Improving 4-Rivers and Dinosaur Permit Systems - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 03-21-2017   #1
 
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
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Improving 4-Rivers and Dinosaur Permit Systems

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.

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Old 03-21-2017   #2
 
Portland, Oregon
Join Date: Apr 2015
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1. Let people pay for guides on their private trip.
2. No commercial permits. Everyone enters the same lottery.
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Old 03-21-2017   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landslide View Post

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.

.

You have some talking points I agree with and some I don’t. I’ll need to respond to one of your points at a time, because I don’t have time right now to address them all.

I absolutely DO NOT want the permit system to start notifying everyone through mass email/text notification of cancelations. It should be equal chance, but not more convenient.

I honestly believe that some individuals have more of a desire to obtain a cancelation and dedicate time to constantly search for a cancelation. Whereas, other individuals would rather dedicate their time to staying informed on the most up-to-date pictures of Kim Kardashian’s ass.

I personally know some folks who don’t put any effort into obtaining a permit every year and then start calling in late spring looking to for a trip to get on. This year on March 16 after the morning permit release, one of my river groups sent out a group wide text inquiring if anyone had luck. One unemployed individual responded, “sorry, I was really tired this morning and needed the extra sleep”.

At this time, the post March 16 cancelation system is working well with it randomly releasing a cancelled permit over a 24-hour period. Previously, someone could have had multiple rec.gov accounts and when their 92-year-old grandma won the lottery, they could get up at 5am (post 3/16), cancel grandma’s permit and instantly pick it up in their name. Now the random 24-hour release has greatly reduced this previous practice.

I believe that permit cancellations need to be released in a manner that is equally accessible. However, mass email/texts will only make it more convenient for the masses only, not more equal. In other words, someone who would rather spend their time looking at Kardashian’s ass, could briefly interrupt their vicarious ass viewing session via text alert to get a permit.
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Old 03-21-2017   #4
 
Bellingham, Washington
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Join Date: Dec 2014
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jbomb, There is actually precedence for a such permit system already in the US. For "The Wave" Hike in Utah, which is managed by the BLM, only 20 people per day are allowed into the area. Permits are extremely hard to get. You are allowed to hire a guide to take a guided tour, but only after you win a permit. This sure cuts down on rich people being able to buy their way onto exclusive trips.

OTOH, this is such a radical change from the current permit system for river launches, I'm pretty sure the commercial outfitters would shut it down in a heartbeat. And for good reasons, too. The logistics of planning an 8-day river trip full of raft-riding customers who know nothing about WW requires lots of pre-planning.
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Old 03-21-2017   #5
 
Bellingham, Washington
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Riverdoghenry,

I'd think you'd WANT to be notified via email or text if there was a follow up lottery of cancellation permits. The GC lottery always lets you know when there are dates available.

But I see your point about short-notice first come/first served permits remaining unannounced. Relatively small numbers of people can go on short notice, so it's better to let the ones who are really hungry and ready for a short-notice trip to get those permits. If short-notice permits got snapped up by those watching Kardashian's ass on YouTube, then they would probably end up cancelling them again in a couple days after reality sets in.

So yes, I agree. No notification system for short-notice first come/first served cancellation permits!
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Old 03-21-2017   #6
 
Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landslide View Post
OTOH, this is such a radical change from the current permit system for river launches, I'm pretty sure the commercial outfitters would shut it down in a heartbeat. And for good reasons, too. The logistics of planning an 8-day river trip full of raft-riding customers who know nothing about WW requires lots of pre-planning.
I think (some) guide services would still be able to fill that void even if they didn't have their automatic permit allocation. This wouldn't be all that different from what Ceiba, Moenkopi, and PRO already do for privates.
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Old 03-21-2017   #7
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Baytopia, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landslide View Post
jbomb, There is actually precedence for a such permit system already in the US. For "The Wave" Hike in Utah, which is managed by the BLM, only 20 people per day are allowed into the area. Permits are extremely hard to get.
Man I had been trying to get a wave permit for years online. one year I got fed up and drove to Kanab to enter the lottery in person. over 100 people were in the room trying for 10 spots. first winner was a group of 4 from China. next 2 from Europe, then 2 more from Europe. Lucky me won spot number 9 but it only worked cause I was solo. the woman next to me had come in 5 days in a row to try with no luck.

Getting a river permit will soon be almost as bad as the wave. Not sure the solution.
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Old 03-21-2017   #8
 
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Salem, Oregon
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On a previous thread I suggested essentially the same as rules 1-3. Though not in as much detail. I am fully in agreement that the best, most fair option for cancelations is a follow up lottery. I also think that commercials get more than their fair share as it is. There is a much higher demand for private permits than there is for spots on commercial floats.

As far as #4 goes. I hate it. I already have much experience with the large text message for permit idea via substitute teaching. Trust me, you will find that a frustrating and annoying system in which you are alerted to every opening, and have incredibly little chance of securing one because there will be a mad dash again by 100+ people to secure that permit as soon as they are all alerted to its existence. Bad idea. Leave the short term cancelation alone. Those who park their butts on Rec.Gov all day can have those.

The other ideas are IMO simple and easy to implement, and just make good common sense.

More important for an additional idea would be to release the permits held hostage by the "salmon spawning" despite the lack of actual evidence that additional boaters damage the spawning beds in any way.
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Old 03-21-2017   #9
 
Eugene, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2000
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I love the idea of having a lottery open to everyone and no allotted commercial permits; if you win and can't do it yourself go hire a guide. I believe this is a more equal system.

However I never see that coming to fruition as the commercial companies control the money and little regard for anything but profit.
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Old 03-21-2017   #10
 
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
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Uriah Jones, thanks for mentioning the permits "held hostage" by the salmon spawning rule. I forgot about that and I agree that any cancellation during that period should be made available to private boaters. I assume that the original number of permits released during that period were offered with the health of the salmon in mind. (i.e., if no one cancelled, and all the trips ran, the salmon would do fine.) So why not allow those cancelled slots to be filled? Doesn't make sense.

mania, last year, I came off a 4 week GC trip on March 16th and busted ass to make it up to Kanab for the walk-up lottery the next day. I was also #9 and won a permit for the next day. One of the funnest days of hiking I've ever had. Probably never get to see it again! Oh, and they no longer do walk-up permits out of Kanab. Everything is online via rec.gov.
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