AW Wins Forest Service Appeals - Rivers to Benefit (ID & MT)
American Whitewater was recently notified that our appeals of the new Forest Plans for the Kootenai and Panhandle National Forests were successful. These forests, in northern Montana and Idaho respectively, contain incredible whitewater streams where paddlers might see grizzly bears, 10-foot white sturgeons, or even a caribou. The result of our successful appeals will almost certainly be the protection additional rivers and streams from hydropower dams and other threats.
Forest Plans must contain an up-to-date and well-documented inventory of rivers and streams that are eligible for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Whitewater, with our partner American Rivers for the Montana appeal, argued that the 2013 Forest Plans wrongly left many rivers unprotected based on a faulty analysis. The Washington Office of the US Forest Service agreed, and ordered the Forests to redo their rivers analysis and correct numerous errors.
Recognizing that the previous roster of eligible rivers left many unique and awesome whitewater steams unprotected, American Whitewater developed our own eligibility reports with our volunteers and partners, and shared them with the Forests early in the planning process. The Draft Plans came out in 2012 and continued to omit these great streams based on misunderstandings of law and policy, and a failure to appreciate the nationally significant values of the streams. American Whitewater and American Rivers pointed these errors out in comments and in a meeting with Forest Service staff in 2012. Much to our disappointment the 2013 Final Plans contained all the same errors, forcing us to appeal the decisions.
The new eligibility analysis will have to take a hard look at incredible streams including whitewater gems like Slate and Marble creeks, bull trout strongholds like the Wigwam River and Callahan Creek, and streams recently threated by hydropower development like Boundary and Boulder creeks. American Whitewater is confident that any legitimate analysis will find these streams and others eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. To be eligible a stream reach need only be free-flowing and possess one nationally or regionally significant value that is rare, unique, or exemplary. The Forest Service must protect the values of eligible streams.
American Whitewater looks forward to working with the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai National Forests on the new eligibility inventories. We work with Forests across the country to ensure the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is responsibly implemented, and that the most exceptional of our nation’s few remaining free-flowing rivers and streams are protected.