It finally dawned on me that many of my recent concerns about rec.gov are actually rooted in the permit system itself. As demand for permits continues to skyrocket for Gates of Lodore and Yampa and MF Salmon and Selway, it’s getting to the point where the old way of doing things no longer works very well and that’s when people start looking for ways to beat the system.
As private boaters, I think it’s in our best interest to get out ahead of this problem so that we don’t get screwed in the short term by people cheating the system or in the long term, when the permit system finally changes to adapt to the new, higher level of demand.
I strongly believe that everybody wins when the permit system is fair and transparent. I also think that a fair and transparent permit system acts to thwart attempts to beat the system from the outside (for example, by using software programs to game the reservation system) or from the inside (by rec.gov employees doling out permits to family & friends or selling them to the highest bidder.)
Here are my proposed ideas for changing the permit system for 4Rivers and Dinosaur NM:
1) The initial lotteries for high-season permits seem to be working okay. However, requested dates on a lottery application should be changeable before the lottery is run. (This year, rec.gov prevented any changes to your lottery application dates after the application was submitted. They claimed that changing requested dates on a lottery application, prior to the lottery being run, was “against Agency rules.” Of course, that is not true.)
a) The high season for Gates of Lodore needs to be extended until the end of October. Since the Green is dam-controlled, Gates of Lodore remains a great run when the Yampa and MF Salmon and Selway have dropped out. This creates higher demand on Gates of Lodore late in the season. By extending the high season, it means there will be 2 launches per day instead of 1. As part of the high-season, these dates would be part of the high-season lottery.)
2) Once the high season lotteries have been run, permits that went unclaimed (i.e., non-confirmation cancellations) were released all at once on rec.gov at a specified date and time. This process does not work well when there are hundreds or thousands of people vying for a handful of available dates. Instead, there should be follow up lotteries for non-confirmation permits.
a) Just like the GCNP lottery system, there should be no additional fee for a follow up lottery. If you paid to participate in the initial lottery, you have already paid to participate in a follow up lottery.
3) At present, commercial outfitters are allowed to claim non-confirmation permits allotted to private boaters. This practice must end. The demand for permits by private boaters is too high to support this practice while the potential financial gain for commercial outfitters to add prime-season launch dates to their schedule is too great. Permits allotted to private boaters can only be reserved by private boaters.
4) Short-notice cancellations should be posted on rec.gov and be available on a first come, first served basis. (In other words, the same system as exists right now.) The definition of “short notice” is up for grabs. IMO, if a cancelled permit is released within 30 days of the launch date, it should be available on rec.gov on a first come/first served basis. If it’s released more than 30 days from the launch date, it should be made available in a follow up lottery.
Note: rec.gov needs to offer an email or text notification service that notifies subscribers the instant a cancelled permit is posted on their website. This notification would alert you to first come/first served permits AND to upcoming follow-up lotteries.
My hope is that the ideas proposed above will make the system work better in the long run. In the meantime, I have a different set of proposals to make rec.gov more transparent and fair. I will post those ideas on a separate thread.
For those wondering, I’m just a private boater who is offering these ideas on my own behalf. I’m not sponsored or employed or affiliated by or with the “whitewater industry” or the government or whatever. I’m not a lawyer, either, as you can probably tell. I do have a regular membership in AW. (And you should, too!) I just want a fair chance to access and enjoy America’s Crown Jewels… our wilderness rivers.
So what do you think about these ideas? Love em? Hate em? Let’s hash out this out and then start advocating for the changes we want to see.