Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Paddlers Plead for Access in National Parks
Did you know that paddling is not allowed on the rivers in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks? You would be right to think this sounds a little ridiculous, considering you can land planes, drive RVs and ride snowmachines in parts of the Parks. Even though all that’s allowed, boating is forbidden on all Park rivers except one section of the Snake and the Lewis River Channel. This week, the American Packrafting Association asked the Park Service to rethink the ban and give boaters access. Though unique, the ban is not new. It all started in Yellowstone in the 50s, in an effort to protect the fishing. Since then, the prohibitive policy has been blindly passed down, with minimal and flawed studies of the justification for it. The Park Service has a tough job balancing access for people and protection for stream environments. Boaters acknowledge this, and there are processes already in place to monitor and limit impacts. But to double down on a policy with little to no factual basis makes it seem like the agency is just saying “No” because it is easier that doing their due diligence. It is especially hard to understand their stance when they claim that boating has a greater impact that off trail hiking. If you’ve ever seen a packraft, they weigh about 10 pounds and deflate to fit in a backpack – hardy a weapon for mass river destruction. What’s called for is a real, scientific assessment of the impacts of boating. With many of these rivers recently designated Wild and Scenic, now is the time to reconsider the boating ban.
Forest Service Approves New Mountain Bike Trails in Sun Valley
Also this week, some better outdoor policy news. The Forest Service in Sun Valley, Idaho approved the construction of 11 miles of new mountain bike trails. The new singletrack will connect with existing trails, all within the Sun Valley ski area boundary. The trails will be designed as flow trails, with all the buttery smooth rolls and berms that make them a tasty part of a balanced singletrack diet. But perhaps more significant than the addition of new trails is the Forest Service’s thinking behind it. In the announcement about the decision, the District Ranger said that “concentrating new “flow” trail construction within an existing ski area makes both economic and environmental sense.” Now that’s the right attitude. While over on Mt. Hood some are suing the Forest Service over new trail construction at the ski area, it’s good news to see the agency make the right call, for the right reasons.