Raft Trip Leader Fined for Dumping in Grand Canyon

Said scraps "would provide food for the fish"

Catching rafters dumping trash in the Colorado River can be difficult, a National Parks Service official says. (National Parks Service/Flickr)

A U.S. judge in Flagstaff ordered an Alaska man to pay $1,500 for routinely dumping food scraps* in the Colorado River and illegally collecting firewood during a 12-day rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park earlier this year.

The man, 75-year-old Nels Nicholas Niemi, is also on the hook for nearly $1,000 in court costs, bringing the total penalty to about $2,500. Niemi was leading a noncommercial rafting trip and was well aware of the rules of the river, Arizona officials say. Niemi told one of the rafting participants that the trash he dumped “would provide food for the fish,” reports the Arizona Republic. The penalties against him are a reminder that the rules of the park “will be vigorously enforced,” said U.S. Attorney John Leonardo in a statement.

Arizona officials say Niemi was employed by a commercial expedition company that advertised itself as a proponent of the “Leave No Trace” principle, but declined to name the company.

There were more than 97,600 noncommercial users of the Colorado River last year, according to the National Park Service. Enforcing rules against trash dumping in national parks is generally “pretty hard,” Grand Canyon National Park Law Enforcement Specialist Laura Van Inwagen told the Arizona Republic.

*An earlier version of this story stated that Niemi dumped trash in the Colorado River, while he dumped food scraps. The headline was also changed to reflect that Niemi was not acting as a certified guide on the trip.

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