Draft Flathead River Management Plan Released for Comment (MT)
Wild and Scenic Rivers get the benefit of a Comprehensive River Management Plan that ensures the managing agency protects the rivers' special values on behalf of the public. These plans should be updated regularly, and the Forest Service is now in the process of updating the plan for the forks of the Flathead River. The Forest Service has released a Proposed Actionwhich is essentially a partial draft plan for public review. After public comments are integrated they will produce a full Draft Plan and Environmental Assessment (analysis) in early 2020 which will also be open to public comment.
We encourage paddlers who care about the North, South, or Middle forks of the Flathead River to read the Proposed Action and submit a comment. The Forest Service proposes quite a few potential management actions based on their proposed encounter limits, including potentially lottery-based permits. Let them know if their encounter standards reflect your own opinions on how many people you could see in a day before you think use should be limited by permit.
American Whitewater has reviewed the Proposed Action and would like to see improvements made between now and the Draft Plan. We would like to see:
- Greater recognition of the unique recreational roles that the various reaches play because of their high quality and lack of lottery-permits, as well as their range of difficulty, accessibility, and character.
- More information on the current recreational use patterns and trends of all river corridor visitors, and the rationale for the encounter standards.
- Additional emphasis on non-recreation issues including timber harvest, road building, restoration activities, road dust and salt, land acquisition, and other activities that could affect the rivers' values positively or negatively.
- A more comprehensive approach to monitoring, managing, and supporting all forms of outdoor recreation in the river corridors rather than the current narrow focus on paddling.
- A clearer description of proposed management actions, and a stepwise plan for how they would be rolled out. Lottery based permits should generally be among the last options employed to limit use.