Paddlers Rally for River Protection in Western NC
The Forest Service recently released a great list of 53 rivers and creeks they view as potentially worthy of protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and asked for feedback. Numerous paddlers responded this week to share the exemplary values of the region's whitewater gems and to argue for full protection. With the comment period now closed the Forest Service will select a system of protected streams based on public comments and other information. We'll have a chance to comment on their selections in the spring, and will be asking paddlers to weigh in again.
American Whitewater submitted detailed comments in support of a roster of great creeks. To help facilitate paddler comments AW set up an interactive map of the potential streams and partnered with Outdoor Alliance on an online comment tool. We also attended public Forest Service meetings to answer questions about the commenting process, and informed the Forest Service's list of 53 rivers through previous efforts.
This week marked a major milestone in our efforts to protect Western North Carolina streams using the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. We would like to thank all the paddlers that attended a public meeting or wrote an email to the Forest Service. Thank You!
American Whitewater has been part of collaborative efforts to resolve forest planning issues in NC for the past 2+ years. We've presented on Wild and Scenic River opportunities and needs to diverse groups, and advocated for a sound process and significantly expanded system of protected rivers. So far we are happy with how things are going.
The Forest Service can only find rivers "eligible" for Wild and Scenic designation and offer them vital interim protection from dams and other impacts. Our vision is to secure these Agency protections for rivers through the current planning process, and to follow up with permanent Congressional designations on rivers where there is local and regional support.
Western North Carolina is unquestionably one of the hotbeds for paddling in the United States. The year-round season, highest mountains in the East, and crazy amounts of rainfall help ensure its status. Thanks to the knowledge and passion of the paddling community we are hopeful we are on a path to permanently protect some of the region's best whitewater rivers from future dam threats.