September 10, 2007
Francis Marion & Sumter National Forest
4931 Broad River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29212-3530
To whom it may concern,
I've recently become aware of pressures from anglers to limit or eliminate recreational boating from certain stretches of the Chattooga river. It is my understanding that anglers would like to keep the river "safe" from boaters and block access for this kind of appropriate and legal use of rivers in Wilderness. I have extensively studied the 1964 Wilderness Act and know that human powered kayaking, canoeing and rafting fall squarely within the range of acceptable use of Wilderness because of their non-motorized/mechanized nature.
From the 1964 Wilderness Act:
"...lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition..." Section 2(a)
"...an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man..." Section 2(c)
"...an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation..." Section 2(c)
"...generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable..." Section 2(c)
"...has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation..." Section 2(c)
"...shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation and historic use." Section 4(b)
Based on the above quotes, I do not see how boating is incompatible with the Wilderness values set forth in the Act.
I find it extremely disturbing that kayaking has been compared to ATV use, which if far more damaging to the environment and would, under the current Wilderness Act, be prohibited in Wilderness. Therefore, comparisons of kayaking to ATV use are absolutely unfounded and profoundly absurd.
Kayakers leaving trash behind is a relative non-issue. It has been my experience that tubers with coolers full of beer and bait cups and monofilament fishing line left behind by anglers are more to blame than the trash that might be left behind by recreational boaters.
As far as safety issues resulting from boaters and tubers/swimmers, this is a non-issue. When the water is low enough to tube safely, boaters are generally on rivers that have more water such as the dam release Ocoee, Nantahala, etc. This is an overblown assessment of a risk that isn't truly a risk.
I find it unfortunate that the USDA Forest Service is bowing to one group of forest users and not taking into account the myriad uses of OUR national forest lands, particularly Wilderness. It would do the decision makers on the Francis Marion good to take a close look at the mission statement of the USDA Forest Service "CARING FOR THE LAND AND SERVING PEOPLE" My understand is that the agency is in existence to serve ALL people who are enjoying THEIR national forest in a legal and appropriate manor. Not to bow to the special interest of one particular user group.
Thank you for your consideration of my comments on this critical issue. I trust that you’ll make the right decision.