By Jonathan Simon
Since public interest in recreational river trips down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park begia to increase dramatically in the early 1970's, the National Park Service (NPS) has regulate dthe use of the river corridor in order to protect the Park's resources from harm and to ensure the quality of the visitor experience. Since 1972, the NPS has periodically developed and implemented river use management plans to limit and allocate use among differen user groups, to ensure a high quality visitor experience, and to ensure that such use occurs in a manner that protects and conserves the Park's natural and cultural resources. Over the years, as the demand for Grand Cnayon river tips continued to increas, these planning efforts generated subsstantial controversy, particularly over the allocation of use between professionally-guided and outfitted (i.e., commercial) and self-guided (i.e., noncommercial or "private") user groups, as well as over the NPS's continuing authorization of motorized watercraft and helicopter exchanges, particularly given the NPS's proposal that the river corridor be disgnated by Congress as "potential wilderness" under the Wilderness Act of 1964 (which remains outstanding today).
In February 2006, the NPS issued a new CRMP that revised and updated the previous river management plan developed in 1980 and revised in 1981 and 1989. The new CRMP is based upon a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) issues in November 2005, which evaluated a range of alternatives for the identified issues, cinluding overall visitor use levels, allocation of use between profesisonally-guided and outfitted (i.e., commercial) and self-guided (i.e., noncommercial or "private") user groups, levels of motorized use, and visitor use management options. The EIS also evaluated impacts to natural and cultural resources, visitor experience and wilderness character, and social and economic effects.
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