Council adopts new Smith River rules on camping and human waste | 406 Politics

The Montana State Parks and Recreation Board on Friday adopted new rules about camping and human waste disposal for Smith River.

In a unanimous vote, the board decided to continue policies adopted during the pandemic that officials believe provide better protection for resources and serve floats. The rules go into effect in 2023.

“This grows from an effort that capped earlier this year by looking at the existing Smith River management plan and looking at updates and changes to that based on the impact of resources on the trail, at Smith, based on usage levels,” Hope said. Stockwell, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

The famous Smith River, known for its limestone canyons, is the only river in Montana that requires a float permit. Over the past decade and a half, interest in and use of the river has steadily increased, with both the number of permit lottery applicants and the average pool of floating parties setting records in recent years.

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With a vote on Friday, the launch site Camp Baker, near White Sulfur Springs, will remain for daily use only. This means that no camping will be allowed, except for September 1st-November. 30 for the hunting season. Registration and boat camp will also be selected over the phone.

The FWP received more than 90 comments on the draft rules released in March. Sixteen commentators supported keeping only the daily use of Camp Baker while two commentators expressed concerns about camping allowance during the hunting season. State officials say the site will be up and running during that time.

The Board of Directors also voted unanimously that human waste should be collected in authorized devices and transported to the exit point at the Aden Bridge. This means that the pit latrines dug into every boat camp will be a thing of the past.

The main concern of resource managers is the 1,200 latrines that have been dug since the 1980s. This comes with both environmental concerns and concerns about the general health of workers, Stockwell told the board of directors.

21 commentators supported the decision while 33 opposed it. The most common concern of opponents was that the floats would not comply with the rule, but the FWP believed that concern about the river would lead to compliance.

“What we really feel is that people care deeply about Smith, and we think that Smith’s care and willingness to supervise her in a good way will help them recognize these changes if they go forward and comply,” Stockwell said.

River Rangers will also continue to monitor and enforce the rules, she said, adding that the agency is still working to determine a list of approved devices.

Multiple western rivers offering multi-day floats already require waste packing equipment.

Tom Coughlin is deputy editor in chief of Lee Newspapers State. His coverage focuses on the outdoors, recreation, and natural resources.

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