any case, I think you make a good point.


Great stories. Reminded me of that joke about monkeys, bananas and management (see below for entertainment). Rules outlive their usefulness all the time, but they perdure simply because humans are creatures of habit.

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not?

Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here.

And that, my friends, is how company policy begins.