Outdoors

Weighted lottery could help luckless river permit applicants


Whitewater rafting down the Selway River through the roadless Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.Whitewater rafting down the Selway River through the roadless Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
 (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Whitewater rafting down the Selway River through the roadless Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.Whitewater rafting down the Selway River through the roadless Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

RUNNING RIVERS — My wife and I and a dozen friends in our would-be rafting group feel your pain if you didn't draw a coveted permit to reserve a launch date for one of Idaho's four famous wilderness whitewater rivers.

We bombed, too.

The competition is stiff for the annual drawing to run the Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway or Hells Canyon of the Snake.  But it's funny how some groups never get drawn and others seem to luck out and draw a permit every year.

Everyone who applied this year has received a query from the Forest Service, which is considering a weighted lottery for river permits roughly similar to that used in most states for issuing hunting permits.  In other words, every time you apply and don't get selected, you gain chances that give you better odds in the next  year's drawing.

It' a good idea? If you have a stake in this, read these details from the Forest Service and email them your thoughts.

North Idaho outdoorsman Todd Hoffman said he's already replied the Salmon-Challis National Forest with these suggestions for a weighted lottery:

  1. Cap preference points to five.
  2. Limit trips to one per person per year.
  3. Allow pooling of applications and preference points.
  4. Set preference points to zero for any one who draws a permit or who participates in another permit holders trip.
  5. Release any unused commercial launches to private boaters.
  6. Create an online follow up lottery for cancellations.
  7. Implement smaller caps for trip sizes, but create more launches.



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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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