Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case over the Forest Service’s 2012 decision to implement restrictions on paddling the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. Conservation-oriented paddlers, Georgia Forest Watch, and the Rust Family had asked the court to overturn various portions of a lower court decision that favored the Forest Service. These requests were denied, and the lower court ruling was upheld by the Fourth Circuit.
Both courts were limited to reviewing the basis of the 2012 decisions, and did not have the benefit of reviewing the recreational use patterns since those decisions. With two years of data on paddling use, it is now clear that the use levels and impacts predicted by the Forest Service are not occurring and that the current severe paddling restrictions are unnecessary.
There will be no effect of this decision on the ground, as it simply supports the Forest Service’s current river management plan.
All of us here at American Whitewater would like to voice our deep gratitude for the team of volunteers that has been part of this effort. Our pro-bono legal team has been absolutely incredible, with Nathan Galbreath and Brian Hendrix being at the core of that team for over a decade.
American Whitewater and the paddling community will continue to seek protective and nationally consistent management on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga.