The Middle Fork Outfitters Association (MFOA), a non-profit business trade organization representing all 26 Middle Fork outfitter whitewater rafting businesses, supports continued common sense efforts to preserve cultural resources along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. However, MFOA remains concerned that the Historic Preservation Plan (HPP) for the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (FC-RONRW), now in its sixth draft, could lead to unnecessary campsite restrictions and reduction in use levels.
The Central Idaho Wilderness Act (CIWA) of 1980 created the largest forest wilderness in the lower 48 states, the FC-RONRW at 2.3 million acres. The CIWA stated that a cultural resource management program be developed. Cultural sites are located throughout the FC-RONRW, including 16 of the 95 assigned campsites and other locations in the Middle Fork corridor.
During the annual fall meeting of October 20, 2015, between the MFOA and the Middle Fork Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest (S-CNF), representatives of the Shoshone Bannock (ShoBan) Tribe stated that they were okay with continued use of 32 of the 95 campsites in the river corridor. Near the conclusion of this meeting, the S-CNF supervisor stated that use may have to be reduced. MFOA members felt blindsided by these messages, along with the presentation of the forest archeologist.
In December of 2015, the Middle Fork District Ranger of the S-CNF shared the Heritage Action Team (HAT) concept with MFOA members. The MFOA supports the development and implementation of a HAT within the HPP that in theory would focus on identifying mitigation efforts to preserve archeological and cultural amenities at specific Middle Fork campsites while maintaining existing campsite capacity and present use levels as identified in the 2003 FC-RONRW management plan.
According to Forest Service data, 90 percent of the 95 Middle Fork campsites have either improved or have remained in the same condition since 1994. Furthermore, none of the standards for campsite conditions listed in the 2003 FC-RONRW management plan have been exceeded.
Middle Fork outfitters generate federal use fees in excess of $230,000 annually. Another $235,000 in Recreation Enhancement Act fees are generated from Middle Fork users annually. Together these fees fund Middle Fork management projects while subsidizing other S-CNF recreation projects. MFOA continues to support the use of these funds to support the ShoBan Middle Fork interpretative program annually. This program along with outfitter and guide education efforts help users understand and preserve Middle Fork cultural amenities.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is an internationally known vacation destination for guided and self-guided users. It is an important rural economic driver for central Idaho towns like Stanley, Challis, Salmon and others. The resource is well managed and caring users utilize pack-it-in, pack-it-out methods, some of which have been developed and perfected by Idahoans.
Middle Fork outfitters and guides are committed to working with any and all parties to preserve the Middle Fork resources while maintaining present campsite capacity and use levels.