New options proposed for Middle Fork plan
"Freedom-of-choice" is one
By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer
The public has four new alternatives to consider for management of
boating on the Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon rivers. Some of those could increase
the opportunities for non-commercial boaters to get on the rivers.
The U.S. Forest Service recently released a supplemental draft
Environmental Impact Statement that adds the alternatives to a previous list of six.
The alternatives are part of a proposed management plan for the
2.4-million acre Frank ChurchRiver of No Return Wilderness. The proposed plan also
contains management direction for aviation, land-based recreation and noxious weed
The Forest Service stated in its draft EIS that its goals for river
recreation planning are to determine the acceptable level of use on the rivers, to decide
whether and how much to re-allocate use between commercial and non-commercial boating and
to set management policies for the rivers tributaries, which are currently
unregulated. The tributaries include the South Fork of the Salmon, a popular spring and
early summer run.
"The new alternatives were developed from the over 1,400 public
comments received, and in some cases, used verbatim," said wilderness supervisor
George Matejko in a press release.
The Forest Service reported that public comments on the original six
alternatives indicated resentment among some noncommercial boaters that they are required
to participate in a lottery that gives them only 1-in-23 odds of getting a permit on the
Middle Fork while commercial customers can simply call an outfitter and reserve a space
for the upcoming season.
As a solution to that perceived unfairness, non-commercial boaters have
for some time proposed a "freedom-of-choice" system under which everyone would
compete in the same permit pool and then, if successful, decide whether to go with an
outfitter or not. A "freedom-of-choice" permit system is incorporated in one of
the four new alternatives.
The new alternatives are as follows:
Alternative #6: Under this option, non-commercial applicants would
enter the lottery as a group, rather than as individuals. Smaller parties would be allowed
to stay on the river longer.
Alternative #7: This would implement a system of
"faucets"options that the Forest Service could use to decrease use during
peak periods. It would leave river management flexible, to be steered by a committee of
Forest Service personnel, outfitters and non-commercial boaters. The primary
"faucets" mentioned are flexibility in not re-allocating canceled trips and
reducing maximum trip length from eight to six days.
Alternative #8: This would replace the non-commercial lottery system
with a reservation system. Reservations could be made any time within six months of the
requested launch date. The agency points out that a drawback to this system is that its
phones would be flooded with calls six months before popular launch dates. The alternative
would also use existing Forest Service authority to retire some commercial launch dates
and re-allocate them to noncommercial use.
Alternative #9: This is the "freedom-of-choice"
alternative. In its draft EIS, the Forest Service states that "the Freedom of Choice
Lottery would have a major impact on the commercial industry tied to floating the Middle
Fork. Under the best case scenario, with all 4,447 of their 1998 commercial clients
applying in a Freedom of Choice Lottery along with the 8,526 applicants for noncommercial
launches, outfitters would likely lose 71 percent of their client base." As
presented, the alternative also proposes to reduce launches on the Middle Fork from the
current seven per day to five per day, and reduce maximum party size from the current 24
Alternative #10: This alternative would increase the number of
launches available to noncommercial boaters from four per day to seven. Odds for getting a
permit would increase to 1 in 13.
Under all the alternatives but #9, boaters running the rivers
tributaries, including the South Fork of the Salmon, would not need a Middle Fork or Main
Salmon permit as long as they did not camp on those rivers. Alternative #9 would prohibit
floating of tributaries until a monitoring plan for sensitive species were implemented.
Forest Service spokesman Kent Fuellenbach said in an interview that the
option chosen by the agency could consist of parts of several of the proposed
"Each of the alternatives was taken from proposals by various user
groups," Fuellenbach said. "We were trying to stay as true as we could to the
The alternatives previously drawn up by the Forest Service, and
released in a draft EIS in January 1998, are:
Alternative #1: No action. Current management would continue.
Alternative #2: Reduce use. Middle Fork launches would be decreased
to two total per day. No boating would be allowed on the tributaries.
Alternative #3: Restrict use to current average use. Middle Fork and
Main Salmon launches would be reduced to three noncommercial and two commercial per day.
Tributary use would be limited to one noncommercial launch per week on one Middle Fork
tributary and one per week on the South Fork.
Alternative #4: Would allow use to increase. Eight launches per day
would be permitted on the Middle Fork and on the Main Salmon. Tributary use would be
limited to one launch per day on each tributary in the spring and two per week in the
Alternative #5: Combines elements of the first four alternatives.
Seven launches per day would be permitted on the Middle Fork and eight per day on the Main
Salmon. Tributary launches would be limited to three per week on each. This was previously
declared the preferred alternative. The Forest Service says there is now no preferred
The Forest Service invites comments from the public. Comments should be
Salmon-Challis National Forest; Attn: FC-RONRW SEIS, Box 600, Salmon,
Comments should be received by Feb. 1. Fuellenbach said the Forest
service hopes to have a new management plan in place by the summer of 2001.