Grand Canyon’s reversal on ban of throwaway plastic water bottles shows power of private money over Park Service

Inevitable result of using private donations to make up for congressional funding shortfalls?

Tossing empty water bottles into the Grand Canyon is just the kind of thing people hate to see, but it happens all the time anyway. About a third of the trash is empty convenience water bottles.  As a result, the Park began the process of banning the use of these bottles in the Grand Canyon, the small retail ones anyway.  Just as the ban had nearly made its way through the long bureaucratic process of regulation making, the head of the National Park Service suddenly put the ban on hold so that “more information could be gathered.”

According to an expose in the New York Times, this sudden thirst for information came from Jon Jarvis, the head guy for the Parks after talking with Coca Cola who had given the NPS $13-million. Coca Cola makes Dasani bottled (in plastic) water. The sudden rejection of the ban came after over $300,000 had already been spent setting up free facilities for filling refilling water bottles.

It’s not like the Park Service went after a ban without consulting everyone they could think of, but according to the NYT , Jo A. Pendry,  head of NPS commercial services said, that Jarvis “reiterated his decision to have the Grand Canyon hold off on implementation” until “we have hosted a meeting with the major producers of bottled water.” [boldface mine],

The Park Service is perennially underfunded by Congress. This is nothing new except the magnitude of the underfunding. The Park Service, therefore, has from the beginning sought donations from the public, meaning donations large and small and from groups, including for profit businesses whose interests might not correspond to the mission for which the Service was created back in 1916.

If donations were nearly equally distributed from various competing interest groups and publics, private donations might be relatively benign. However, this never has been true. Members of Congress know that, just like they know campaign donor groups are not just a bunch of folks with a lot of public spirit. Of the two parties, the Republican Party has a much stronger record encouraging low government funding and also donations from those who are self-interested rather than public interested.

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My thanks go to Alan Gregory’s Conservation News, who made me aware of this story.




  1. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    I must be really naive because I always thought that the government was for the people and by the people and was the only large entity that would care about us and wildlife because they are not for profit. However, someone has allowed the government to starve the people and the park services and our tax dollars go somewhere else. . but having a smaller government is not the answer as it is only the government and the court which can protect us from the government. We just need people to vote out the system where politicians are bought and paid for instead of elected and vote out the ones who want to enrich themselves and their good buddies in industry and squeeze the habitat and hard working people to do so. I do not want our national parks to become “sponsored” by corporations! We can start by stopping believing in the “news” I just drove the length of Oregon and California and I have to say I saw no, or very little, physical evidence that the economy is suffering as the news continues to make us believe. Instead I saw new buildings, new cars, RV’s, boats, private airplanes, jet skiis, snowmobiles, and crowded restaurants and hotels and people spending lots of money where ever I looked. Just what is going on?

    1. IDhiker Avatar

      Linda Jo,

      I have wondered the same thing…

    2. Nancy Avatar

      +Just what is going on?+

      Good question Linda Jo. I asked a few friends (who I keep in touch with around the country) many months ago, if they personally knew of anyone recently out of work or struggling because of a layoff and I’ve gotten the same answer time and again – Nope.

      Do I just happen to know people (that just happen to know people) who manage to get by regardless of the state of the economy….. or has this country ( and our elected officials/ politicians) developed a new way of frightening us all into to thinking things are a lot worse off than what they actually are? Because of other more pressing agendas – like…….. in the blank”

    3. Elk275 Avatar

      ++Just what is going on?++

      Credit, Credit Cards,borrowed money!

  2. Rusty Williams Avatar
    Rusty Williams

    I was at and down in the canyon last week. They do have the free filling stations everywhere (even next to the bottled water case in the general store). The park service was pushing reusing all water bottles by using the filling stations. In the canyon I did not notice any plastic bottle type trash but I only used 2 trails and did not inspect the countless miles of the canyon.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      I have a fantasy that reports of what Coca Cola did causes people from the Internet to not buy their products at the Parks. Not likely I guess, but nowadays not completely impossible.

  3. Paul Avatar

    I do have to say that the NPS does the best that it can with the limited resources at their disposal. Every time I visit a park I do see some things that are disturbing (graffiti, litter, etc), but overall the staff appears to go above and beyond, at least where I have been. Of course their are exceptions, but I have never left a National Park or National Monument dissatisfied with the staff, or the effort that they put into their work. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of the money given to rancher subsidies, and Wildlife Services could be reallocated to the NPS? I doubt that would happen, but one can dream.

  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Here is another example of private concerns trumping public ones. I have posted a sad photo on my blog that I took today of a mule deer caught in a fence bordering government BLM ground east of Zion National Park. The fence is there to keep privatly owned cattle grazing on BLM ground from straying onto the highway.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Larry – I’ve seen this tragic situation repeated many times around here and too often by the time you find them and cut them out, they’ve done to much damage to recover.

      Asked a rancher just the other day why the fences have to be that high and she said “to keep the cows in” Forgive me but thats just plain “bull” We’ve had this discussion here before, cattle are not kown for their jumping abilities. Its the two top strands of barbwire (close together) that catch deer and elk.

      That kind of fencing (page wire) is bad enough on antelope, young deer, moose and elk because they can’t get thru it or go under it and then they make it worse by double stranding barbwire on the top of it.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      +I attempted to cut the wire with some small pliers I had, but I couldn’t cut the heavy wire+

      That happened to me Larry the first time I came upon a fawn caught in a fence, couldn’t cut thru the wire. (thankfully a neighbor came to help but we were both to late to save this fawn) Went to a local hardware store the next day and bought heavy duty wire cutters – They stay in my rig.

      1. IDhiker Avatar

        I learned that while working on sheriff’s patrol, to always have wire cutters for this exact reason. I’ve gotten calls to where even a mule was caught, and a spotted skunk. The skunk was caught in a tangle of wire and I released it unharmed. Needless to say, I was the butt of jokes around the department for a while, but the dispatchers thought I was a “hero.”

        One thing I would caution people on, is not to rush to judgement whether or not an animal can survive an injury, and then kill it. We had a whitetail doe that had a broken leg which healed such that she could not walk on it. She came to our back yard for three years to get some grain, and raised two fawns in that time.

        1. IDhiker Avatar

          On three legs.

        2. Nancy Avatar

          Unfortunately ID, the 3 deer I’ve cut out of fences so far (all fawns) the hip was dis-located and the damage from the barbwire to great (obvious they struggled for awhile)

          When I cut them loose, I hoped they’d manage to recover (I’d heard from a game warden that they sometimes do) but sadly, these babies didn’t.

  5. Paul Avatar

    Here is an article that I just read about possible cuts to the NPS courtesy of our tea slurping friends:

  6. Virginia Avatar

    I have used a reusable stainless steel bottle for my drinking water for several years – in fact the one I am presently using is one I ordered from the Buffalo Field Campaign in one of their fund raising events. I encourage my students and everyone I know to do the same. We all make a difference if we do the right thing! Besides it is better for you not to drink out of that plastic stuff.


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Ralph Maughan