Court Sides with Paddlers on Several Chattooga Issues
Two federal court decisions issued in recent days favor conservation-oriented paddlers and their efforts to require fair, legal, and protective management of the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River.
On February 16, 2012, the Honorable J Michelle Childs denied the Forest Service’s request to put the court case on hold. AW is pleased that the Court denied the Forest Service’s attempt to delay judicial review of paddlers’ federally protected right to float the Upper Chattooga.
On February 22, 2012, the court dismissed several claims made by riparian property owners who previously had intervened in the case between paddlers and the Forest Service. The property owners sought a determination that the Upper Chattooga River was not navigable (in order to exclude paddlers), and sought the ability to recover their attorney fees from the paddlers involved in the case.
The court dismissed the property owners’ request for a navigability ruling in large part because the plaintiffs (paddlers) in the case are not disputing the navigability of the Upper Chattooga River. Rather, the case is concerned with the Forest Service’s violation of federal laws involving river management. The court, in dismissing the property owner’s claims, pointed out that the property owners’ claims are not ripe because the Forest Service currently bans paddling on the relevant section.
The court also announced its plan to issue a scheduling order to manage the remainder of the litigation. The scheduling order should give all parties to the case - and paddlers - a reasonable expectation for how the court case will play out and when it should be resolved.
AW believes that the recent decisions by the court respect the interests of everyone involved. The decisions also represent another step towards restoration of paddlers’ long tradition of floating the Chattooga River.
Chattooga Headwaters (NC)
The US Forest Service has banned boating on the upper 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.