Rafters vs. fish

  River outfitters and their supporters rallied in Stanley, Idaho, Sept. 23 to say that the Forest Service had gone too far. Led by owners of The River Company, some 50 central Idaho residents protested the agency's shutting down of the Salmon River.

The agency has been periodically closing off parts of the river to floaters to protect endangered salmon (HCN, 8/19/96). But recently, it declared so many small sections off limits that the entire river became unfloatable. Guides were forced to cancel trips at the last minute, and some businesses reported thousands of dollars in lost revenue. The River Company decided to run the river despite the Forest Service's closures; now, the agency has suspended the company's floating permit and may pursue criminal charges.

The upper Salmon River, about 55 miles north of Ketchum, is administered by the Forest Service as part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Paul Ries, SNRA supervisor, says the agency's first management objective is to protect and preserve the area's scenic, historic and natural qualities, which include fish and wildlife.

Ries says he has to prevent the harassment of salmon nests under federal law. He also admits that the river-closing system is not perfect. "We've got to find a good way to provide for these fish and recreation," he says. "So far, we haven't done that."

Patti Williams and her husband own a river rentals and motel business in Stanley. "(The SNRA) needs to be more understanding about what a struggle it is to live here," she says. "They've got to come up with a better plan."

*Emily Miller

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