Wilderness Public Rights Fund v. Kleppe
608 F.2d 1250 (9th Cir. 1979)

  • The National Park Service (NPS) did a study of the effects of boating on the Grand Canyon and concluded that there needed to be a limit on the number of boaters in order to preserve the environment.
  • NPS issued an interim rule freezing the number permits to 96,600 user-days per year. The study apportioned the permits between commercial operators (who took tourists down the river), and non-commercial, recreational boaters who went down the river themselves.
    • NPS gave 92% to the commercial operators, leaving only 8% to the non-commercial boaters.
    • Btw, before this case reached the Appellate Court, the NPS issued a final rule that gave 30% to the non-commercial boaters and 70% to the commercial operators.
  • The non-commercial boaters (organized into the WPRF) sued in two separate cases.
    • WPRF claimed that it was unfair that 92% of the permits went to tour companies, and that non-commercial boaters should get priority.
  • Both Trial Courts found for NPS. WPRF appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to the wording in the National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 3) and found that NPS has the responsibility to manage the National Parks.
    • The Court found that NPS had to balance the rights of the tour companies and the non-commercial boaters and allocating a percentage to each group was reasonable (aka not arbitrary and capricious).
      • The Court noted that the commercial operators did provide an important service since they allowed non-experienced boaters to enjoy the river.
    • Since NPS had changed their allocation, the Court chose not to decide whether the 92%-8% split had been unreasonable.