Idaho Governor Butch Otter testified last week before the House Natural Resources Committee and claimed, “There are more people in one day, probably, that play golf on the floating green in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, than visit the Frank Church-River of No Return (Wilderness) in a year.”
The Idaho Statesman did a take down on Otter’s claim, showing that between river floating, hunting and steelhead fishing there are some 33,000 visitors per year in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Read more at: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/03/03/1549713/otters-wilderness-math-doesnt.html#ixzz1FnmQBkIw
The Governor’s metrics were way off. It was also a little apples and oranges to compare a daily versus an annual measure. So what would the information look like on Wilderness use on a daily basis? It turns out there is a Forest Service EIS that has some information on river use numbers in the summer months when river use is at its peak, similar to the golf season. So what’s a head to head comparison look like? Based on the data from the Forest Service EIS river use is compared to the newspaper report of an average 220 golfers per day, the chart below shows the results.
Golf and river floating both are at their highest use in the summer. The numbers for the Wilderness rivers is for late May through Labor Day. On a given day there are more than 450 people on the Middle Fork Salmon River, spread across approximately 100 miles as they float for five or six days. Close to 80 people launch per day from the Boundary Creek (and later in the summer from Indian Creek). A nearly equal number are on the main Salmon River making a similar multi-day trip, plus a number of people in powerboats. Float boating between the two river sections exceeds 900 people on a given summer day, roughly four times that on the golf course at the Coeur d’Alene Resort with it’s signature floating green. Add to that another 200 to 600 (this chart shows a low end estimate of 200) on the Salmon River in power boats and it’s a five to one beat down. The Governor was way off on this one.