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THE RIVER TALE FLOWS ON

Where to start...
We have written, essayed, opined and reported (see, for example, HUPC LYNX, 3/08, 12/07, 8/07, 6/07, 8/04, 10/99, 8/98, 1/97, along with numerous special alerts in 2007) on wild and scenic rivers, since day one of HUPC back in January 1997! After numerous fits and starts in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Forest Service finally got it right with a meaningful eligibility analysis which resulted in the release of a 2007 November Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) recommending eligible rivers as suitable for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWS&RS) enacted though the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

The suitability study started with 86 eligible river segments (840 miles.) 43 river segments (497 miles) were on the Ashley and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forests on the High Uintas. The DEIS found suitable a paltry 24 rivers (212 miles) statewide-- eleven (131 miles) on the Uintas (five rivers on the Wasatch and six on the Ashley). It was almost beyond imagination that such a stingy and vison-less recommendation could be proffered.

Well, imagination is but a strange thing. After public comment and a passing year the Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (11/08), recommending 10 river segments (108 miles) statewide as suitable for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River System--four (71 miles) on the Uintas, two on both the Ashley and the Wasatch!

Going even a step deeper into the murk, the two rivers recommended as suitable in the FEIS on the Wasatch were not even on the list of five rivers proposed for suitability in the DEIS!

There is no rationale to the FEIS recommendation and none should be looked for. The Forest Service can’t explain it and doesn’t try. They chose some criteria that have nothing to do with the NWSRS-- rivers had to have multiple outstanding river values and support from local governmental agencies and public was essential. Where there was local public opposition it counted; where there was local public support, it did not. Ironically, the Forest Service then routinely violated even those extra-criteria--over 15 rivers on the Uintas have multiple outstanding river values with some even having local support from Summit County!

While the FEIS harbored two alternatives that made no suitable recommendations, the agency rejected the alternative that would have recommended all of the rivers as suitable, arguing, incredibly enough, that it would be unfair to those who opposed river suitability. It seems the Forest Service is willing to dismiss support for river suitability but not opposition!

Unbelievably, they argued it would cost too much money in terms of river planning to even analyze an all-river-suitability alternative. No analysis, just conclusion.

According to the FEIS, only 3 rivers statewide, none on the Uintas, harbored reasonably foreseeable conflicts with Wild & Scenic River designation, thus resource conflicts were not an issue on the Uintas or throughout the state!

This is but a deeply sour taste of the FEIS. The actual decision was left to each Forest Supervisor; based upon the nebulous, untraceable, indeterminate statement in the FEIS, each Forest Supervisor “concluded that it is an informed choice...” That was the best and only rationale offered by the Forest Service. An informed choice--whatever that means.

We appealed the decision as did many others and now await the Forest Service response. 
If you do not have a copy of the FEIS, see it at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/rivers/index.shtml. You can see our appeal on our website, http://www.hupc.org/.

The rivers proposed as suitable on the Uintas are:

Ashley National Forest

  • Uinta River 40 miles
  • Green River 13 miles

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

  • Stillwater 14 miles
  • Ostler Fork 4 miles

The other rivers proposed for inclusion in the NWSRS are:

  • Dixie NF--Death Hollow (10), Maime Creek (2), N. Fk. Virgin (1), Pine Creek (8)
  • Fishlake NF--Fish Creek (15m); UWCNF--Little Provo Deer Creek (1)

There is simply no way to catch the ugliness of this decision!


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