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Increased Visitation Stressing Grand Canyon’s Remote Areas


Officials at Grand Canyon National Park want to change how the public accesses the area’s backcountry. They say increased visitation is stressing park resources and the canyon’s environment. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The park’s plan would limit the size of backpacking groups in some of the most remote areas of the canyon, like Hance Creek and Nankoweap. It would also restrict some commercial guiding.

About 37,000 people every year spend the night below the rim in more than a million acres of backcountry. And about 1,500 people a day hike the canyon’s most popular trails during the busiest times of the year.

Officials say that’s put the desert environment and archaeological sites at risk. It’s also spiked the demand for search and rescue and medical services.

“This plan is really recognizing our wilderness resources and managing to preserve that wilderness character,” says Linda Jalbert, wilderness coordinator for the park. “We’re not closing off any new areas, we’re just really looking at a different management strategy to better protect those areas.”

Jalbert says permit requests for technical canyoneering have also increased in recent years. The park’s plan would monitor the effects of those activities.

The public has 90 days to comment on the backcountry proposal. Public meetings are planned Wednesday at the Grand Canyon and next Monday in Flagstaff. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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