Commercial Use Authorization, Commercial Canyoneering

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Arches National Park has received a request to reissue a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA; formerly called an Incidental Business Permit) for guided canyoneering tours. Canyoneering is defined as cross-country travel involving occasional ascending or descending a rock formation utilizing rock climbing equipment. Canyoneering differs from technical rock climbing, which is defined as ascending or descending a rock formation.

This CUA would be issued issued in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 5.3), which states that "engaging in or soliciting any business in park areas, except in accordance with the provisions of a permit, contract, or other written agreement with the United States, except as such may be specifically authorized under special regulations applicable to a park area, is prohibited."

The CUA would permit a commercial tour company to continue to offer guided canyoneering trips in the Fiery Furnace, Lost Spring Canyon, Petrified Dunes, and the Rough and Rocky Mesa/Park Avenue areas of the park. Canyoneering trips involve descending (rappelling) and ascending ropes to access canyons, using harnesses, ropes, carabiners, descenders, ascenders, webbing, helmets, and other climbing equipment. These areas are not accessible by developed trails. Visitors may need to step carefully to avoid disturbing cryptobiotic soil crust and sensitive plants.

The number of trips permitted per year is not currently limited under this CUA. In recent years this tour company has conducted 50-120 trips per year in the park, with group sizes averaging less than 5 people per group. Periodic monitoring by the park to date has not detected environmental impacts attributable to this activity.

The NPS Director's Order 12 Handbook identifies categories of activities, known as "categorical exclusions," which generally have minimal or no environmental impacts, and thus for which neither environmental assessments nor environmental impact statements are required. "Incidental business permits (formerly called commercial use licenses) involving no construction or potential for new environmental impact" are included in this list (section 3.4A6), so an environmental assessment has not been developed to assess this proposal. The park would continue to moniter the effects of this activity and would take additional action if impacts become evident.

The park intends to manage commercial canyoneering under interim CUAs, reviewed annually, until it can develop a new Commercial Visitor Services Management Plan. Long term decisions regarding the issuance of CUAs for this activity will be made when the park develops a new Commercial Visitor Services Management Plan.
This CUA would expire at the end of 2008 If requested, the park would consider whether to reissue the permit after that.

Contact Information

Chief Ranger Denny Ziemann (435) 719-2120

Supervisory Park Ranger Karen McKinlay-Jones (435) 719-2220