Under a newly issued regulation, Idaho residents will now need to recreate in groups of 10 or fewer while on national forest system lands, the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region announced Wednesday.

The Intermountain Region—which covers 12 national forests in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming—said the 10-person cap is intended to “ensure health and safety of employees, visitors and volunteers.”

Deputy Regional Forester Dave Rosenkrance said in a prepared statement that the new regulation may allow national forests to open some sites closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We greatly value the opportunity for people to use their public lands, and we fully recognize the connection people have with national forests,” he said. “Our intent in issuing this group size order is not to reduce recreational opportunities.”

Doug Fenn, owner of Stanley-based White Otter Outdoor Adventures, told the Express on Thursday that if not lifted by the end of May, the new regulation would have “major effects” on his business, which takes in about 80 percent of revenue from guided rafting trips on the upper Salmon River.

“Most of our business starts in June, so as long as [the Forest Service] leaves the summer months alone we’ll be just fine,” he said. “We’re expecting several group trips to get canceled from a lack of tourists in town, however—we’ve lost almost all of our summer group sales—but we’re hopeful that people will still be able to enjoy a day on the river this summer.”

Fenn said if the 10-person cap continues through the summer, White Otter Outdoor Adventures would be able to pair individual families or small groups with one raft guide, a private launch and a transportation method that meets Idaho state guidelines.

“Normally we use school buses to transport people back to headquarters,” he said.

Dave Denning, owner of The River Company in Stanley, said his company would also be hurt if the Forest Service regulation is not lifted in June, and he plans to postpone his opening date until the 10-person group size limit is removed.

The Forest Service’s Intermountain Region also issued a set of guidelines Wednesday to protect public health and safety, as outlined below:

  • Avoid visiting the forest if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Be fully self-contained; take everything you may need with you to avoid unnecessary stops at stores and gas stations.
  • Continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines on personal hygiene and social distancing.
  • If an area is crowded, search for a less occupied location.
  • Make arrangements to use the restroom before or after your visit to the forest, as unmanaged waste creates a health hazard for employees and for other visitors.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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