Rec.gov has been gamed - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 1 Week Ago   #1
 
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 62
Rec.gov has been gamed

Game: verb

To manipulate (a situation), typically in a way that is unfair or unscrupulous. "it was very easy for a few big companies to game the system"

Demand for launch permits is huge and gets bigger every year while supply (the number of permits available) remains the same. I get it. But something is different this year. Whether it’s low season permits on Gates of Lodore and Yampa, or non-confirmation permits on the MF Salmon and Selway, permits on recreation.gov disappear almost instantly. One microsecond after they are “released” they are gone. Why is this happening? Are there really thousands of new boaters going after these permits or is there another reason?

On a recent mtnbuzz thread, someone mentioned using an “auto-reload” program to ping the rec.gov website as fast as the webpage would reload. I thought that was a good idea, but what if someone had the ability to do that hundreds of times per second? I wrote to a friend of mine who has a PhD in mathematics and teaches computer science at the college level. Here is the Q/A:

“Rec.gov posts available launch dates (cancellations and low season dates), which are shown as "Available" but when you click on the link, it tells you that the permit isn't available until a specific time, let's say 10 am EDT. At 10 am and 1 microsecond, all the permits disappear, meaning that they have been claimed by someone else.

Would it be possible to game the system with a little computer prowess? Let's say I know I want a June 29 MF Salmon permit. I don't know exactly when the permit will be released since I don't know what clock rec.gov is using. However, couldn't I program my computer to ping the website as fast as my internet connection allowed? So if I had a super fast connection, like at a large business or university, I could conceivably ping the site hundreds of times a second until rec.gov actually "releases" the permit at which point one of my countless attempts results in a connection and I am allowed to reserve the permit. Tell me why this isn't possible.”

He replied, “It's very possible. If the administrators of a website want to avoid this kind of activity, they can, but it takes action on their part. No reason to think rec.gov would bother to take action unless their customers (the federal agencies, not you) start complaining.”

Permits are not transferable, but each permit is worth thousands of dollars. For example, since I didn’t win a single lottery or cancellation this year, one of my options is to buy a slot on a commercial trip. These trips cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per head. But when a permit is cancelled the regs also allow a commercial operator to pick up the permit. To a commercial operator, an extra launch could be worth $40,000 to $60,000 in extra revenue, since they can fill the trip with 20+ paying customers.

But whether it’s a private boater like me or a commercial operator, there is a huge incentive to game the system to win a permit, particularly in the prime of the season. As far as the Feds are concerned, it’s not illegal… the permit was released, someone reserved it and paid their fees, so what's the problem? Why shouldn’t everyone do this? Rec.gov is broken.

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Old 1 Week Ago   #2
 
SW, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 123
Ah yes,

I was actually just contemplating whether this was one of the reasons for the recent change in the permit-getting environment.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I sure am curious who the folks are that get these permits.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #3
 
Nye, Montana
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 254
I'd think it would be pretty easy to create a program that auto books cancelations. Makes sense that a outfitter would book cancelations then cancel so they could pickup that date as a commercial outfit. Not sure if that's the case, but there'd be major incentives to do so.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #4
 
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1955
Join Date: Jan 2010
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The Rec.guv system

I believe that there is a time delay from the east coast to the Rockies. The launches are pretty much gone before they get here. The clock on my computer is accurate to the second. I hit the book the launch button just after my computer hit 8:00 A.M., (10:00 eastern). I was hit with a notice telling me the launch would not be available until 10:00 eastern. I had to refresh, you no the rest. Either the Rec.gov clocks are a couple of seconds off or there is a delay. I do know a couple of east coast boaters who have pretty consistent success.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #5
 
2tomcat2's Avatar
 
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 257
I have found my phone is the most accurate for time. Here are the tips and
tricks posted on Recreation.gov:

"Check on line the National Institute of Standards and Technology Internet Time Service to sync you computer’s date/time."

"Recreation.gov utilizes NTP to synchronize the clocks of servers to standard time references. Several time reference sources are made available to ensure fault tolerance and accuracy of the clocks. Continuous monitoring of the server clocks is in place to ensure that the time is accurate, again utilizing NTP to ensure accuracy."

And for those who choose to voice concerns:

"If you have any questions or concerns about this privacy policy, the practices of the Site, or your dealings with the Site, you can contact us by using the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page.
You can also send us mail to: N.R.R.S.
P.O. Box 140
Ballston Spa, New York
12020
This site is operated and maintained by ReserveAmerica under contract with USDA, Forest Service and other National Recreation Reservation Service participating agencies."
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Old 1 Week Ago   #6
 
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2014
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My opinion (and it's just that, no more) is that it is useless to complain to rec.gov. You are not their customer, their customer is the NPS and FS and BLM. If you want to see changes at rec.gov, contact the Dino River Office or the 4Rivers Permit Office. (I'll post email addresses in a bit.) Or contact AW, as they are fantastic advocates for private boaters.

I contacted rec.gov when I wished to change some of the dates on my lottery application for the 4Rivers lottery a week before the lottery ran. I was told by rec.gov's "customer service rep" that it would be in violation of agency rules to change my application. Seriously. They have no idea what the regs actually state, they just pretend that they do.

Unfortunately, the race has already been run this year and those cancellation permits and low season permits aren't coming back. But if we can put some pressure on rec.gov to change their pathetic management practices before next year's lottery season, then at least we've accomplished something.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #7
 
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Westminster, Colorado
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Good points. I used to work with the BLM, Forest Service and NPS in obtaining special use permits for groups to hike, ski, and generally recreate on public lands.
This was in the very early days of commercial outfitters and it was a logistical
nightmare. Ended up drafting some of the language and untangling the umpteen
steps and hurdles that hopeful permit holders faced. So I am 100% behind going
to the source(s) and powers that be to perhaps make a difference in policy.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
 
North Creek, New York
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Who would benefit from winning permits and letting them go to waste....the people still on the river during that time frame...
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Old 1 Week Ago   #9
 
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 62
The Dinosaur River Office page is: herehttps://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvis...nd-rafting.htm

Staff are available by phone to answer questions and assist with trip planning Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to Noon (Mountain Time), at (970) 374-2468. To send them an email, you have to click a link on their webpage.

The 4Rivers Permit Office can be reached via email at the following address: fourriverslottery@fs.fed.us

If you do contact either office to complain about rec.gov, be polite.

I have yet to generate my own letter. Remember, there is no proof that rec.gov has been gamed, just the knowledge that gaming the system is entirely possible, and that there is huge incentive to do so. I suppose it doesn't hurt that it isn't illegal, either. Get caught, and you risk nothing.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #10
 
Ulm, Mountaina
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Apr 2016
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When you look at the number of commercial vs private permits the numbers are already MASSIVELY in favor of the commercial companies when you consider the number of applications for private permits. I thought they paid for their number of permits and could not get more. Are you saying that they can grab private cancellations? If that is true I"m going to get pissed. I already distrust the rec.gov system. I think rec.gov uses their system to hook up friends and family and now outfitters. Also is their any accountability what so ever in their practices. This is fast becoming a sport ONLY for the rich and I wish I could do something about it. Any ideas?
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