River Managers Discuss Common Pool Permit System on Deschutes (OR)

Posted: 11/14/2002
by Jason Robertson

November 14th, 2002 - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) river managers are meeting today to discuss the future implementation of new permits on Oregon's Lower Deschutes River. The proposed permit system is becoming controversial as outfitters fear the precedent of seeing the nation's first "Common Pool" permit system being implemented by a federal agency to manage recreational river use.

The idea behind a Common Pool permit system is that it is managed without allocating use between commercial outffiters and the public or private boaters. This means that the outfitters have no guarantee of a set amount of potential use or business, and that the public has no guarantee that the outfitters will not fill use via excessive advertising or marketing. The system has many proponents who argue that it is inherently "fair" and reflects business norms under the capitalist model. However, the system also has opponents who argue that it may have inadvertent consequences linked primarily to the financial viability of the commercial guiding industry.

On November 4th, the Bend Bulletin interviewed Steven Brutscher of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, "This is an issue of fairness, and it is time to level the playing field... Some outfitters might go out of business, but some businesses can't make it now. I don't know if this agency feels like we owe it to the guides to ensure that they have the right to have a business."

The Bend Bulletin article observed that

When officials wrote the 1993 plan, alcohol, drugs and lewd behavior were trademarks of the lower Deschutes party scene. Officials wanted to make the lower Deschutes more attractive to families and the general public, so they began cracking down on illegal activity. They also worked to distribute use along the river from the weekends to weekdays. By charging higher fees on the weekend, they urged more boaters to float during less busy times. They directed camping to developed campsites, required boaters to pack out their human waste in portable toilets and worked with outfitters to reduce overall guided use by 15 percent over a three- year period. The measures seemed to work.

Save for a spike in use in 1996, the number of people on the lower Deschutes each season has hovered around 125,000 since the early 1990s, Mottle of the BLM said.

Still, the debate rages as officials struggle to reach an agreement over a divisive set of questions: Do they abide by the 1993 agreement and limit boaters, even though the river conditions have improved? Or do they continue to focus on "non-permit" measures to keep the river users from ruining the river environment?

The BLM's press release from October 21, 2002 is posted below.

More information about the BLM's Common Pool proposal is available.

Lower Deschutes River Management Area News Release

Media Contacts:
Steve Brutscher Brian Cunninghame Tom Mottl
Oregon State Parks CTWS BLM
503-378-4168, ext. 235 541-490-2009 541-416-6859

Lower Deschutes River Managers Propose Boating Use Options

CENTRAL OREGON-A decision regarding possible implementation of a boating permit system on the Lower Deschutes River remains pending until river managers meet again on November 14, 2002. Managers from the Prineville Bureau of Land Management, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police and the Oregon State Marine Board, as well as representatives from local governments, met last week to discuss future management of the river. As a result of this meeting, three proposals were developed for consideration. "The three proposals vary from piloting a limited entry permit system on a segment of the river, to continuing with non-permit use or possibly amending the river management plan in lieu of introducing the limited entry permit system," said BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Tom Mottl.

The Lower Deschutes River Management Plan lays the groundwork for long-term protection of the river. The Plan was completed and signed by various governmental, tribal and nongovernmental representatives in 1993, with a permit system supplement issued in 1997. The plan is implemented under a cooperative agreement that was recently modified to include a representative of local governments on the managers' group and executive board. The cooperating agencies deferred implementing a limited entry permit system at an October 2001 meeting due to discrepancies in the boater use statistics. In the meantime, the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University has been working with the agencies to determine accurate boating use figures upon which to base their decision of whether a limited entry permit system should be implemented.

"While boating use levels currently exceed daily and seasonal boating use limits on some segments of the river, the overall use shows a flat to declining trend," said Prineville BLM District Manager Barron Bail. "We believe this is a direct result of recreation user groups working together with the managing agencies to alleviate pressure on the river, such as avoiding high use weekends."

Bobby Brunoe, General Manager for Natural Resources with The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs said, "While the trends in boating use levels are relatively stable, we are still very concerned about the impacts that high levels of boating use have on sensitive salmon and steelhead populations in the river. While the river is in better condition than it was 10 years ago, it is not has healthy as it should be. The Tribes are very committed to implementing the management plan that everyone agreed to," he added.

At the next scheduled river managers' meeting, boating use figures for the 2002 season will be available. The three proposals will be revisited and if consensus cannot be reached on choosing one of the proposals (or a viable alternative), the issue will be referred to the five-member executive board. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 9:30 am on November 14, 2002 at the Warm Springs Power Enterprises, 5180 Jackson Trail Road, Warm Springs, OR 97761.

Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349