March 2012 Update

The Chaco General Management Plan Amendment Environmental Assessment (EA) has been published. April 9, 2012 is the last day for receiving comments. As indicated in the August 2011 Update, the plan relies on David Evans and Associates visitation projections which are incorrect. These projections must be corrected before the EA has any validity. The park was made aware of the blatant factual errors in the document over two years ago, but has chosen to use it without correction (see Chaco Alliance Response to 2009 NPS Visitation Study below). The Evans document vastly underestimates the effects of any additional paving (chip-sealing) on visitation, thereby encouraging future attempts to pave the road and undercutting many years of citizen/visitor input against paving. In addition, the new management plan would require mandatory visitor education and includes an automatic gate at the loop entrance; all put in place without regard for actual visitation increases. Group visitations per day would be limited, and future plans would place all visitors to the canyon on a reservation only basis. This last eventuality is downplayed in the EA using the incorrect visitation projections from Evans and Associates.
 The park claims that the threat of increased visitation from the prospect of paving CR7950 is the main fact that has brought about the proposed changes in the quality of the visitor experience as well as access. The purpose and need for this Environmental Assessment must be challenged. The NEPA process for the improvements for CR7950, the main access road to Chaco, has been on hold for years, and it appears that paving will not be the preferred alternative if and when the process begins again (Note that San Juan County might well use the incorrect, low visitation projections from the Evans document as underpinning for a new paving attempt). The EA uses the fact that Chaco is a World Heritage Site as a second reason for probable increases in visitation. Visitation has already been effected by this fact since Chaco has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. The EA asserts that a third reason visitation will increase will come from the commemorative quarter due to be released in April. There is no reason to believe that this action will substantially increase visitation.
 Please demand that the Evans and Associates projections be corrected, and that a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be undertaken because of the significant impact on visitor experience and access, and the arbitrary and capricious nature of the EA. Submit comments by clicking on open for comment, the plan name, then comment on document at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=21575
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Periodic Updates > March 2012 Update