Havasupai Tribe Halts Guided Trips Into Canyon

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The Havasupai Tribal Council has temporarily discontinued third-party guide services to Havasupai falls, in part to review outfitter permits and how guides arrange for pack animals to carry supplies into the canyon. The decision, effective immediately, does not affect private permit holders, only third-party providers who offer their services to visitors. Hikers who have acquired a permit to the turquoise-colored falls and pools will still be able to make the trip.

Water flows from Mooney Falls, one of the Havasupai waterfalls.(Photo: Pat Shannahan/The Republic)

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The Havasupai Tribal Council has temporarily discontinued third-party guide services to Havasupai falls, in part to review outfitter permits and how guides arrange for pack animals to carry supplies into the canyon.

The decision, effective immediately, does not affect private permit holders, only third-party providers who offer their services to visitors. Hikers who have acquired a permit to the turquoise-colored falls and pools will still be able to make the trip.

The northern Arizona hiking destination, near the southern boundary of Grand Canyon National Park, has gotten so popular that permits are difficult to come by. For some people, the only way to enjoy the falls was to go through an outfitter.

About 300 permits are issued each day to make the 10-mile trek into the canyon, drawing enough people that the tribe found it difficult to monitor outfitters.

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While hiking into Havasu Canyon to see the Havasupai waterfalls in April, Katie Migliavacca said she encountered underweight pack animals with open sores and their skin rubbed raw. (Photo: Katie Migliavacca)

Some hikers began to complain of pack-animal abuse they witnessed on the trail. Complaints have increased recently about horses struggling under the weight of large coolers or camping equipment. Some hikers have posted pictures online of horses that appeared to have been injured.

“The Tribal Council is doing this in order to preserve the campground and trails for the betterment of the tribe and the thousands of tourists that visit Havasupai Falls each year,” tribal Chairman Don E. Watahomigie said in a written statement.

Abbe Fink, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said the council will review the permitting process to get a better understanding of how outfitters are operating. Although all of them obtained proper permits, some were “making private arrangements for the transport.”

New regulations will address group size, permit fees and private pack-animal reservations, which will go through the tribe’s tourism office.

“We want to enhance the process in such a way that we can have a little more requirements in place,” Fink said. Some outfitters were able to buy permits in bulk, making it more difficult for individual hikers to get them, so the tribe will review outfitter regulations during the suspension.

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“That’s the primary intent, to discourage those. And again, it’s temporary," Fink said.

Animals-rights activist Susan Ash, co-founder of the Stop Animal Violence Foundation, welcomed the news. Her group, and others, have complained about the treatment of animals on the trail.

“It’s somewhat mixed," Ash said. "The good news is that there will be fewer coolers and propane tanks being loaded onto the backs of abused animals.”

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The tribe said earlier in a statement that it believes the abuse was limited to a small number of outfitters.

About 640 people live in the village of Supai. The name Havasupai translates to “people of the blue green water,” according to the tribe, which makes much of its income through tourism.

Republic reporter Alden Woods contributed to this article. 

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Source : http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2016/07/14/tribe-halts-guided-trips-havasupai-falls/87109928/

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