Late last week, the US Forest Service released a controversial Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) on managing recreation uses on the upper segment of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. The announcement includes the selection of a preferred alternative (number 12) that would allow high-quality whitewater boating on the upper river in the winter and preserve a boat-free experience for other users the rest of the year.
“We chose Alternative 12 as our preferred alternative because it would protect the river’s outstandingly remarkable values while allowing whitewater boaters, trout anglers and other forest visitors to co-exist on the upper Chattooga with minimal conflict,” said Paul Bradley, forest supervisor on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests. “Our preferred alternative also would set new capacities to protect opportunities for solitude, something people who visit this special place value more than anything else.”
However, this didn't sit to well with American Whitewater, who fired off a press release late yesterday stating that the DEA continues to "deny the American public the simple right to float in canoes and kayaks down the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River for most or all of the year depending on the section of river."
The release goes on to point out that: "paddlers remain singled out for inequitable and harsh limits based solely on the Agency’s unfounded belief that user conflicts would occur if boating were allowed."
“Let’s be clear,” says Kevin Colburn, American Whitewater’s National Stewardship Director. “The user conflicts the USFS is basing the boating limits on are imaginary: they have never occurred, do not occur elsewhere, and will not occur on the Upper Chattooga. This federal analysis of imaginary impacts is costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and is damaging the relationship that citizens have with the agency, the river, and each other.”
The conflict comes from the belief that boaters are creating numerous unauthorized campsites and social trails along the river.
The DEA is available for a 30-day public review. During this time period, comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more background and more information on the DEA, please click here.