According to sources in Washington DC, the Outfitters Policy Act of 2004 has been removed from consideration by the Senate Resources committee. The bill would have required a mandatory allocation of use between outfitters, non-profits and public recreationists for all US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Alaska State lands where a cap on use is required to preserve the resource.
This bill has, with minor differences, been presented every year since 1997, and would have seriously impacted wilderness areas, which restrict outfitter and guide activities to a "primitive and unconfined" type of recreation. The bill would also have decimated the Freedom-of-Choice access systems already in place, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, and soon-to-be implemented equitable access systems such as the Deschutes River plan.
Proposed changes to the bill, based in part on RRFW member bi-partisan comments, were put forward by the Senate minority staff. America Outdoors, the national trade association sponsoring the bill, decided the proposed changes were not acceptable and preferred no bill to the negotiated agreement. According to Sen. Larry Craig's office (R-ID), the bill has been postponed indefinitely.
Concerned River Runners For Wilderness members were joined by a number of other groups expressing opposition to the proposed legislation. As written, the bill would have adversely impacted wilderness values, forced the creation of segregated user groups, stifled regional economies and created a de-facto property right for a small handful of outfitters to the detriment of future outfitters, the public and most importantly, to America's precious wilderness resources.
We thank you for your comments to Congressional representatives which made all the difference! There is every reason to believe there will be yet another attempt to get this bill passed in the next Congress as well, so stay tuned for RRFW updates.