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Call for Chattooga River Comments

Posted: 07/29/2011
by Kevin Colburn

Dear Paddler,

If you care about being able to enjoy rivers flowing through public lands, we ask that you submit a comment regarding the upper Chattooga River (NC/SC/GA), and to call your political representative. 

The Forest Service recently published a 500-page manifesto aimed at continuing the 35 year old ban on paddling the upper Chattooga.  The sole reason for excluding paddlers from the river is that the USFS claims the mere sight or thought of boaters on the river will ruin the outdoor experience for other river users.  Rather than discounting or limiting these few "zero-tolerance" visitors, the USFS instead bans paddling for their exclusive benefit.  Imagine the potential implications for other rivers if this justification prevails on the Chattooga, one of the best known Wild and Scenic Rivers in the country.  For 500 pages, your government classifies you as a second class citizen because you are a paddler, singling you out for harsh limits.   

The agency is essentially trying to invent a new management classification that excludes paddlers.  The problem for them is that the area is already protected as a Wild and Scenic River and as a Wilderness Area.  These designations protect your right to legally float our nations wildest rivers.  The USFS must not be allowed to redefine and weaken the Wilderness Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to exclude paddlers. 

The USFS preferred alternative would ban paddling on the uppermost and lowermost section of the upper Chattooga as well as the tributaries, and would allow 6 weeks of winter paddling on each of two additional sections.  The USFS estimates that this would result in 4-5 boatable days on each of the two sections each year, but their calculations are suspect.  Chances are there will be fewer real opportunities.  Paddlers wanting to run these sections will then be forced to visit the same section of the river on the same day, and the USFS anticipates using monitoring to trigger additional use limits or a total ban.  Given their interests, expect a ban. 

Please consider submitting a comment letter to the USFS telling them that:

  • Paddling should be allowed on all Wilderness and Wild and Scenic rivers, including the upper Chattooga.
  • Their preferred alternative (12) is not fair, legal, or justified.
  • Alternative 8 is the best and alternative but needs to allow paddling  on the entire upper Chattooga and its tributaries, should require indirect limits on all visitors before direct limits are applied, and should not include “scenic boating” or “boat-based angling” in the analysis. 
  • Paddlers should be able to paddle the entire river as a multi-day trip if desired.
  • Their analysis is not reasonable because they treat paddlers inequitably and irrationally. 

Also, please consider sending your Representative a message letting him or her know that the USFS is spending millions of dollars trying to ban the simple act of floating down a river, without any rational reason whatsoever.  Share how this decision impacts your life and your enjoyment of public lands.  Ask that they contact the USFS in support of paddling on the Upper Chattooga River. 

Check out the USFS Chattooga Page, the AW Chattooga Page, and learn how to file comments here or just send them an email at  Comments are due August 30, 2011**

While the USFS doggedly tries to support an unsupportable ban with a stunning quantity of words on paper, a team of conservation-oriented paddlers continues to sue them in federal court.  These efforts are challenging the agency’s attempts to redefine and weaken bedrock environmental legislation like the National Environmental Protection Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  Our goal is to bring protective and nationally consistent management to the Upper Chattooga River.


** On August 1, 2011 the USFS deadline for comments was extended 15 days to August 30th.


Associated Projects

Chattooga Headwaters (NC)
The US Forest Service has banned boating on the upper 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Associated Rivers