Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BMP & DEIS: Comment on Park Access Across the Havasupai Reservation Addition

Comment on Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Management Plan, 
with respect to Access to the Park Across the Addition to the Havasupai Reservation
January 15, 2016

Jeffrey Ingram        
Tucson, Arizona
In passing the 1975 Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act, Congress created a singular ownership/management arrangement for the south side of the central portion of the Grand Canyon (river miles 116.5 to 164.5). Subject to fierce debate, capping a near century-long struggle by the Havasupai, the 1975 Act mandated a complex compromise of the desires of National Park advocates and the Havasupai, an arrangement that envisioned a permanent relationship between the Havasupai, the National Park Service, both under the aegis of the Secretary of the Interior, and the public.

The compromise recognized: 
the 1882 Havasupai Reservation; 
a 185,000-acre addition to that Reservation; 
to the north and east of the addition, the National Park; 
and between the Reservation addition and the Colorado River, a 95,300-acre zoning of the Park labelled the Havasupai Use Lands, which parkland the Havasupai were permitted to use for “grazing and other traditional purposes”, subject to Secretarial “reasonable regulations” to protect the lands’ scenic, natural, and wildlife values. The reasonable regulations covering the Havasupai Use Lands were worked on between Park Service and the Havasupai in the late 1970’s, resulting in a Memorandum of Understanding referred to in the BMP as being finalized on 20 Sep 1982.
  The boundary between the Reservation addition and the Use Lands in the Park was set by the 1975 Act to be ¼-mile back from the outer gorge rim, roughly paralleling the course of the Colorado.

The addition was made subject to seven provisions; these three are pertinent:
  (7) except for uses specified in the Act, the addition was to remain “forever wild”;
  (4) the Secretary, in consultation with the Havasupai, was to develop a Land Use Plan which shall not be inconsistent with, or detract from, park uses and values. This plan was to be subject to public review and hearings, and submission to Congress. Any plan revisions shall be subject to the same procedures. (The Secretarial Land Use Plan was effective January 1982; it has not been revised.)
  (6) In order to visit Park land adjacent to the addition, nonmembers of the tribe shall be permitted to have access across the addition at locations established by the Secretary in consultation with the Tribal Council; 
  (6) A second part of this provision, applying only to the addition, says that with the consent of the tribe, nonmembers may be permitted to enter and temporarily utilize for recreation purposes addition lands in accordance with the approved Secretarial land use plan. This provision does NOT affect lands in, or use of, any part of the Park; it was included to remove any doubt that the Havasupai could provide remunerated recreation services for visitors on their addition. This provision is not involved in any determination of  park uses covered by the Park’s Backcountry Plan.

BMP DEIS is wrong: Beaver Falls is in the Park, not the Havasupai Reservation

Comment on Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Management Plan, 
with respect to error in DEIS on Havasupai Reservation boundary  
January 1, 2016

Jeffrey Ingram        
Tucson, Arizona

On page 188 of the DEIS for the proposed Grand Canyon National Park BMP, the following paragraph appears under the general headings “Adjacent Lands”,  “Tribal Lands” (my underlining):

Havasupai Reservation 
The 188,077-acre Havasupai Reservation is located within, and along the rim of, Grand Canyon. The reservation is most commonly accessed via Route 66 and Indian Road 18 to Hualapai Hilltop. The reservation can also be reached by Forest Road 328 which departs Highway 64 near between Tusayan and the park’s South Entrance Station. The reservation can also be reached from the river by hiking up Havasu Canyon approximately four miles. Day hikers often venture onto tribal land to enjoy Havasu Creek’s spectacular waterfalls, although the hike is a relatively long one: eight miles round-trip to Beaver Falls, 12 miles round-trip to Mooney Falls, 14 miles round-trip to Havasu Falls, and 18 miles round-trip to Supai village. A permit and associated fee is required to access Havasupai tribal land. As resources allow, the tribe stations personnel at reservation boundaries to ensure compliance, and NPS personnel inform park visitors of the required fee. Camping within the reservation is permitted only in designated campgrounds. 
The implication of the underlined portions of this NPS-composed description of the “Havasupai Reservation” is that Beaver Falls is inside and part of that Reservation.

It is not.

Beaver Falls was retained by name within the National Park when the Reservation was enlarged by the 1975 Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act, P.L. 93-620.

Beaver Falls is explicitly part of Grand Canyon National Park; it is not Havasupai land, and they have no power to issue permits or charge fees for a visit to Beaver Falls coming upstream.

Amazingly, An Updated Park Service Plan for Managing GCNP Wilderness — oops, Backcountry


The NPS administration at Grand Canyon National Park has published an updated Back-Country Management Plan (BMP) with its Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The documents are available now, during the public comment period, here. The comment period runs until the 4th of March, and the website has links to the summary and to the full DEIS, as well as to the page where the public can send in comments. 

The 25-year (and more) period with no updated BMP included a tangle of political and administrative actions, misfires, and egos. A devoted reader can get a sketch of events by checking out the Index references in my Hijacking A River: A Political History of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (See

Needless to say the years since the Park boundary was expanded in 1975 have seen many changes in the amount and character of Canyon visitation. The BMP, for instance, deals with hiking along the Canyon by hopping on and off boat trips, canyoneering, and speed-tripping across the Canyon. There are thousands more experienced individuals now who feel they have a stake in and a sound basis for commenting on the rules NPS wants to promulgate to guide backcountry users’ impact on the Canyon.