The dynamics and narrative arcs of the Core Team collaboration from 2000-4 are both inspiring and instructive. Set up within a formal framework, the series of 20+ meetings provided solid evidence that a multi-agency forum could coordinate constructively a range of matters related to a limited but highly important area of Grand Canyon management. The meetings were more important as a kind of switching center for information, discussion, and direction rather than as a place for decision and action. Negotiation and action were usually carried on by joint committees appointed as issues arose. What is striking is how the Core Team provided a face-to-face venue where the three entities had to deal with each other's realities -- interests, concerns, restrictions, etc. And personalities. Given that the principals of all three remained unchanged over almost five years of effort, it may be that this experiment was dependent on that particular mix of individuals. Certainly, the introduction of a new Hualapai Tribal Chair in the June 2004 session seems to have altered the tenor of the discussion. Had the meetings continued, perhaps this would have appeared only as an adjustment. However, there was only one more held in 2004. The three-meeting resumption in 2007-8 has no significant public documentation, and only Lake Mead provided continuity to the previous successful series.
(Note: The detailed summaries are in an accompanying, very long, post of this date, titled "Hualapai - NPS Core Team Meetings, Summary".)
From one angle, the Core Team experiment was unfairly timed and burdened. It coincided with the development by Grand Canyon National Park staff of a new CRMP with its EIS. On the one hand, this meant that river business as usual was over-shadowed; on the other, it meant that the stakes were set at their highest. In the event, the participants apparently were able to use the Core Team forum to advance joint work on the CRMP, along with setting templates for dealing with the details and on-going matters of river traffic management. If the success achieved in 2000-4 was in fact due to the three leaders (Hualapai Chair Benson and Sup'ts Dickinson & Alston), then they and their staffs of the time should be given a round of applause, even if their success did not become a model for continuing the collaboration. If, however, there really did develop a dynamic that brought the parties into a solid, convincing, productive web of relationships, then perhaps this review will stimulate discussion of how to try again.
Existence of such a dynamic apparently was the assumption of those who tried in late 2007 to re-start. I cannot know now why that attempt led to only two meetings, but until there is further information on the 2005 and 2008 terminations indicating some major flaw in the idea of collaboration, I will continue to think that the 2000-4 meetings can be pronounced a success that should inspire a new attempt. Since the CRMP implementation started in the 2006 season and has been on-going for six years, this period might have seemed ideal for the development of a permanent work-a-day collaboration. That conclusion is only strengthened given that the Navajo -- with a geographic relationship to the Park similar to that of the Hualapai -- have recently indicated their interest in river business. Well, the opportunity for 2006-11 has passed on; perhaps 2012 is an appropriate moment to explore the pros and cons of trying collaboration again.
Introduction and Overview
What follows is a condensation, a sort-of story, of a condensation of condensations. That is, the original minutes were themselves often sketchy and indicative, not full recordings of the proceedings. Naturally, the tenor of the conversations, the tensions and relaxations of joint work over a period of years, rarely comes out. From these official, approved, summaries, I extracted what I thought was the meat of the discussions. So my extracts of the minutes' summaries leave out, for instance, boiler-plate and process reporting. Nevertheless, mine is a quite long document. Therefore, for this post, I have compressed my extracts into short highlights, again trying to provide for the flow of affairs and my characterizations of events.
Abbreviations and shortcuts are rife. HT is Hualapai Tribe. Park is Grand Canyon National Park. LM is Lake Mead National Recreation Area. NPS refers to both of those. Of course, what is meant that the speaker has that affiliation, and is taken to be speaking officially. CRMP = Colorado River Managment Plan (a terrible misnomer; it only covers the river under the Park's jurisdiction and it is a traffic management plan, not covering resources). FOIA, EPA are from the usual political discourse. PWC stands for nasty, noise-making skidooish things.
To start, there was a
Feb 2000: "Brainstorm discussion" was held to set up three-way meetings.
Mar 2000: Parties were checking each other out as to seriousness and willingness to engage. Moratorium request by NPS seems to imply that it worried about HT activity and its impact on river and traffic. However, all HT parties, including Resort Corp, seemed willing to engage. Positioning was for discussion not contention.
May 2000: This meeting gives the picture of cooperation as being that HT will line up with NPS ways of doing things. Suggests that NPS got very worried all of a sudden about the growth in HT. Was there a carrot/stick?
Jun 2000: This meeting threw into sharp focus the different approaches of the three participants. LM & HT proposals pushed for an expansion of recreation-area type zone. The Park responded with a re-statement of its interest in wilderness management (part-year commercial motors excepted) above Diamond. The negotiating ground seemed to be set by not disturbing the Park's river arrangements, and the Park willing to discuss an upriver movement of LM & HT activities.
The list of items to investigate together featured: sharing use information, setting carrying capacities for river and camps, starting the anything-goes zone from Quartermaster (zone 4) down, attempting fee sharing, issuing permits for film, science & education, and protecting the resource, Hualapai culture, & visitors.
Sep 2000: This meeting seemed far more subdued than June's. It spent its time on details and numbers. Again, the discussion seemed to be recognizing the park's concerns as paramount, e.g., dropping Separation as a zone boundary. The Memorandum of Agreement was finished so the two departing superintendents could be signatories.
Oct 2000: Zones and numbers were discussed. Although discussion about some HT offerings was active, the meeting reflected the dominance of the Park through the information it commanded, and its general position on projecting its version of river management and protection.
Jan 2001: The aspect of big brother chastising little brother is hard to escape. NPS had a gotcha on the helicopter dock and pounced. It then mis-stepped on legitimate HT request to EPA. HT got agreement that its tribal culture trips should be treated like administrative.
Apr 2001: HT had now approved the three sets of standards (on river running, helicopter spots, and emergency response) bringing them in line with NPS. Traditional hunting brought up; would require legislation. This was mostly a marking-time meeting, except for the Park asserting jurisdiction for law enforcement. LM says lake drop will cut out Pearce.
Jun 2001: They continue to work on the issues. Planning process brings out that NPS shows anxiety about HT working on its own. Tribal attorney seems to be pushing harder than HT members. A mystery issue was discussed.
Jul 2001: This meeting could be a sign of continuing to try to work together, or the difficulty of doing so. There was little substantive action, but HT was more assertive.
Nov 2001: CRMP dominated and seemed to energize discussion of working together and reaching consensus. HT has economic concerns. LM anxious to keep core team going. Park wants HT involved. Park all for cooperation & sharing; question is what will CRMP process require? Zones agreed to, with 3 & 4 below Quartermaster as multi-use sacrifice zone. Many committees have tasks: Leg'n on traditional hunting, law enforcement, fees and permits, monitoring, carrying capacity.
Mar 2002: CRMP major organizing focus, e.g., zones. Activities in them are laid out and questioned. Core Team committees working along.
May 2002: The pressure is on to use this forum to get HT influence in CRMP. Expectations are raised; park is willing. Also, operational matters come up; Park wants to consider Quartermaster stairway.
Jun 2002: HT pressing hard to be inside CRMP process, including honoraria and expenses. Park is considering how could HT be part of CRMP process? LM now beginning to deal regularly with dropping lake, and impact on river take-outs.
Aug 2002: HT continues pushing its role in CRMP, having joined in scoping, and now wanting $300,000 to analyze alternatives. LM talks of lake fall and effects; HT suggests road at Pearce; LM not positive. Cross policing, pushed by HT, appears unlikely.
Oct 2002: This meeting could be characterized as showing the process had reached the state of business as usual. Various matters were brought up and handled. A possible comparison could be made with the first meetings where NPS seemed to be trying to bring HT into line on river activity and regulation; more recently, HT has been pushing Park on CRMP participation.
Feb 2003: FOIA concerns voiced. Resource issues discussed. LM impacts now worrying HT; pushing Pearce road. HT in tighter on CRMP. A meeting with significant content.
May 2003: A meeting heavy with substance, although it seems more of positioning than resolution. Field trip down Diamond to river. The situations at Diamond, Quartermaster, and Lake Mead landing spots are separate, but influence each other. The appearance now is of HT pushing their agenda, while Park is tied up in the CRMP. LM, focussed on dealing with dropping lake levels, and Park are receptive to HT worries about economic impacts. No indication of basic difficulty, the discussions as reported indicate an atmosphere of listening and trying to work on problems. It is not clear why the situation at Whitmore had not been previously addressed in the CRMP process. However, the field trip down Diamond and subsequent discussion indicate that, indeed, NPS is not aware of these situations' details. A research permit incident and dock replacement also indicate that good intentions do not necessarily lead people to avoid unilateral actions. All of this may indicate the need for such meetings in order to get people's attention.
Jul 2003: Looks like the outfitters brought the Diamond exclusion period on themselves. Park's defense of them was inappropriate. Still, there are mixed indications as to how stiff HT wanted to be and whether they are able to act on their own. Quartermaster dock is a crucial matter; the Park doesnt like it, and the HT want it. will the Park go along? Park did push on research, but conversation ameliorated stance. HT seems tougher. LM take-out a growing issue.
All in all, a significant meeting for whether this forum can succeed in the face of deeply felt needs or prerogatives.
Sep 2003: HT ahead on research permits and Diamond. Aside from the on-going eye-balling over the dock, this was a mark-time meeting, indicating what could be expected at times as to how such a process would work if it were permanent.
Jan 2004: An even smoother meeting, with positive reflections from HT & LM. Business as usual format. HT continue pressure on Diamond and increases at Quartermaster.
Mar 2004: Although this too runs as a business-as-usual meeting, the HT are certainly using this as a place to push its agenda; looks like a 180 reversal from the 2000 start. HT even asked about individual Hualapai being granted a trip permit by HT.
Jun 2004: This meeting was an ambush of the Park by the HT, front by their attorney reading a letter written a month earlier by the outgoing chair. It is only explicable by internal politics of HT. The presentation and content were completely out of line with previous four years of relations. So were there HT factions? Why did Louise Benson write the letter? What did new chair Vaughn intend here by hiding behind lawyer's skirt? And to the point, did this HT action sabotage the process so that it was junked by Park, or …? So we have to end with a mystery. Here are the six issues in the letter, written by previous chair and read by attorney: HT
1. wanted to look at concession contracts;
2. asked Secretary for an allocation from Lees Ferry down;
3. forbade any discussion of copter use at Whitmore in CRMP;
4. demanded Lower Gorge alt. 5 must be selected in CRMP as Park's preferred, to protect land and water rights of HT;
5. asked Park to help enforce 7-10 a.m. ban on take-outs, to regulate road problems;
6. insisted there be cross-permits for HT land. Park should collect permits and fees.
Oct 2004: meeting held; minutes not released.
Sep 2007: But in 2007-8, there was another attempt, with a new Park sup't & HT chair. Three meetings were held; minutes (stating good, bland intentions) only for first, then silence.