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Background Information

Timeline of Critical Actions
1971:Local USFS personnel conducted a study of the Chattooga’s suitability for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Study recommended that Congress include all sections of the Chattooga River in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, based in large part on the Chattooga’s outstanding recreation opportunities—specifically whitewater boating on the Headwaters Section.
1974: Congress in 1974 included the Chattooga among the first rivers protected by the WSRA. The congressional intent was clearly to protect the river for the public to enjoy it in boats.
1976: The first official decision to ban boating above Highway 28 was made in connection with the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Classification, Boundaries, and Development Plan. No analysis or support was included in the plan in connection with the ban. The ban was made arbitrarily, outside of an open National Environmental Policy Act-type process, without public input, and in direct contradiction to the Study produced by the Sumter National Forest just five years earlier to support designation of the Chattooga as a Wild and Scenic River.
1985:The ban was re-instituted in connection with a new Sumter National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. In contrast to the 1976 ban where “public safety” was the stated justification, the 1985 floating ban stated that protection of “quality trout fishing” necessitated denying boaters access to the Headwaters. As with the 1976 ban, no supporting documentation or research was provided (or presumably considered) in connection with the decision.
1990's:Paddlers send hundreds if not thousands of letters to the USFS requesting access to the headwaters, as AW and ACA initiate talks with the USFS on the topic.
July 2001:USFS proposed Amendment 14 to the 1985 forest plan. AW submitted scoping comments on proposed Amendment 14 asking that the scope of Amendment 14 expand to include boating above Highway 28. Forest Service refuses to consider the issue of boating access on the upper Chattooga despite significant requests from the public to do so.
Feb. 2002:AW filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all information pertaining to management and closure of the river to boating above Highway 28 in 1976. AW reviewed thousands of pages of documents received under this FOIA request and found no evidence of conflicts, analysis, or any other documentation supporting the original river closure.
June 2002:AW submitted official comments to Amendment 14. AW requested boating be restored above Highway 28.
Aug. 2002:AW representatives met with USFS planning team in Columbia, requesting that the new Land and Resource Management Plan process address the boating ban.
Sep. 2002:Forest Service issues Record Of Decision on Amendment 14.
Mar. 2003:The USFS issues their Draft Environmental Impact Statement for their new Land and Resources Management Plan, which includes the first ever “analysis” of the boating ban. The Environmental Impact Statement contained only discussion of the issue and no data or justifications for the ban. You can read this “analysis” in Appendix H of the Sumter National Forest Land and Resources Management Plan
July 2003:AW's Comments on the Land and Resources Management Plan. Our comments point out that in fact the USFS has offered no adequate justification for the boating ban - but merely their opinion that paddling should be forbidden. We also point out repeatedly that the ban is itself illegal.
Jan. 2004:Decison on Land and Resources Management Plan - including ban. The USFS did not adopt American Whitewater's comments and went ahead with the boating ban as proposed in the Environmental Impact Statement.
April 2004:AW Pre-Appeal Synopsis
American Whitewater announces that it will appeal the Land and Resources Management Plan.
April 2004:American Whitewater's Appeal of the Boating Ban in the LRMP
American Whitewater and pro-bono legal team from Patton Boggs appeal the January 2004 record of decision to the national US Forest Service office in Washington DC. The appeal asserted that there was no basis in the record for the ban, and that it was in violation of the Wildernes Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and several other federal laws.
April 2005:USFS Appeal Decision
The Chief of the US Forest Service, in reaction to AW's appeal, agrees that no basis for the ban exists and that it violates the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, yet the ban remains in effect for at least 2-4 years while a study is implemented to determine the user capacity of the Chattooga.
Fall 2005 - Spring 2006:The user capacity analysis falters with delays, communication breakdowns, and inherently flawed study designs. Boating remains banned - regardless of determination of no basis for the ban.
April 2006:AW's Final Request for Relief
American Whitewater in a final attempt to avoid litigation requested intervention from the US Forest Service Chief to lift the boating ban, honoring the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
May 18, 2006:American Whitewater with help from its pro-bono legal team made up of Patton-Boggs LLP and Alston & Bird LLP filed suit in federal court to restore the public ability to float the headwaters region of the Chattooga River. Joining American Whitewater as plaintiffs in the suit are The American Canoe Association, Georgia Canoeing Association, Atlanta Whitewater Club, Western Carolina Paddlers, and the Foothills Paddling Club.
January 5-6, 2007The first legal descent of the upper Wild and Scenic Chattooga River in over 30 years. A team of kayakers and canoeists took two days to explore the river, traversing countless rapids and small waterfalls as they traveled through a remote and beautiful valley. Learn more about their experiences. Watch the video
February 8, 2007:American Whitewater, The American Canoe Association, Georgia Canoeing Association, Atlanta Whitewater Club, Western Carolina Paddlers, and the Foothills Paddling Club withdrew their appeal of a federal court decision involving canoeing and kayaking access on the Upper Chattooga Wild and Scenic River in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
April 2007:Deadline for final decision of User Capacity Analysis set in Forest Service Chief’s Appeal Decision passes
June 2007:Integrated Final Report issued as basis to begin developing preferred alternative in Environmental Assessment, based on a suite of individual reports. AW files comments on each report. Reports were never corrected or modified based on any public comment.
June 2007:AW makes efforts to reach out to the local TU chapters and their flat refusal to discuss the matter with us. Note that we have been told on a number of occasions by leaders of the angling community that they were sure the agency would keep the river closed and therefore there was no need to talk from their point of view.
March 2008:Large Woody Debris report issued without notifying stakeholders of the process or allowing input or participation.
July 2008:Pre-decisional Draft Environmental Assessment is released that selects Alternative 4 which severely limits boating without justification while placing no limits on other user groups. Several reaches would remain completely banned under Alternative 4, and not a single alternative was equitable or addressed all uses.
August 2008:AW issues comments on draft EA. Comments included previous comments on components of Integrated Report that were not incorporated into draft EA.
October-December 2008:Publicly stated dates for issuing decision pass. Mid-December the Forest Service announces the decision will not be released until “next year” at some unspecified time
August 25, 2009:USFS issues new decision nearly or totally banning boating on various sub-reaches
October 2009:Boating Opponents appeal near total boating ban. A group calling itself Friends of the Upper Chattooga appeal USFS decision (10/1/2009), as well as Mike Bamford (10/15/2009), Georgia Forest Watch (10/16/2009), and the Chattooga Conservancy (10/17/2009)
October 14, 2009:Conservation-oriented paddlers sue the USFS over boating ban in Federal Court. View press release
October 19, 2009:Conservation-oriented paddlers appeal near total boating ban
October 20, 2009:Georgia Forest Watch asks USFS to “stay” the decision that would have granted a few days of paddling on a small portion of the Upper Chattooga
October 25, 2009:USFS grants GFW stay, totally banning boating for 09/10 winter
December 21, 2009:USFS withdraws their August 25 decision and all supporting analysis, and cancels all appeals
December 9, 2010:USFS “re-initiates” their NEPA analysis
July 15, 2011:USFS publishes a new Draft Environmental Assessment containing most or all the errors of past efforts.
August 30, 2011:AW and other conservation-oriented paddlers file comments in opposition of the Draft EA.