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I'd argue that if commercial operations didn't have allocations, then non-boaters would never go on the river. Too much barrier to entry, and too many pieces to coordinate to get the permit, find a guide with availability, etc. Easier to book a trip to Disneyland or MLB spring training.

And the barrier to the commercials would be the unknown. With a fixed number of user days every year, they can schedule an exact number of guides, bus drivers, warehouse staff, etc. If they had to wait for the phone to ring hoping it was a gearless private, they wouldn't know how to staff each season.

Have you always felt this way, or is it more recent (since the past 3 year-spike of lottery applications ... the Main Salmon had something like a 36% increase last year)

And I'd argue that the private:commercial allocation is WAY more skewed on the Grand than on the 4 Rivers.
 

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now add in the guides clamoring for a living wage and you don't even know if you'll have trips booked for them.
I could see the commercials folding or at least closing operations on the permitted rivers.

If all the permits then go to privates...a private with $10k in gear can go on a trip...and now someone with $10k in their pocket cannot.



I do not think the status quo is perfect, but I think it's OK.
 

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I’m starting a new thread on the need for a new strategy for permits on the MFS (and Selway, and probably Main). This topic came and went in the midst of a ridiculous thread on rollover permits, viruses, and how much everybody hates Idahoans. But none of that is the point.

It is time for EVERYBODY on the river to go through the same process. Apply for a space on the river in a lottery. Get lucky. Plan your own (private) trip, or hire an outfitter to take you. Please, Zach C, I want to know why this won’t work!
I plan to go again this year…yes I am an optimist. I was fortunate enough to get a permit for the last two years. I ending up inviting more people that I would prefer to in order to not deprive someone the opportunity to go down this great river. I just don’t think that it is right to go down this river with a very small group. This is something that needs to be shared and if we networked a little, more of us can go.
 

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As a private, I'd rather have non-boaters with some type of access through commercials than none. If we're going to keep wild places wild, we need advocates in more corners than just our weird little dirt bag boating bubble.

Saying they can learn to boat isn't the answer. Most of them won't.
I hear this argument a lot and want to understand it better. Clearly this was true in the past but how are commercial tourists in 2022 tangibly helping to keep intensely pressured places like the MFS wild?

Are they changing their voting patterns post-trip? Becoming lifelong AW members? Writing letters to congress? Maybe the kids along are inspired to careers in natural resource management? Seems nebulous. What are the pre and post measures of “advocacy”? If all commercial passengers on MFS were replaced by private boaters, what does the conservation world lose really? No doubt something, but what? And is there another way to get it than screwing public landowners out of their fair share of a chance to access their river?

To me the cumulative benefits, to the extent we can even quantify them, don’t justify such inequitable access to a limited public resource. “Pay up or get lucky” is not an appropriate way to manage access, and directly in opposition to the spirit of public land ownership.
 

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I don't have any concrete examples. Just my opinion after talking to non-boating people who have taken commercial trips and the impact it has on their views towards wild places. The response is I normally hear is "Oh wow, now I see why you raft so much. I didn't understand it before but I think I get it. What a special place..." They then talk about the scenery, the solitude, shutting off their phone, getting to know people and learning about the guides. So many similar reasons private boaters could list. Maybe I'm an optimist that it does really help. Or at least have people look at the environment in a different way and make even just small changes in their lives. Maybe some of them do get more involved. Or maybe we just have all the people who already try to protect keep trying and hope it works.

On the flip side, do you think that shutting down commercials and giving those spots to privates is a fair way to manage access? Based on the last couple years' draw odds, doubling the launches might give another 1% chance to draw give or take. So now the people that don't have the ability or time don't have a way to get down the river. People like me who have done it probably more than I should as a private keep going and others who might have never do. Or because I've done it a few times, is my future access cut off because I've done it while others haven't had the chance?

Other than pay up or get lucky, what would your proposal be to allow and manage access? Two of the things that makes that place special is pseudo feeling of solitude and a semi-pristine wilderness experience. Other than allowing more people there (possibly jeopardizing some of it's qualities), what's the answer?
 

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My post had some devil’s advocacy; I don’t know what’s right but it’s fun to think about. I’m 100% with you on the optimism that exposure does really help things. Taking someone down a river is a good deed that will be payed forward. And super rewarding for the doer of the deed. Best part of boating. My post was specific to situations where demand for access exceeds supply. On a non-competitive river, commercial outfits are huge for conservation. I don’t overlook how true this is historically. But it seems to me when 7 jillion people want a permit, the agency shouldn’t be allowed to give any away to be sold. As far as people not having the time or ability to run a river, there are many commercially run, non-competitive rivers.

I think the alternative to pay up or get lucky is simply get lucky. The crux for me is getting past equal opportunity. Or odds of opportunity in this case. I’m not complaining about my personal odds or wanting more permits issued. I would love to see the odds get worse because that means more people value the resource. Worse, but equal. Maybe I’m being a hypocrite here because I like a weighted lottery. Edit: A Grand style weighted lottery. If you think you’re screwed now be grateful rivers don’t have a point system like hunting.

I also don’t know shit, and I’m not trying to disrespect anyone on here. I just enjoy the topic.
 

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Just wondering about how the commercial system works. Do commercials have to go through their own lottery system? How are their launch days and dates allocated. Does one company get more launch days than another? How much do they pay to the USFS for a trip?

Regardless of the allocations between commercials and privates, our gripe is still how our lottery system. The consensus seems to be the need for some type of weighted lottery or point system. Again, how can we make this happen?
 

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Just wondering about how the commercial system works. Do commercials have to go through their own lottery system? How are their launch days and dates allocated. Does one company get more launch days than another? How much do they pay to the USFS for a trip?
Prior use. Original permits were allocated at the time the river got its Wild & Scenic designation, and the companies are sold and bought with the permits attached. The permit itself cannot be sold.

3% of gross revenue.
 

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Regardless of the allocations between commercials and privates, our gripe is still how our lottery system. The consensus seems to be the need for some type of weighted lottery or point system. Again, how can we make this happen?
I'll take a stab at this:
I think the USFS policy of not re-issuing canceled August permits is unfair. If salmon redd protection were TRULY a concern, they would not issue August permits in the first place.
This unfairly penalizes private boaters. If you don't go on your trip, nobody else can go in your place.
Commercials have their dates scheduled a year in advance. If your party doesn't go, they can book another party in your place.

Up the penalty for cancellations. Just because you got a campsite at Gettysburg and are now in the wreck.gov website and get the email reminder to apply for a river permit doesn't give you carte blanche to muck with the system. If you go on a trip, great. If you cancel? Maybe a 3-year moratorium on ALL wreck.gov reservations..not just MFS permit applications.
 

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Just wondering about how the commercial system works. Do commercials have to go through their own lottery system? How are their launch days and dates allocated. Does one company get more launch days than another? How much do they pay to the USFS for a trip?
Prior use. Original permits were allocated at the time the river got its Wild & Scenic designation, and the companies are sold and bought with the permits attached.
 

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Regardless of the allocations between commercials and privates, our gripe is still how our lottery system. The consensus seems to be the need for some type of weighted lottery or point system. Again, how can we make this happen?
How are you calculating that the consensus is a weighted system? I quickly went back through the thread and counted two people for, two people against, and two people who said it might work. Maybe I'm off a bit...it was a quick survey. When you say "how can we make this happen", who is we? I think you've got your answer now. "We" won't. If we can't agree as a private rafter group how it should work, or even at least form a majority opinion, it's hard to lobby for it.

Currently, I'd comment strongly against a weighted or point system. But, I'd be open to hearing reasons why people think it would work and play devil's advocate and give counter points. Those type of conversation would make whatever consensus outcome that happens a much stronger proposition. Plus, I might even be convinced it could work and join the cause. As of right now, I've heard nothing compelling that it makes sense for the majority of private boaters. It actually makes sense for a guy like me but I feel that fairness, access, and opportunity need to be considered when doling out public resources and none of the systems being talked about give an advantage on all three.
 

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I don't have any concrete examples. Just my opinion after talking to non-boating people who have taken commercial trips and the impact it has on their views towards wild places. The response is I normally hear is "Oh wow, now I see why you raft so much. I didn't understand it before but I think I get it. What a special place..." They then talk about the scenery, the solitude, shutting off their phone, getting to know people and learning about the guides. So many similar reasons private boaters could list. Maybe I'm an optimist that it does really help. Or at least have people look at the environment in a different way and make even just small changes in their lives. Maybe some of them do get more involved. Or maybe we just have all the people who already try to protect keep trying and hope it works.

On the flip side, do you think that shutting down commercials and giving those spots to privates is a fair way to manage access? Based on the last couple years' draw odds, doubling the launches might give another 1% chance to draw give or take. So now the people that don't have the ability or time don't have a way to get down the river. People like me who have done it probably more than I should as a private keep going and others who might have never do. Or because I've done it a few times, is my future access cut off because I've done it while others haven't had the chance?

Other than pay up or get lucky, what would your proposal be to allow and manage access? Two of the things that makes that place special is pseudo feeling of solitude and a semi-pristine wilderness experience. Other than allowing more people there (possibly jeopardizing some of it's qualities), what's the answer?

If you have been, even once, through the Grand Canyon, especially on a private trip of 16-25 days and you talk to someone else about it, you can TELL whether they've been or not. There's just something about the experience that is clear in how they listen. They get it. It is so indescribable that when people ask about it, those that have been (and "get it") often get more details. People who haven't been, even if they've done rivers like the Middle Fork, really don't quite get it. They won't understand when your eyes tear up thinking about the view from Nankoweap or the butterflies you feel scouting Hance. I can imagine that someone who can and does go on a commercial trip also has some of that reaction. When you come back, you are not the same person as before you went. This is probably true of all rivers. Getting people who care into those places could make converts to conservation. Then again, some people, like James Watt, will never be converted.

I took a friend on a Rogue trip last year. She was very nervous. I was worried she'd have four days of hell. She was on edge the first day, but eventually she realized that we would be OK. By the end of the trip, she was ready to go again. She particularly enjoyed the layover day. Contrast that with a trip I remember from several years ago when we were camped at lower Half Moon and could hear the conversations from the commercial group at Upper. There was a couple from New York who we could hear lamenting that, "We came all those thousands of miles and spent all that money and we STILL can't get away from people." To be sure, their group was a loud one with lots of kids. Part of me really wanted to go over to them and point out that there was a trail at the back of camp, and if they walked even a hundred yards, they could find solitude. I'm not sure if that couple would be converted.

As far as lotteries go, I really do not like the current system for most rivers. Same with how most rivers allocate cancelled permits. On both these, I think the GC lottery is the best model. It's not easy to get the permit unless you are willing to go in winter. You have to pay a big non-refundable fee very soon after the permit is won. Anything not claimed goes back out to those people already in the lottery or those who want to join it late. As cancellations happen, they also get reallocated through the same lottery. It can't be hard to just push the button again. I also like the way your odds are increased if you have never been or haven't been lately (whether it was your permit or not). I do not like the way hunting permits add points; the inflation is just silly. I am not sure, but I think if you pull, for example, a Bighorn or Mountain Goat permit in Oregon, you can take other people on your hunt and it does not affect THEIR points. Go down the Grand Canyon and you go back to one. You can never have more than five tickets.

I am not sure how a permit lottery system would work for people who wanted to do a commercial trip. If there were a way to set one up that would allow companies to survive and get people who don't have the skills to row or paddle (or know someone who does and would be willing to invite them) to access such awe inspiring journeys, I think I could get behind it. My primary complaint is the same as most; anyone with money can get on pretty much any river they want at the time of year they want within a couple years. Want to run a private GC trip in mid April or a Middle Fork trip in late June any time in the next couple decades? Good luck. That's a mismatch of supply and demand.

Well that was a lot longer than I expected. Sorry 'bout that.
 

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Ah, the 4 River Games. Or the Annual Voluntary Donation (AVD) to spin the wheel on rec.gov.

The odds are simply not in your favor and are decreasing yearly. Though it's not impossible to get lucky! 27 years of applying for the Main and Middle and I've been fortunate having drawn twice - once in 2005 and again in 2015. In 2010 the odds were increased when the rivers were split into four separate lotteries, but even that improvement has been swallowed up since that time.

Here are the sobering odds of drawing a permit according to the USFS:
(kudos to them for taking the time to put these facts and others together each year about the 4Rivers)


May the afternoon winds be at your back and the odds of drawing a river permit ever in your favor.
I did a ML predicted success rate for the MF . Not too surprising…a couple graphics showing the situation:
 
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