My family has been backpacking in a certain southern Arizona wilderness area for the last 7 years. This area only allows a small number of permits each day, which have always been somewhat difficult to obtain. We noticed that REI is now providing extremely expensive guided trips there for up to 10 people, dramatically limiting the number of spots available to the general public. It looks like our annual pilgrimage is now in jeopardy to make way for profit driven recreation.
Has anyone else had issues with REI buying up precious permits to special places? I'd love to know if this is happening elsewhere. I am suddenly very interested in the election of REI board members.
Just curious, what is the area? I would think it is either the Superstitions or Grand Canyon.
I checked out the trips offered by REI and noticed that they are sponsoring trips to Canyon de Chelly, which in my estimation is an overlooked crown jewel in the national park system. Even more intrigued that they specify camping near Antelope House, which will guarantee a fabulous experience....
I haven't heard about this until you brought it up. REI is one element in this situation but I would also address concerns to the land managers that they should consider limiting commercial group permits. REI has never bothered to even acknowledge any concerns I've expressed over their practices so you'll likely have much better luck with the permit source than the permit hoarder.
Unfortunately everything in the Southwest(and really, the entire Park System) is becoming more popular/tougher to secure access to. It's not an issue unique to your secret corner of Arizona or REI. Been vacationing in the Southwest for the last 20+ years and it's crazy how much things have changed/gotten more crowded.
It's a double edged sword for public lands, more people recreating responsibly and enjoying our natural resources is a great thing but balancing that with sustainable use is hard and going to frustrate people, especially those of us who remember the "before times".
I haven't ever been a part of an REI Coop trip, but keep in mind that some of us would never be able to go at all if it weren't for organized outings. I live alone and have no one else in my life who shares my interest in backpacking. If I am to ever go on a trip, it will only be when I can join an organized trip. Just another perspective.
@rocrat thanks for raising this topic and giving us the opportunity provide a few details about REI trips!
In Southern AZ, where you mention your family likes to backpack, there is one backpacking destination where we host small groups that limits the number of permitted hikers/backpackers at 50 people per day. For this destination, BLM issues all permits and REI acquires our permits by the same process and timeline as an individual who wishes to explore in the region. Our groups include up to 10 people, including a guide, so on the days we host trips, we represent less than 20 percent of all entrants.
For the remainder of 2021, we have nine departures scheduled, equating to fewer than 100 people for the year and equating to less than two days in total as BLM issues 50 permits per day. In addition, at no time do we have more than one group in the region.
We hope you find this information helpful!