Yesterday, national and regional conservation-oriented paddling organizations submitted comments on the US Forest Service’s 489-page Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding recreation on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. Also joining the comments were three individuals that enjoyed paddling the river prior to the controversial 1976 paddling ban. The same groups and individuals are engaged in federal litigation against the Forest Service over the agency’s unlawful mismanagement of the river.
The comments highlight the many ways in which the Forest Service’s EA violates the Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Environmental Policy Act, agency policies, and a 2005 order from the Washington Office of the Forest Service outlining what the EA should contain.
Based on a decade of challenges by the conservation-oriented paddlers, the Forest Service finally proposes in the EA to actively manage sprawling user created trails and campsites, to set capacities for all visitors (except paddlers), to monitor recreational use, and to adaptively manage use using the appropriate river management practices. Unfortunately, the EA fails to appropriately consider paddling, exotic trout stocking, and the management of the river’s tributaries and uppermost section.
The EA clearly reveals that its authors now understand how to do the right thing, but are choosing not to. The result of their choice will continue to be an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars, unnecessary controversy, the distraction and fracturing of the environmental community, and in all likelihood yet another overturned or withdrawn decision.
Download and read the comments of conservation-oriented paddlers from the box to the right of this article.
Comments of conservation-oriented paddlers on the 2011 Chattooga Environmental Assessment.