The Wild Salmon River as it flows through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.
We need your help again Wilderness Watchers!
Congress is advancing two bills that would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to allow further development at the River of No Return Lodge at Smith Gulch on the Wild Salmon River in the heart of the 2.4 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.
Both of these bills – S. 590 and H.R. 1482 – are sordid examples of special interest legislation to benefit a single individual at the expense of the American people and our Wilderness and Wild Rivers heritage.
To add further insult to injury, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act!
A bit of historical background may help put S. 590 and H.R. 1482 in perspective.
The 1980 Central Idaho Wilderness Act designated the 2.4 million-acre Frank Church- River of No Return Wilderness. That bill also designated a 79-mile stretch of the Salmon River as a Wild River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The U.S. Forest Service unlawfully permitted a commercial outfitter to build a resort lodge at Smith Gulch in 1988, eight years after the area was designated Wilderness and that stretch of the Salmon granted Wild River status.
In fact, Wilderness Watch formed in 1989 to fight this issue, and we won a federal court decision ordering the lodges dismantled because they were built illegally.
Unfortunately, in 2004 – just 12 months before the lodge and cabins were to be removed and the site rehabilitated, and after having failed to pass stand-alone legislation – Senator Larry Craig added a rider to an unrelated bill amending the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to allow the illegal lodge and cabins to remain.
Not content with the special privileges afforded by having a private lodge on public land on the Wild Salmon River within the River of No Return Wilderness, the owner of the lodge now demands even more concessions from the public!
S. 590 and H.R. 1482 would allow construction of new facilities and related maintenance activities that are incompatible with Wilderness designation and Wild River status. These bills would grant to this individual lodge owner yet another exception to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This special privilege granted to the owner of the unlawfully built resort would come at the expense of the wild character of the Salmon River and the American public, which owns these lands and deserves to have them protected for their Wild River and Wilderness values.
Specifically, S. 590 and H.R. 1482 would mandate that the Forest Service allow – without any ability to regulate – the use of hydroelectric generators and associated electrical transmission facilities, as well as solar energy facilities and associated transmission lines and facilities. Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list!
What this is really about is an expansion of existing authorizations, couched in terms of maintenance and replacement of existing practices and facilities. This is a far cry from the “rustic” structures that were supposedly approved in the 2004 legislation, and would only serve to further degrade the character and integrity of the Wild Salmon River and River of No Return Wilderness.
Elsewhere in the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River systems, outfitters and guides ply their trade without the privileges that S. 590 and H.R. 1482 would grant to this individual operator.
This legislation reeks of special interest favoritism that benefits what appears to be a politically connected commercial operator at the expense of the American public and our Wilderness and Wild Rivers legacy.
Please act now to defend the Wild Salmon River and the River of No Return Wilderness from development!
The River of No Return Lodge at Smith Gulch on the Wild Salmon River in the heart of the 2.4 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.
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