The U.S. Forest Service will reconsider issues raised by appeals of its plan to ban jet boats from a stretch of the Snake River in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area for 21 days each summer.
Richard A. Ferraro, deputy regional forester at Portland, told outfitters who appealed the plan that he has asked the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest supervisor to clarify several issues. The management plan would ban jet boats from the wildest 21 miles of the upper canyon for six or seven three-day periods, from Monday to Wednesday, each summer.
“I am instructing the forest supervisor to review the elements of his decision relative to the non-motorized window,” Ferraro wrote in a letter dated Friday.
Ferraro said he extended his schedule for deciding on the appeals to allow more discussions between the agency and outfitters. His intent is to meet his earlier pledge to reach a decision on appeals by Memorial Day.
Ferraro said he has asked Wallowa-Whitman forest supervisor Robert M. Richmond to report back by March 28 with his review of the no-motors periods.
Richmond said Tuesday that he intends to review the record from meetings with outfitters who appealed the management plan. He said his review will be focused on new issues that may have been raised during the meetings.
Richmond said if the record shows new issues were raised by the appeals that were not considered before he reached his decision, the agency would launch a new environmental study as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Reps. Helen Chenoweth and Michael Crapo of Idaho and Bob Smith of Oregon introduced legislation Wednesday that would keep the entire river through Hells Canyon open to powerboats and non-motorized craft all year long. The bill would not prohibit the Forest Service from restricting the number of motorized boats on the river.
“We need to do all we can to allow preservation and enjoyment of the unique natural heritage in Idaho,” Crapo said. “This measure will permit appropriate access by all who use the river and adheres to the original intent of the legislation that set up the recreation area more than 20 years ago.”
Chenoweth, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Forestry and Forest Health, has scheduled a March 20 hearing on the bill.