Backcountry access dispute heats up at Grand Canyon

The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has drawn the ire of avid backcountry users after a letter he sent to the chairman of the Havasupai Tribe popped up online.

In it, he offered to seasonally allow just one permit a week into a piece of land that covers some 90,000 acres of remote wilderness off the South Rim. The Great Thumb area borders tribal lands and is only accessed by traveling through Havasupai boundaries, with a 40-minute drive on dirt roads from Tusayan.

The area offers pristine hiking and some of the best canyoneering within the park.

Federal law required the National Park Service and the tribe to negotiate access to the land, which was half of the 1975 expansion of Grand Canyon National Park. But that never happened.

And now backcountry users say they are upset not only because they believe their access is being limited, but because the process was carried out in private.

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