Yesterday, conservation-oriented paddlers presented their case against the US Forest Service regarding the agency's illegal paddling ban on 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River in a federal district court hearing. The full line-up of regional paddling clubs and national organizations (ACA and AW) were present and were represented by superb pro-bono legal council.
Life-long Chattooga River paddler Bruce Hare offered moving testimony on the value of the Chattooga River and the irreparable impacts of the boating ban. Pro bono council offered compelling legal arguments focused on the agency's admitted violation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the agency's futile and flawed process. Just last week the USFS formally cancelled their five year attempt to conduct a user capacity analysis and reach a new decision. They announced that they are starting the multi-year process over. Council for the Agency confirmed in court that this new process could take years and would likely result in a continuation of the boating ban.
The hearing was focused on motions to dismiss the paddler's case, and on the paddlers' request for a preliminary injunction that would immediately require legal and nationally consistent management of the Chattooga River. The Honorable Judge J. Michelle Childs heard roughly four hours of arguments and testimony, and stated that she would issue a decision at a later date.
The Upper Chattooga River is a Wild and Scenic River that passes through a Wilderness Area in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Paddlers have sought protective, legal, and nationally consistent management of the Upper Chattooga river since at least 1995.