Public needs outfitters skills
Commentary by Steve Lentz
Greg Moore of the Idaho Mountain Express staff leads you to
believe that access on our regulated rivers is unfair. He leads you to believe the answer
is to regulate rivers by the "Freedom of Choice" lottery. Before reinventing the
wheel, we should check all of the spokes.
Most (95 percent or more) of the taxpaying public do not have the
skills, time or equipment to outfit their own trips on many of America's regulated
whitewater rivers. For that reason, agencies set aside a portion of use on most rivers to
the outfitted public.
Usually, the number of permits issued for outfitter operations is
limited to protect the quality of the experience and the resource. With each permit an
allocation of use is provided to the outfitter, which can be adjusted at the end of the
term of the permit. This system allows the outfitter to market a known quantity of use,
and to budget equipment, staff and resources for that finite supply of use.
Private users (self-guided users) are granted unrestricted access to
most rivers in the United States. Of the more than 1,000 streams available to private
users on federal lands, fees are collected and their use is restricted on only about 25.
On these 25 federally managed rivers around the country, all users,
self-guided users and outfitted users are restricted and permitted. Where all use is
regulated, a portion is allocated to self-guided users and a portion is allocated to the
outfitted public and assigned to commercial outfitters.
On most regulated rivers, self-guided users command 50 percent or more
of the allocation of use. On the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho, for example, private
users are given nearly 60 percent of the use allocation. On the Selway, private users are
granted nearly 80 percent of the allocated use.
On these rivers outfitters use a higher percentage of their allocation
of user days than private users. However, outfitters are not seeking to expand use for
outfitted public to diminish opportunities for private users. On the other hand,
the-outfitted public is prohibited altogether on some streams that flow through federal
lands such as the South Fork Boise and the South Fork Salmon.
As-commonly proposed, freedom of choice advocates seek to place all
launches or user days on regulated rivers into a common pool which could be accessed by
private users or potential customers of outfitters. Some private users think that this
system will increase their chances of getting permits on tightly regulated rivers because
no use will be set aside or allocated specifically for the outfitted public. An increase
for self-guided users will -diminish opportunities to the outfitted public and eliminate
opportunities for many families to visit federal lands.
Freedom -of-choice is no choice for the outfitted public and, if
implemented, it will-destroy an industry that has provided quality service to the
vacationing public on federal lands for more than five decades. In their supplemental
management plan for the-Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, the Forest Service
-included "freedom of choice" as one alternative for management, but agency
officials recognized in that document that this alternative permit system would decimate
quality services for outfitted visitors.
"Freedom of choice" is a misnomer for a management strategy
that would destroy opportunities for quality recreation experiences for the overwhelming
majority of citizens on regulated .rivers. There are many "faucets" available
which would allow a higher access potential of self-guided public to visit regulated
rivers without creating the negative impact on the local economies and businesses which
rely on historical allocations. Investigate them yourself by obtaining the proposed
alternatives. The address is: Salmon-Challis National Forest, Box 600, Salmon, ID 83467,
Attention: FC-RONRW SEIS.
Steve Lentz owns Far & Away Adventures and has been a licensed
river guide in Idaho for 25 years.