USFS Announces More Chattooga Delays (Again)
The USFS has announced another 6-month delay in creating a new plan for managing recreation on the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River. The announcement came in a certified letter to AW, in response to a letter AW sent the Chief of the USFS requesting an update and swift equitable resolution of this protracted issue.
In response to American Whitewater’s letter, the Washington Office simply stated that they
have granted the Sumter National Forest additional time to reach a new decision, with a deadline
of December 31st, 2008. Between now and December 31st, the USFS will
release their environmental assessment of the issue and then accept public comments prior to
reaching a decision. Follow-up contact with the USFS did indicate that progress is
being made towards a resolution.
The USFS conducted the first analysis of their boating ban (unique to the Chattooga) in the 2004 revised land and resource management plan for the Sumter National Forest. This analysis was challenged immediately by AW and in April of 2005 the Washington Office of the USFS granted our appeal of the renewed ban, agreeing that the analysis did not support a ban. The appeal decision also agreed that the ban violated the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and gave the Sumter National Forest 2 years to complete a user capacity analysis and issue a new, legal decision.
This April marked 3 years since the appeal decision, with no resolution in sight, and with the
USFS offering no information on the status of the process. During
this time the USFS has maintained the admittedly illegal boating ban, allowing only one boating
trip for the purposes of a study, while all other Wilderness compliant uses are allowed in
American Whitewater is disappointed that the Washington Office of the US Forest Service is allowing the Wilderness Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to be violated by their own agency for another six months. These delays impact the public that have senselessly been denied the simple act of floating down the upper Chattooga River for an entire generation.
Paddlers wishing to get involved or stay involved should write your Governor (if in NC, SC, or GA) as well as your senator and/or representative no matter where you live asking that paddlers be allowed to paddle the entire Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River – and soon.