Forest Service Considers Shrinking List of Protected Rivers (ID)

posted January 10, 2018
by Kevin Colburn

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The Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests encompass some of the best paddling and salmon habitat in the United States including the Lochsa, Selway, and Clearwater rivers. The Forest Service is updating their management plan which must include an updated roster of streams they will protect as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. They tentatively propose to grow the list from 29 to 89 rivers which is a well-reasoned decision. Unfortunately they propose to significantly cull that list in the coming months based on political and public feedback through a misapplied process they call "suitability." Public meetings and comment periods offer river enthusiasts a chance to speak up for these incredible rivers.

River enthusiasts are encouraged to attend a Collaborative Workshop in Missoula, MT: 

  • Thursday, January 18, 2018
  • University of Montana Campus - University Center Ballroom
  • 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (MST)
  • View/Download Agenda (464 KB .PDF)
  • Please RSVP by Tuesday, January 16: Jennifer Becar: (208) 935-4273 or


You can check out their good roster of proposed eligible streams on Tab 5 of the USFS Story Map. It includes some outstanding whitewater runs that will be protected from dams and other impacts - so long as the Forest Service doesn't strip them of these protections in the months ahead.

Paddlers attending the meeting are encouraged to:

  1. Share your knowledge of the many outstanding values of specific streams. Thank them for a job well done on the eligibility analysis, and ask that the streams you care about remain eligible and be found suitable if they do a suitability analysis.  
  2. Ask the agency staff not to conduct a political "suitability" analysis.


A suitability analysis is not allowed during forest planning under federal regulations, and its sole purpose is to release rivers from protection. Suitability offers no protection over eligibility. It is disappointing that the Forest Service is exploring new ways to undercut the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act on its 50th anniversary. If you can't attend a meeting, you can learn more and share your thoughts with the Forest Service via email