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Not a code issue. Someone (guessing someone at the issuing rangers office) fumbled something in the admin interface. Either they set the lottery release time to be yesterday at 4pm, or accidentally released the cancel dates at that time.

Mistakes happen. There's not much to be done about it now, and it's not like waking up at 8am is any sort of a guarantee that you'll land a permit anyway.
I just discovered there is no downvote button.
 

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Following up on this. Here is an email response I just received:


"Hello,

You recently reached out with questions regarding the release of cancelled and/or unconfirmed awarded lottery permits for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

The Salmon – Challis National Forest is aware of two issues that arose with the recreation.gov Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit lottery on March 15th and March 16th, 2022.

On March 15th a Forest Service employee recognized and remedied an issue in recreation.gov to release the previously awarded but now cancelled river lottery permits for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. As a result, on March 15th 2022, 13 cancelled lottery control season permits were released for reissuance at 4:00pm MST for the public to pick up on a first come, first service availability. These 13 cancelled launch permits should have been released randomly within 24 hours of their original cancellation date and time. Previously awarded but cancelled river lottery permits are those permits that were awarded through the lottery and then declined or accepted and then cancelled. These are then automatically released for reissuance on a first come, first served basis within 24 hours of the time of cancellation.

On March 16th, 22 unconfirmed lottery permits were accidentally released for first come, first serve availability starting at 12:00am (midnight) MST instead of at 8:00am MST. People awarded lottery permits have until 11:59pm MST on March 15th to confirm or cancel the lottery launch permit they were awarded. If they do not confirm or cancel the launch, the launch permit is considered unconfirmed and is supposed to be released on March 16th at 8:00am MST.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused."
 

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From Lisa Byers, [email protected]

Hello,

You recently reached out with questions regarding the release of cancelled and/or unconfirmed awarded lottery permits for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

The Salmon – Challis National Forest is aware of two issues that arose with the recreation.gov Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit lottery on March 15th and March 16th, 2022.

On March 15th a Forest Service employee recognized and remedied an issue in recreation.gov to release the previously awarded but now cancelled river lottery permits for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. As a result, on March 15th 2022, 13 cancelled lottery control season permits were released for reissuance at 4:00pm MST for the public to pick up on a first come, first service availability. These 13 cancelled launch permits should have been released randomly within 24 hours of their original cancellation date and time. Previously awarded but cancelled river lottery permits are those permits that were awarded through the lottery and then declined or accepted and then cancelled. These are then automatically released for reissuance on a first come, first served basis within 24 hours of the time of cancellation.

On March 16th, 22 unconfirmed lottery permits were accidentally released for first come, first serve availability starting at 12:00am (midnight) MST instead of at 8:00am MST. People awarded lottery permits have until 11:59pm MST on March 15th to confirm or cancel the lottery launch permit they were awarded. If they do not confirm or cancel the launch, the launch permit is considered unconfirmed and is supposed to be released on March 16th at 8:00am MST.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.

Please use the email for Lisa Byers that I have provided to voice your displeasure with recreation.gov. The USFS needs to copy the system that the NPS uses for Grand Canyon permits.
 

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It wasn’t employees of rec.gov, they were FS employees, I talked to the Middle Fork Ranger District. Hells permits weren’t released until 9am Mtn time an hour later then it said on rec.gov or the past few years. I called the Clarkston office and talked with the gal that admitted to the mistake. Rec.gov does what the agencies ask of it and certain agency employees are the ones that make changes that we see on rec.gov. In talking with a deputy District Ranger, most aren’t boaters so don’t understand the boater community frustration when these things happen. Best thing to do is email or call and have your voice heard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
Here is a slightly different version from a permit confirmation link.

Facility Message:
We at the Salmon–Challis National Forest sincerely apologize for mistakes we made with the Recreation.gov Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit lottery on earlier this week. We understand that securing a river permit is difficult and for many, a chance of a lifetime. We ask for your patience and understanding as we sort out these problems and put measures in place to ensure we get it right next time. The simple explanation is that we did not release previously cancelled permits back into the system properly on March 15 and 16. Here are the details.
• On March 15, the Forest Service mistakenly released 13 cancelled permits at 4:00pm MST on a first-come, first-served bases instead of being released randomly over the 24 hour period.
• Another problem occurred on March 16th, when 22 unconfirmed lottery permits were accidentally released for first-come, first-served availability starting at 12:00am (midnight) MST instead of at 8:00am MST. People awarded lottery permits had until 11:59pm MST on March 15th to confirm or cancel the lottery launch permit they were awarded. If they did not confirm or cancel the launch, the launch permit is considered unconfirmed and should have been released on March 16th at 8:00am MST.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this error has caused.
 

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This is a long standing issue with recreation.gov and the Forest Service and National Park Service. Booz, Allen, Hamilton was awarded a contract a couple of years ago with the promise of "fixing" a very broken database system for several river lotteries. Some fix. This is a clear case of mismanagement that someone needs to be held accountable for after so many years of errors and system glitches. Well there is a government agency that looks into these types of issues and attempts to hold contractors and/or agencies responsible for this type of mismanagement of Federal resources (either public access to Federally managed rivers or Federal/taxpayer funds paid to contractors who fail to perform) - the Government Accountability Office. If the hundreds of people who showed up on recreation.gov at 8am MST on March 16th only to find that the permits that were supposed to be released at that time had been mishandled would file a mismanagement complaint with GAO perhaps someone would be held accountable:


Or perhaps Booz, Allen, Hamilton would lose their performance bonus or contract for this failed system.

I filed my complaint hope you find it worth your time to file yours so this can become a fair process. If Grand Canyon National Park can fix their permit system, recreation.gov should be able to find a consistent, workable and fair fix for this travesty.
 

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This is a long standing issue with recreation.gov and the Forest Service and National Park Service. Booz, Allen, Hamilton was awarded a contract a couple of years ago with the promise of "fixing" a very broken database system for several river lotteries. Some fix. This is a clear case of mismanagement that someone needs to be held accountable for after so many years of errors and system glitches. Well there is a government agency that looks into these types of issues and attempts to hold contractors and/or agencies responsible for this type of mismanagement of Federal resources (either public access to Federally managed rivers or Federal/taxpayer funds paid to contractors who fail to perform) - the Government Accountability Office. If the hundreds of people who showed up on recreation.gov at 8am MST on March 16th only to find that the permits that were supposed to be released at that time had been mishandled would file a mismanagement complaint with GAO perhaps someone would be held accountable:


Or perhaps Booz, Allen, Hamilton would lose their performance bonus or contract for this failed system.

I filed my complaint hope you find it worth your time to file yours so this can become a fair process. If Grand Canyon National Park can fix their permit system, recreation.gov should be able to find a consistent, workable and fair fix for this travesty.
Did you not read the thread? The forest service screwed this up. Recreation.gov is a website. It doesn't have moods.
 

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I stand by my comments. You can blame who you want but the fact remains that hundreds if not thousands of tax payers were cheated out of a fair process to compete for a very limited number of non-commercial permits. The system (people, process, web, programming, app...etc.) is broken. Booz, Allen, Hamilton was awarded a $182 million dollar/10 year contract to fix the system. Dozens of people are employed to make this work including a high ranking Federal employee who coordinates the river permit segment as well as a dozen or so Federal resource managers who oversee this process. This is more than an "inconvenience". 35 non-commercial permits on the Middle Fork were mismanaged (we don't know how many on Hell's Canyon). In the commercial world that is approximately 840 clients equating to $2.52 million in gross revenue, commercial outfitters wouldn't stand for this type of mismanagement why would non-commercial users. And this is not the first time this has happened but is almost an annual occurrence.

File a complaint with the Government Accountability Office if you care about a fair process:

 

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Discussion Starter · #72 · (Edited)
Lot's of questions that we commoners will probably never get answered. Possibly the Forest Service is taking the blame for contractor screw up - the "buck" stops with them. I find it hard to understand in this time of technology there is one or more human interfaces that the system has to make part of the daily process. Does somebody sit behind a desk 24 hours a day to watch a screen to approve a release of a cancelled permit? Do they roll dice to come up with a time of release (sarcasm)?

The correct description of what transpired is garbage in - garbage out.

I think I found the person responsible and it appears as though he's wearing Forest Service green:

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Call the Forest Service Offices, I did both. They both admitted it was employee error. FS employees actually program and push buttons in rec.gov. Such as to random release within 24hrs of a cancelation. They admitted that wasn’t happening found that out on 3/15 so set them to release at 4pm that day. They also set all unclaimed to release at 12am on the 16th vs 8am. Hells person admitted although release was suppose to be 8am mtn zone it was set pacific zone. All were FS employee errors.

I feel many of the FS folks pushing those buttons don’t understand the demand and interest behind these permits. The more that call the FS not rec.gov the better. I communicated to both offices that it doesn’t matter how this occurs as long as it’s communicated to the public ahead a time and that when released is done the way it was communicated.
 

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The recreation.gov contract gets awarded every 10 years. The contract wasn't created to fix the river permit system. As you're probably aware, recreation.gov covers over 100,000 sites and permits, and there are probably a dozen river permits, so it's a pretty small (despite complex) slice of the pie. It's funny you mention commercial permits, Steve, because if you want a boogeyman for why it's so hard to get a river permit, that's where you should focus your energy. There's no good reason for the federal government to be setting aside permits for commercial companies. Individuals without the skills and equipment can wait in line like everybody else, and then contact an outfitter after the fact. Some people are saying that commercial companies are allowed to snag permits from the private pool too, which if true, is particularly alarming.

When you build a web application like recreation.gov, it's normal to give certain options to administrative users. For example, maybe the rangers commonly need to override who receives a given permit. Or perhaps they want to change the release date and time for cancellations. Or maybe they want to edit the text for equipment that is required when rafting in Dinosaur. You don't hardcode that stuff, because it would be expensive and take forever to get fixed by the engineers at rec.gov, so you give your administrative users access to a part of the website where they can modify certain data relating to the sites they oversee. That's how I figured that this was caused by the issuing rangers before they claimed responsibility.

Some of you are saying that this has happened multiple times in recent years. Again.. rangers, not rec.gov.
 

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Foreigner. Sounds like you know a lot about rec.gov. As you just joined Mountainbuzz you may want to search the history for rec.gov issues. Other forums for trail and campground reservations with also show similar issues. Not all the errors in the fewer than 2 dozen permitted rivers in rec.gov over the last 5 years are due exclusively to ranger error. The issue is there is no accountability for these errors. The public suffers with a better luck next year attitude. If there is advanced notice given to users of an issue that would be different. These on-the-fly decisions which violate procedures the agency has written and published are unacceptable.
 

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Foreigner. Sounds like you know a lot about rec.gov. As you just joined Mountainbuzz you may want to search the history for rec.gov issues. Other forums for trail and campground reservations with also show similar issues. Not all the errors in the fewer than 2 dozen permitted rivers in rec.gov over the last 5 years are due exclusively to ranger error. The issue is there is no accountability for these errors. The public suffers with a better luck next year attitude. If there is advanced notice given to users of an issue that would be different. These on-the-fly decisions which violate procedures the agency has written and published are unacceptable.
“Inconvenience“ Really? That apology demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect for the effort exerted by many people attempting to pick up a cancellatio.
 

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Not to keep beating the dead horse, but here is email follow up that I'm sure we all got:

"Hello,

The Salmon-Challis National Forest recognizes that the public is disappointed by the mistake that we made by accidently releasing unconfirmed Middle Fork lottery launch dates at midnight on March 16th prior to the 8:00am scheduled launch release. Obtaining a Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit is highly sought after and often a once in a life time opportunity. We sincerely apologize if this mistake affected you in any way and we are taking measures to ensure it won’t happen again. We have received additional questions and hope to clarify those below.

How will you guarantee that this mistake won't happen again?

We cannot guarantee that an error will never happen again, however we are taking steps to ensure that that this mistake doesn't happen again. Human errors occur. We do the best that we can and learn from these mistakes to ensure in the future that it won't be repeated.

How will this mistake be rectified? (Will there be another release?)

We do not intend on holding another lottery release. The permits that were released will stay awarded to those that obtained them.

What are ways I can try to obtain a Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit now?

Cancelled reservations are made available to the public randomly on Recreation.gov within 24 hours of their cancellation date and time. However, cancellations for launches for Aug. 15 through Sept. 15 are not released in order to help protect spawning Chinook Salmon. For more information see Cancellations and No Shows on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

I am concerned with the Recreation.gov process and lottery system.

In 2022 over 22,300 lottery applications were submitted to obtain one of the 332* available lottery control season permits for the Middle Fork. Interest and growth in whitewater boating, watercraft improvements and affordability, as well as population increases, are some of the reasons we are seeing an increasing number of applications for river permits and it becoming increasingly challenging to obtain a launch permit. Launch statistics can be found here Salmon-Challis National Forest - Water Activities. Lottery result statistics can be found here Salmon-Challis National Forest - Recreation Passes & Permits .


The Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness Management Plan (Wilderness Plan) specifies how the Middle Fork River Permit Lottery and river permits are allocated. The Wilderness Plan can be found here Salmon-Challis National Forest - Planning. Chapter two outlines the management of Middle Fork of the Salmon River float boating permits. This includes management details such as how canceled permits are released, the allocation of river permits between commercial and non-commercial river users, and other river management details.


Why not a weighted lottery System?

The Forest Service has looked into this possibility before and decided it wouldn't be the most equitable or efficient way of allocating these permits. While an individual would have some advantage over others with fewer points in a weighted lottery, any improvement in their chance of success would be miniscule. There are two reasons for this; the first is that the number of applicants is many times the number of available permits (in 2022 that was over 22,300 applications vs. 332* available permits). Secondly, other unsuccessful applicants will also receive the same favorable weighting (theoretically 22,000 other people with the same favorable weighting).


*There are typically a total of 387 lottery permits available. The 332 number is how many lottery permits were available in 2022 (lower amount due to rollovers from the Boundary Creek Fire).


Sincerely,


Middle Fork of the Salmon River office"
 

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Here is a slightly different version from a permit confirmation link.

Facility Message:
We at the Salmon–Challis National Forest sincerely apologize for mistakes we made with the Recreation.gov Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit lottery on earlier this week. We understand that securing a river permit is difficult and for many, a chance of a lifetime. We ask for your patience and understanding as we sort out these problems and put measures in place to ensure we get it right next time. The simple explanation is that we did not release previously cancelled permits back into the system properly on March 15 and 16. Here are the details.
• On March 15, the Forest Service mistakenly released 13 cancelled permits at 4:00pm MST on a first-come, first-served bases instead of being released randomly over the 24 hour period.
• Another problem occurred on March 16th, when 22 unconfirmed lottery permits were accidentally released for first-come, first-served availability starting at 12:00am (midnight) MST instead of at 8:00am MST. People awarded lottery permits had until 11:59pm MST on March 15th to confirm or cancel the lottery launch permit they were awarded. If they did not confirm or cancel the launch, the launch permit is considered unconfirmed and should have been released on March 16th at 8:00am MST.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this error has caused.
We at the Salmon–Challis National Forest sincerely apologize for mistakes we made with the Recreation.gov Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit lottery on earlier this week. We understand that securing a river permit is difficult and for many, a chance of a lifetime. We ask for your patience and understanding as we sort out these problems and put measures in place to ensure we get it right next time. The simple explanation is that we did not release previously cancelled permits back into the system properly on March 15 and 16. Here are the details.
• On March 15, the Forest Service mistakenly released 13 cancelled permits at 4:00pm MST on a first-come, first-served bases instead of being released randomly over the 24 hour period.
• Another problem occurred on March 16th, when 22 unconfirmed lottery permits were accidentally released for first-come, first-served availability starting at 12:00am (midnight) MST instead of at 8:00am MST.
I remember this, and writing the Forest Service and calling to ask that they set protocols to prevent future mistakes. I picked up one of the permits released on the 15th around 4 pm. I held it in my cart but had to let it go as I had permit that conflicted with it. I remember getting ready for the release at 8am on the 16th and focusing on the main, finding out later what had happened. Today I went to enter the lotto and read that ALL permits, declined, unaccepted, OR cancelled will be released on the 16th. (Instead of canceled permits being released within 24 hrs. ) Below is a copy and paste from rec.gov. I already have a letter off to the FS, just thought I would share here and ask, did I miss some announcement or email about this change? Wouldn't surprise me if I did.

"Lottery dates that were declined, cancelled, or unaccepted during the confirmation period are released for reservation starting at 8 AM Mountain Time. Reservations cancelled after this date are released randomly within 24 hours of cancellation."-copied from rec.gov on 1-23-2023

If it was not for cancelations and low water, I would rarely see the mfs. Little things count. Good luck to all !





Now I read on rec.gov
 

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I guess I am not following.. this seems normal for the last few years. All unclaimed permits are (supposed) to be released at 8am on March 16th, and then any cancelled permits after that time are re-released randomly within 24 hours. Am I missing something?
 
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