This week the U.S. Forest Service announced plans to allow boating for the first time in more than 35 years on the upper portions of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River and through the Ellicott Rock Wilderness.
Environmental groups are outraged because allowing this boating would cause extensive damage to water quality, soils, the riverbank, and the solitude visitors now experience. The plan violates environmental laws designed to protect these resources.
Greenfire Law is challenging the Forest Service’s decision on behalf of Georgia ForestWatch
, the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club
, and Wilderness Watch
. The groups submitted an appeal of the decision on Wednesday (supplemented on Friday), and have requested an immediate stay based on violations of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a host of internal Forest Service practices.
"The Forest Service’s decision favors narrow recreational interests at the expense of irreparable damage to fragile and rare wild areas that belong to everyone," said Rachel Doughty, lead attorney at Greenfire Law. "None of this damage is necessary because boaters have plenty of options elsewhere to recreate. It is a very poorly thought-through plan. For example, boaters are encouraged to find and create their own put-ins and take-outs along miles of delicate river bank during high water events when erosion is most likely."
There are as many as 89,000 boating trips a year on the lower 37 miles of the Wild and Scenic River. The upper 21 miles have always been reserved for quieter pursuits—hiking, walking, botanizing, hunting, angling, and swimming—to name just a few.
Spokespersons for the three groups echoed their resolve to stand united and challenge the Forest Service on the issue. Other groups and individuals have filed letters in support of Greenfire Law's clients' position.