Wild and Scenic Snake River Proposed Permit Fee

Jet Boat on Snake RiverRafters float down Hells Canyon

 

As part of our continued effort to provide quality recreation opportunities, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (WWNF) is proposing to implement a Special Recreation Permit boater fee on the Wild and Scenic Snake River. If enacted, the fee would provide for a sustainable funding source for maintenance and enhancement of the river, river corridor and facilities. Fee revenue could be used to address deferred maintenance at developed facilities and historic sites, provide for expanded public education and interpretation, address health and human safety concerns and expand law enforcement efforts. The public would have a say in determining where the fee revenue would be used.

**Public Input Period Closed September 30, 2016**

What are we proposing?

  • The WWNF is proposing the establishment of a Special Recreation Permit Fee ranging from $5.00 to $10.00 per user of any authorized powerboat or float boat watercraft per trip on the Snake River within the boundaries of the HCNRA upriver from Cache Creek Ranch. (The Wild and Scenic portion of the Snake River.)
  • Employees of outfitters and guides would not be subject to the fee during working hours, nor would travel by private, noncommercial boat to any private land inholding; or any person who has right of access for hunting or fishing privileges under specific provisions of treaty or law.

 

Why are we proposing a Special Recreation Permit Fee?

The WWNF is working to establish a sustainable funding source for the facilities, amenities, and experiences offered along the Wild and Scenic Snake River. In the past, the Forest has used a variety of resources to manage the Wild and Scenic Snake River. This has included using appropriated congressional funds; outfitter and guide permit fees, partnerships with Idaho Power, boating organizations, numerous public service and educational organizations, and grants from Oregon State Marine Board. There is, however, a significant amount of infrastructure maintenance and efforts to maintain the river’s outstandingly remarkable values. Funds collected from this special recreation permit fee are another available source of funds that would support and provide the much needed sustain the needs for river visitors. Similar fee permits are found on the John Day and, Rogue Rivers and the adjacent Middle Fork and main Salmon Rivers in Idaho.

 

What are we asking the public to do?

We are asking the public to comment on two very important questions:

  1. Do they support implementation of this Special Recreation Permit Fee?
  2. If the Forest Service were to go forward with this permit fee where would the public like to see collections spent?

 

What is the Wild and Scenic Snake River?

  • The Wild and Scenic Snake River winds through Hells Canyon National Recreation Area for approximately 71.5 miles
  • The river is recognized for having outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, wildlife, fisheries, vegetation/botanical, ecological and cultural values.
  • The Forest Service is guided by The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Comprehensive Management Plan (2003) and Wild and Scenic Snake River Recreation Management Plan (1994 revised 1999) to provide the best possible experience for visitors while protecting the uniquely rugged environment that has been cherished for generations.
  • Personal and commercial visitors, in motorized or non-motorized watercraft is the primary use of the Wild and Scenic Snake River.
  • Private boat use is managed through a reservation permit system, which limits the number of boats during the popular summer season. Services and facilities along the Snake River that support boating include developed launch sites at Pittsburg and Cache Creek, the Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center, dispersed and developed campsites, and several historic ranches with museums, visitor services and interpretation.

 

What are the current issues at the river?

Maintenance: Most of the existing infrastructure found within the Snake River corridor is maintained through Congressionally appropriated funds. A backlog of maintenance projects has accumulated. Most modern infrastructure within the corridor is over 30 years old and is in need of replacement/repair. There are a number of historic ranches that the Forest Service acts as stewards as discussed in the HCNRA Comprehensive Management Plan. Recently a historic structure facilities analysis was conducted that included four facilities within the Wild and Scenic Snake River corridor (Circle C Ranch, Christmas Creek Ranch, Dug Bar Ranch, Pittsburg Administration site). All four sites were found to have significant deferred maintenance needs.

River Ranger and Law Enforcement Patrolling: Currently, the ability for the Forest Service to patrol the river is limited. River Rangers are often over-tasked with making visitor contacts, providing river information and education messages, delivery of supplies, volunteers, and conducting maintenance/debris disposal patrols. This limits their ability to conduct regulation compliance checks, as well as routine “good host” visitor contacts and information sharing.

Improving Visitor Experiences: Fees will be used to improve the overall visitor experience of the river corridor by ensuring historic sites part of the recreation experience are preserved and maintained for visitor enjoyment.  The Wallowa-Whitman NF will use fees to leverage the assistance of professionals and volunteers to provide information and interpretation to visitors, maintaining recreation sites, and providing security at historic facilities.

Field Rangers/Seasonal Staff: Reductions in seasonal Forest Service Staff has resulted in a significant decrease in visitor contacts. This may lead to an increase in regulation enforcement needs and resource damage due to the lack of public knowledge about the sensitivity of the ecosystem in the area.

Invasive weeds: Significant amounts of invasive plants, such as poison ivy and county designated noxious weeds, occur within the river corridor and have begun to encroach on campsites, historic ranches and trails leading to a public health and safety issue, and loss of native vegetation.

 

What can special recreation permit fees be used for?

  • A minimum of 95% of the fees collected will go back to the river corridor. These funds can be used to protect and interpret the outstandingly remarkable values associated with the Wild and Scenic River designation (scenic, recreational, geologic, wildlife, fisheries, vegetation/botanical, ecological and cultural values).
  • Here are some examples of how the funding could be used to address the following needs:
    • Facilities Maintenance: Reconstruction of Hells Canyon Creek Boat Launch and the Pittsburg Landing water system.
    • Visitor Services: Continued levels of visitor contacts and services with uniformed employees at the Hells Canyon Creek Boat Launch and Pittsburg Landing.
    • Safety and Security: Increased Law Enforcement presence with Forest Service or cooperative agreements with state and other entities.
    • Improving Visitor Experiences: Year-round presence of Volunteers and FS staff at the historic Kirkwood and cache Creek ranches to assist with visitor information and interpretation.

 

What is the process to inform boaters of the proposal?

To allow boaters and other interested parties an opportunity to review, ask questions and comment on this proposal the Forest Service has;

  • Published the official proposal on the Federal Register on June 21, 2016
  • Held public Open Houses with dates that were published in the Federal Register and local newspapers. They were held in;
    • Boise, Idaho on July 5
    • Riggins, Idaho on July 6
    • Clarkston, Washington on July 7, and
    • Joseph, Oregon on July 8, 2016
  • Met with local groups and boater organization, County and State officials. This has included;
    • April 7, 2016 - Partners Afloat Trip Briefing w/ IOGA, BLM, HCNRA Outfitters, and stakeholders at Cache Creek, HCNRA
    • April 22, 2016 - HCNRA Annual Outfitter and Guides Meeting in Lewiston, ID
    • June 21, 2016 - Idaho County Commissioners Meeting in Grangeville, ID
    • June 24, 2016 - Adams County Commissioner Briefing
    • June 27, 2016 - Intermountain Jet Boat Association Meeting Briefing in Boise, ID
    • June 28, 2016 - Nez Perce County Waterways Committee Meeting briefing, Lewiston, ID
    • July 7, 2016 - Idaho State Congressional Representative Meeting on Snake River HCNRA
    • July 11, 2016 - Western Whitewater Association Meeting in Nampa, ID
    • July 18, 2016 - Regional ID Fish and Game Program Managers Meeting in Lewiston, ID
  • Additionally interested publics can provide comments electronically , or send written comments to; Jacob Lubera, Deputy District Ranger, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, 201 East Second Street, P.O. Box 905, Joseph, Oregon 97846

What are the next steps in the Proposal Process?

  • Allow the 60 day comment period to continue through August 20, 2016
  • Be available to meet with local groups and boaters during the comment period. To arrange a meeting, please call the Hells Canyon National Recreation Office in Clarkston, WA at 509-758-0616
  • Analyze the content of the comments received after the end of the comment period
  • Present the analysis of the comments for the proposal to the John Day-Snake Resource Advisory Council this fall
  • The John Day-Snake Resource Advisory Council will then make a recommendation to the Forest Service Regional Forester who will make the final decision