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Photo provided by Peter McIntosh

Upper Chattooga Wild & Scenic River Protection

Boater lobby groups mounted a national campaign to pressure the U.S. Forest Service to provide expanded and unrestricted access to the fragile headwaters portion of the Chattooga River that runs through the Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Read below to learn why so many Georgia citizens think boating should not be allowed on this stretch of river.

See how ForestWatch has made a difference:

Forest News Winter 2015: “Upper Chattooga Decision:  Appellate Court Rejects Boaters’ Arguments”

Forest News Summer 2013: “From the Director – District Court Rejects Boaters’ Arguments”

On March 30, 2013, the U.S. District Court in the District of South Carolina rejected American Whitewater and other boaters’ arguments that the Forest Service must allow more boating on the upper section of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River. These boating groups sued the Forest Service over 7 years ago, seeking boating on the entire Upper Chattooga River, without flow or season limits. They have argued that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, other resource protection laws, and the U.S. Constitution require the Forest Service to allow virtually unlimited boating. — Read More

March 30, 2013: “Court Rejects American Whitewater Argument”

District Court of South Carolina rejected American Whitewater and other boaters’ arguments. — Read More

March 18, 2013: “Upper Chattooga Open for Boating”

As many of you know, the Forest Service opened 17 of the 21 miles of the upper section of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River to boaters on December 1, 2012, for the first time in nearly four decades. — Read More

July 14, 2012: “Boating Stay Denied, Access Planning Continues”

We have requested an administrative review. We have also filed comments with the Forest Service regarding access trails. — Read More

March 26, 2012: “U.S. Forest Service Grants Stay of Plan to Allow Boating on the Upper Chattooga”

Today the U.S. Forest Service granted a stay, halting the Forest Service’s plans to permit boating on 17 miles of the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River this season. — Read More

March 15, 2012: “ForestWatch, Georgia Sierra Club, Wilderness Watch Appeal Forest Service Decision”

Georgia ForestWatch, the Georgia Sierra Club and Wilderness Watch have filed two formal legal challenges to the U.S. Forest Service’s accelerating efforts to send kayakers and rafters onto the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, which has been banned to boating for more than 35 years. — Read More

September 1, 2011: “ForestWatch Files Comments on Chattooga River Access Environmental Assessment”

Georgia ForestWatch and Wilderness Watch have filed joint public comments urging the U.S. Forest Service to uphold the “zoning” that has prohibited boating on the 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River in Georgia and the Carolinas. — Read the Full Story

UPDATE December 21, 2009: The U.S. Forest Service withdraws all three decisions

The U.S. Forest Service on December 21 withdrew all three decisions proposing to permit limited boating on the Upper Chattooga River, citing “inconsistencies” the agency had discovered “between various components of the decision documents.” The intention is to conduct “additional analysis” and re-issue decisions “probably in early spring,” according to Liz Agpaoa, regional forester for the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Region.

It is expected that this unusual move also will have the effect of “mooting” a related lawsuit initiated by the American Whitewater lobby and other groups, which had sought to immediately open the entire 21 miles of the Upper Chattooga to unlimited boating.

UPDATE October 30, 2009: ForestWatch appeals and files successful “Stay Request”

Georgia ForestWatch has appealed the Forest Service Decision to open the Upper Chattooga headwaters to limited boating. ForestWatch believes the 30-year boating closure remains the best option to protect the experience of most users, the fragile aquatic ecosystem and the forestland through which the river runs. Details on this issue can be read below in the 8-28-09 Update and Background sections.

Shortly after appealing, ForestWatch then filed a stay request which asked the Forest Service not to implement their decision until the appeal process is finalized. The Forest Service has accepted this stay, thereby agreeing to delay opening the Upper Chattooga to boating.

UPDATE August 28, 2009: Decision announced on Chattooga Boating issue

After being closed to the impacts of boating for 30 years; after more than two years of analysis and 3,000 public comments, the Forest Service has released its final “Decision” for recreation management in the Upper 23 miles of the singularly beautiful Chattooga River. The “Decision” allows limited non-commercial boating on a seven-mile section of river, at relatively high flow levels between December 1 & March 1. Boater groups in kayaks or canoes can number no more than six people per group, but the number of groups per day is unlimited. Other key decisions seek to control removal of down trees from the river, manage for group size for hikers and fisher folk, and define designated camping areas for lowering visitor impacts in the popular headwaters area.

Georgia ForestWatch previously stated that it agrees with the Forest Service that action is needed to protect the outstandingly remarkable values of the Upper Chattooga. But it disagrees with the agency that allowing boats on this wild and biologically diverse stretch of headwaters can be accomplished without harming a precious natural resource and degrading the experience of solitude and wilderness available in this area.

In particular, we are concerned that the proposal:

*Appears to have insufficient commitment to appropriate monitoring and enforcement.

*Will not adequately protect this corridor from unlawful removal of large woody debris, crucial to the health of this river, as well as protection of the Congressionally designated Ellicott Rock Wilderness.

*Raises continued questions as to how boaters would be permitted to access the higher reaches of the river.

Georgia ForestWatch will closely review the Forest Service decision and related, 199-page Environmental Assessment and consider more detailed comment within the 45-day deadline set by the agency for further comment or appeal. Additional updates will be posted as the situation warrants.

*Click here to read the USFS Decision Notice

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