After a year-and-a-half collaboration between paddlers, the National Park Service, and the Wyoming Congressional Delegation, Representative Cynthia Lummis (WY) introduced legislation on February 13, 2015 that would lead to an analysis and rule making for river paddling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The “Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act” may lead to an allowance for traditional human-powered river paddling in select parts of these national parks as it is allowed in portions of all other U.S. national parks that have river resources.
“We are grateful for the leadership Representative Lummis and her staff have shown on this issue,” said Thomas Turiano, Vice President of the American Packrafting Association. “We believe this bill reflects the broad interests in conservation and responsible recreation that we all share.”
Under the new bill, the NPS would spend three years in public scoping and analysis of paddling on the Parks’ rivers, after which they will issue new rules about when and where river paddling may occur. The NPS will retain all of the tools and powers in their mandate to carry out this task. The legislation prohibits the issuance of any new commercial paddling permits.
During the ensuing scoping process, APA would ask the NPS to analyze 480 miles (less than 5%) of Yellowstone and Grand Teton’s thousands of miles of rivers and creeks. Please see the web links above for a list and map of the specific rivers paddlers will ask the NPS to consider. The paddlers’ recommended study list excludes most of the Teton high country, Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Firehole River through the geyser basins, and Gibbon River.
As the study process moves forward, paddlers will advocate for “Leave No Trace” backcountry rules and appropriate restrictions depending on specific values of each river or stream. Paddlers are not requesting the construction of new roads, parking lots, launches, and facilities. They will ask the NPS to weigh the impacts of paddling alongside the impacts of other river corridor uses, and include paddling when considering a corridor’s overall use capacity. Paddlers will advocate for rivers as “blue trails” and suggest ways to utilize existing infrastructure, such as backcountry permits and fees, in their management plan.
“We have a passion for connecting people and wild places,” said Aaron Pruzan, Owner of Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson, Wyoming. “We have seen the power that river padding has to create a force for conservation. The Yellowstone river-running ban was instituted over 60 years ago due to pressure on the fishery brought on by float fishing. The value of simply boating on these rivers deserves reconsideration. Both the riparian corridors and park visitors will benefit from this long overdue study,” Pruzan concluded.
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