For the week of November 11 thru November 17, 1998  

Boaters oppose plan for South Fork of Salmon

Express Staff Writer

Local kayakers last week told U.S. Forest Service representatives they opposed most aspects of a proposed management plan for the South Fork of the Salmon River.

Forest Service employees said the extremely low limit of boaters proposed as part of the plan will probably not go into effect, but some sort of regulation probably will.

The South Fork is a popular springtime kayaking river that flows into the Main Salmon upstream from Riggins. It is currently unregulated by the Forest Service—there are no permits required to run it and there is no limit on the number of boaters allowed to launch each day.

The agency has proposed to change that as part of a new management plan for the entire Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The regulations would also apply to four boatable tributaries of the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

Ken Wotring, wilderness coordinator, and Kent Fullenbach, public affairs officer for the Salmon-Challis National Forest, met with about 30 boaters on Thursday at the old city hall in Ketchum to discuss the proposals.

"We don’t want to get a lot of resource impacts and then have to back up and say, ‘How do we deal with this?’" Wotring said. "We’re seeing some things that are telling us we ought to do things differently, and we don’t have a game plan right now."

The two acknowledged that there had been no degradation to campsites on the South Fork. They said the agency wants to have a regulation system in place in expectation of use levels climbing on both the South Fork and the Middle Fork tributaries.

The Forest Service has proposed limiting launches on the South Fork to three per week, imposing a first-come, first-served permit system and requiring boaters to carry fire pans and to pack out human waste.

The low limits met with apparently unanimous objection from boaters at the meeting.

"I can’t even begin to understand how someone in good conscience could make such a recommendation," said Roger Crist.

Several people requested that the Forest Service allow boaters paddling the South Fork to paddle the remaining 20 miles on the Main Salmon without requiring a Main Salmon permit.

"That would just simplify your lives and boaters’ lives," said Andy Munter.

Boaters also objected to the agency’s proposal to require permits to run the Middle Fork tributaries.

"It’s very important for the people who run the tributaries to pick the exact weekend (of proper flows), and that’s hard to do," said Glen Allison.

Wotring and Fullenbach told the boaters that they would like to hear suggestions from them on what use numbers should trigger the imposition of launch limitations, on what those limits should be and on what sort of permit system they would like.

"We are looking for some solutions that people can live with," Wotring said.

The deadline for comments on the proposed management plan is Dec. 1. Anyone who would like to submit comments can send them to:

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, Rural Route 2, Box 600, Salmon, ID 83467.

Wotring said it will take at least nine months for a plan to be finalized.


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