Record of Decision; Final Environmental Impact Statement/General Management Plan; Grand Canyon National Park; Coconino and Mohave Counties, AZ

Summary

Pursuant to Sec. 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the regulations promulgated by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1505.2), the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, has prepared a Record of Decision on the Final Environmental Impact Statement/General Management Plan for Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino and Mohave Counties, Arizona. This Record of Decision is a concise statement of what decisions were made, what alternatives were considered, the basis for the decision, and the mitigating measures developed to avoid or minimize environmental impacts.

Full text

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

National Park Service


Record of Decision; Final Environmental Impact Statement/General 
Management Plan; Grand Canyon National Park; Coconino and Mohave 
Counties, AZ

    Summary: Pursuant to Sec. 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 and the regulations promulgated by the Council on 
Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1505.2), the Department of the Interior, 
National Park Service, has prepared a Record of Decision on the Final 
Environmental Impact Statement/General Management Plan for Grand Canyon 
National Park, Coconino and Mohave Counties, Arizona. This Record of 
Decision is a concise statement of what decisions were made, what 
alternatives were considered, the basis for the decision, and the 
mitigating measures developed to avoid or minimize environmental 
impacts.
    Decision: The National Park Service will implement the proposed 
general management plan for Grand Canyon National Park, as detailed in 
Alternative 2 of the Final General Management Plan and Environmental 
Impact Statement issued in July 1995. The draft plan and environmental 
impact statement was issued in March 1995. The proposal is described 
below as the Selected Action.
    Selected Action: The selected action is a comprehensive proposal 
for future management and use of the park, including a regional, 
ecosystem planning focus, park management zones, visitor experience, 
expanded provision of alternative visitor transportation services, 
interpretation planning, park operations, and park facilities 
development.
    Summary of Actions: The regional context of Grand Canyon National 
Park will be emphasized, and proposals for resource preservation and 
visitor use will take into account environmental effects on the park as 
well as the region. Planning outside the park will be done 
cooperatively, with an emphasis on disseminating information, 
preserving regional and park resources, and providing a quality visitor 
experience. The National Park Service will work jointly with adjacent 
entities to provide for many park needs outside park boundaries. A 
gateway information center, some community services, and up to 500 
employee housing units will be provided in Tusayan. The most 
appropriate locations for facilities will be considered in a regional 
context, taking into consideration principles of sustainable design and 
the need to preserve resources while providing for a quality visitor 
experience.
    Alternative modes of transportation (public transit, hiking, and 
biking) will be emphasized within the park. A primary orientation 
center and public transit hub will be constructed near Mather Point. 
From there several shuttle routes will provide efficient and quiet 
visitor transportation to Grand Canyon Village and other points on the 
South Rim. Visitor parking and a shuttle system will also be 
established on the North Rim.
    To minimize impacts on natural and cultural resources within the 
park, existing structures will be adaptively reused, and required new 
facilities will be built in previously disturbed areas wherever 
possible. The Kachina and Thunderbird lodges will be removed and the 
number and size of gift shops on the South Rim will be reduced. The RV 
campground and the existing helicopter base will be redesigned. Some 
disturbed areas will be revegetated.
    To ensure a quality experience, the number of visitors admitted to 
certain areas will be limited during peak visitation periods based on 
recommendations derived from a carrying capacity monitoring program. 
The methodology for determining use limits will be the same throughout 
the developed areas of the park; however, visitor use limits for 
specific areas will vary considerably, and visitor use may be limited 
sooner in some areas than in others. Day use on the South Rim and the 
corridor trails will not need to be limited during the life of this 
plan, provided the recommended alternative visitor transportation 
services are fully funded and operational; day visitation on the North 
Rim will be limited by the year 2005 or 2010, depending on the 
effectiveness of management actions; and day use at Tuweep may be 
limited during peak times. In areas where reservations become 
necessary, visitors will be able to obtain reservations ahead of time 
(their reservations will be checked at park entrances). A monitoring 
system will be established to measure resource impacts, facility use, 
visitor satisfaction, and levels of visitor attendance in each park 
developed area. The reservation system will be adjusted as needed.
    Summary of Impacts: A stable situation for the future will be 
provided for all the developed areas of the park, significantly 
improving management's ability to preserve and protect the natural and 
cultural resources, provide a high-quality visitor experience, and 
ensure quality living and operating conditions for park employees. Most 
development will in-fill on already disturbed areas. Historic 
structures will be adaptively reused, resource damage will be 
minimized, and local economies will be enhanced. Sustainable planning, 
design, and implementation will be encouraged within a regional 
context.
Alternatives Considered

No-Action Alternative--Existing Conditions / Ongoing Programs

    Summary of Actions: Unlimited day visitation would continue in all 
park developed areas, with nearly every visitor facility in developed 
areas of the South Rim continuing to be overcapacity during peak use periods. No major facilities would be 
built, and no major park functions would be relocated. Any required 
facility changes would be done in or adjacent to existing disturbed 
areas. The number of overnight accommodations, campsites, and all other 
visitor services remain the same in each developed area. Minor 
adjustments in management would be made to help reduce resource damage 
and to provide a safer visitor experience. Planning would be focused 
inside the park, primarily to solve existing problems. Issues related 
to planning and land management practices in areas immediately outside 
the park would be handled individually as the need arose, without an 
overall area vision or cooperative regional planning effort to guide 
the direction. Limited cooperative planning to distribute regional 
information to visitors would occur.
    Summary of Impacts: Uncontrolled growth would continue within the 
park, with only limited improvements to visitor services. Damage to 
natural and cultural resources would continue to worsen, and the 
visitor experience would become degraded. Communication with visitors 
to help them plan their trip so they could have a quality experience in 
the park would continue to be minimal, resulting in negative 
experiences for park visitors. Extensive quantities of substandard 
housing would remain, along with an ever-increasing shortage of park 
housing, forcing more and more employees to find housing in adjacent 
areas, perhaps long distances from the workplace. The lack of 
operational space would become severe, reducing employee effectiveness. 
Over the long term the economy of the area could be damaged due to the 
worsening image of Grand Canyon National Park and the poor visitor 
experience.

Alternative 1--Minimum Requirements

    Summary of Actions: Unlimited day visitation would continue in all 
developed areas of the park until visitor congestion, resource damage, 
and public safety warranted restricting access during peak visitation. 
This would be accomplished by implementing reservation systems based on 
the capacity of existing parking and eating facilities on the South and 
North Rims. Regional information programs would explain the park's 
reservation systems to visitors. Overnight accommodations would not be 
affected. Visitor use at Tuweep and on the corridor trails would not be 
limited under this alternative.
    Existing land use patterns would be retained--no major facilities 
would be built, no major park functions would be relocated, and most 
park facilities would remain where they are now. A few minor facilities 
would be added. Any required facility changes would be done in or 
adjacent to existing disturbed areas. Planning would be focused inside 
the park, primarily to solve existing problems. Issues related to 
planning and land management practices in adjacent areas outside the 
park would be handled individually as the need arose, without an 
overall area vision or integrated regional planning effort to guide the 
direction.
    Summary of Impacts: Park resource damage and a worsening visitor 
experience at Grand Canyon would be alleviated by limiting the number 
of people visiting developed areas on the North and South Rims at any 
one time. Tuweep would continue to experience uncontrolled use, 
possibly leading to deteriorated natural resources and a degraded 
visitor experience over the long term. Some impacted areas would be 
rehabilitated, helping to restore resources within the park. The 
visitor experience would improve compared to the no-action alternative 
because fewer people would be competing to use facilities. However, 
visitors would continue to be frustrated by not being able to easily 
find places they want to see. Information, orientation, and education 
about park themes would remain ineffective because of inadequate and 
poorly located facilities. Visitors would not be well distributed 
throughout the park, reducing the number of people who could enjoy the 
park at any one time, and more and more visitors would be turned away.
    An increasing number of employees would not be able to live in the 
park, and many would have to find their own housing, often over an hour 
from the park. Housing in some developed areas would be improved, and 
the need for additional housing would be reduced by limiting 
visitation. Some improvements would occur outside the park due to NPS 
assistance to outside entities for regional visitor information. 
However, many park problems would fall to regional entities, for 
example, visitors parking outside the park and using private transit 
services to enter the park, disappointed visitors being turned away at 
the gate, and housing for park employees.

Alternative 3--Reduced Development Within the Park

    Summary of Actions: Alternative 3 would emphasize the preservation 
of park resources by placing all new facilities and relocating many 
existing functions outside the park. Cooperative regional planning 
would ensure that NPS functions occurring outside park boundaries 
demonstrated environmentally sensitive planning and design. The 
National Park Service would expand its regional information services, 
as described for alternative 2. On the South Rim all day visitor 
vehicles would be removed, and a major public transit system would be 
provided. No new lands within the park would be disturbed, and historic 
uses of existing structures would be retained wherever possible. 
Overnight accommodations would be reduced on the South Rim but 
increased on the North Rim by adaptively reusing historic structures. 
Planning for the park would be done in a regional context to minimize 
negative impacts resulting from park uses being placed in areas outside 
the park. Communications would be expanded, as described for 
alternative 2. Wherever possible, facilities placed outside the park 
would be clustered in disturbed areas and linked to existing systems. 
Alternative modes of transportation would be emphasized regionally as 
well as in major high use areas of the park, the same as alternative 2.
    Summary of Impacts: There would be an emphasis on preserving 
natural and cultural resources within the park, and many park disturbed 
areas would be rehabilitated. The visitor experience within the park 
would be highly controlled on the South Rim, and strict limitations of 
the number of visitors on the North Rim and at Tuweep would force many 
visitors to plan far in advance to experience those areas. Many more 
acres would be disturbed outside the park than any other alternative as 
a result of park-related facility development; services, housing, and 
operational facilities within the park would be limited. Many visitors 
would be inconvenienced since no private vehicles could be driven 
through the park.

Alternative 4--Increased Development Within the Park

    Summary of Actions: Alternative 4 proposes actions to improve 
visitor convenience by placing major park visitor services inside the 
park wherever reasonable and by distributing visitors throughout the 
developed areas of the park. No day use limitations would be 
established unless the visitor experience was being significantly 
degraded. The type of vehicular use allowed in some areas would be 
restricted, and high use areas would be accessible only by transit 
vehicles or hiking or biking (the same as alternative 2); other developed areas would be accessible by 
private vehicles. Overnight accommodations would be increased in all 
developed areas on the North and South Rims by constructing some new 
facilities and adaptively reusing existing structures. New facilities 
would be placed either in or adjacent to disturbed areas. Planning 
outside the park would emphasize regional information, as described for 
alternative 2. Cooperative planning with outside entities would focus 
on disseminating information, providing trip planning assistance, and 
distributing visitor use.
    Summary of Impacts: Allowing all visitors to enter the park and 
developing facilities to accommodate their needs would result in 
continuing resource damage. This alternative would produce more 
resource impacts inside the park than any alternative and would set a 
precedent for continued resource impacts in the future. The greatest 
resource impacts would be caused by widening roads and developing 
additional parking. Visitor convenience would be significantly 
enhanced. Park operations and development would continue to expand to 
meet visitor demand. After 2010 the visions and management objectives 
for the developed areas might not be attainable due to the increases in 
facilities and visitors. Impacts to regional resources would increase 
over the long term as a result of growth inside and outside the park to 
meet visitor needs. Due to ever-increasing needs for park construction, 
new employee housing, and larger visitor facilities, the regional 
economy would continue to increase.
    Basis for Decision: The selected action was formulated to address 
problems and management concerns related to the protection and 
preservation of natural and cultural resources, the provision of 
appropriate visitor experiences, and the fulfillment of identified 
management objectives. The management objectives reflect the park 
purpose, significance, and park area vision statements. They provide a 
standard against which progress on the implementation of the plan can 
be measured. The management zoning concept set forth in the March 1995 
draft plan (and refined in the July 1995 final plan) is adopted, which 
will enhance management's ability to direct future park actions in 
specific areas within the context of an overall management philosophy.
    The selected action also adopts the ongoing implementation plans 
within the park (for example, the Resource Management Plan, Backcountry 
Management Plan, Colorado River Management Plan, Fire Management Plan, 
and Land Protection Plan), and provides direction, through the 
management objectives, for future revisions of those plans. The 
selected action provides for a monitoring program that will provide an 
appropriate park management presence and an adjustable, sustainable 
carrying capacity for people and vehicles in developed areas within the 
park with minimal disturbance to park resources.
    No protests or other comments were received on the final plan and 
environmental impact statement during the 30-day no action period that 
the document was available to the public.
    Environmentally Preferred Alternative: Alternative 2 is the 
environmentally preferred alternative. It balances the statutory 
mission of the National Park Service to provide long-term resource 
preservation while still allowing for appropriate levels of visitor use 
and appropriate means or forms for visitor enjoyment. Within the range 
of alternatives presented in the plan, alternative 2 corrects the 
existing infrastructure deficiencies in the park and provides for the 
projected growth in visitation through the year 2010 by adaptive use of 
existing historical structures and provision of visitor transportation 
services other than private automobiles. A long-term monitoring program 
to determine appropriate use levels and carrying capacities within the 
developed areas of the park will be established to ensure protection of 
the natural and cultural resources of the park and to maintain a 
quality visitor experience.
    Alternative 2 also provides the best combination of long- and 
short-term regional economic and community proposals that will 
favorably affect the tourism industry and communities in northern 
Arizona and southern Utah. An emphasis in alternative 2 is to promote 
economic development in surrounding communities by not providing all 
tourist related facilities inside the park.
    Measures to Minimize Harm: All practicable measures to avoid or 
minimize environmental impacts that could result from implementation of 
the selected action have been identified and incorporated into the 
selected action. These include, but are not limited to, protection of 
viewsheds and wilderness values, and natural resources including the 
protection of populations of threatened plant species in the developed 
zone. As specific aspects of the selected action are further developed 
or implemented, the National Park Service will consult with the Fish 
and Wildlife Service regarding threatened or endangered species. Also 
impacts to the integrity of historic properties, ethnographic 
resources, and archeological sites will be avoided or minimized. A 
programmatic agreement has been signed by the Arizona State Historic 
Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and 
the National Park Service which provides a framework for further 
consultation and discussion when implementing the selected action.
    Conclusion: The above factors and considerations warrant selecting 
Alternative 2, identified as the proposed action in the draft document 
(and as modified in the final general management plan and environmental 
impact statement). Additional copies of the approved Record of Decision 
may be obtained from the Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, 
P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. The officials responsible for 
implementing the selected action are the Field Director, Intermountain 
Field Area, National Park Service and the Superintendent, Grand Canyon 
National Park.

    Approved: August 21, 1995.
Stanley T. Albright,
Field Director, Pacific West Field Area.
[FR Doc. 95-21964 Filed 9-1-95; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-70-P  

Loading most recent entriesloading

Feedback