Mr. David Uberuaga
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023
With copy to:
Janet Cohen, Tribal Liaison
Linda Jalbert, Wilderness Coordinator & Recreation Planner
Dear Superintendent Uberuaga,
The Coalition of American Canyoneers represents the greater canyoneering community working with land managers to ensure access to slot canyons on public and private lands. We believe in a balanced approach to access advocacy called ACES – Access through Conservation, Education, and Safety. We’ve enjoyed extensive interaction with GRCA land managers over time including discussions about a variety of regulatory ideas in the Backcountry Management Plan process, financial contributions through GCA to support conservation and safety measures in Garden Creek, and a number of service projects to help preserve Grand Canyon. Our last service project in August involved more than 200 volunteer hours in a highly technical operation to extract over 1,000 pounds of debris that was tossed over the Tuweep overlook 800’ below.
Access to GRCA via Great Thumb Mesa is particularly important to our members. There are 10 slot canyons at the Esplanade level under Great Thumb, including four that are among the best in the Park. Today, lacking the access that Congress required in the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, our members approach these slot canyons by various routes off the North Rim. The North Rim routes require ropes to reach the river, followed by a packraft crossing, and finally difficult climbing from the river level to the Esplanade under Great Thumb. Our members who live south of Grand Canyon spend $200 to $300 in extra fuel, and two to three extra hiking days, to access these stunning parts of GCNP via the North rim routes. We’ve been vocal to GRCA land managers about the need to follow through with the access requirements defined in the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act. We thought that the Backcountry Management Plan public comment period would be the vehicle to present the NPS with an assessment of the access needs to support our members.
On Friday we became aware of the letter you wrote to Chairman Watahomigie. While we applaud the fact that the NPS and the Havasupai Tribe are talking about opening access, we’re concerned by a few points in your letter. I request we meet at your earliest convenience at the South Rim to better understand the context of your letter. I’ve hiked in that area extensively and I believe I can offer a few access ideas that might be acceptable to the Tribe and less controversial to hikers and canyoneers. I look forward to your reply on when we can meet.
Coalition of American Canyoneers