Outfitter Welfare Bill: It's Baaack

July 2002. For the 5th straight year, the Outfitters Policy Act is back in Congress. Yesterday, a hearing was held on HR 2386 (same bill as last year). Read it at the Thomas website: http://thomas.loc.gov and type in H 2386 for a link to the Full Display.

This bill affects lands managed by the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation and the commercial outfitters that use those lands. It gives the outfitters and their patrons a preference over other user groups. It would turn the privilege of a federal recreational use permit into a form of legal property right that the outfitters could trade or sell and can be inherited.

Under this law, current commercial permits would be renewed even when outfitters performed in a substandard fashion or when the public, or even new outfitters, sought permits to enter the nation's most popular and heavily used areas.

This bill embraces the "allocation" model of outfitter access and would be detrimental to the general public who wants to access federal land without an outfitter. The bill could also reduce or eliminate outings by non-profit civic, religious, children's, and environmental education groups in our nation's most popular recreation areas. Even volunteer-led outings could be reduced or eliminated. Although one sentence mentions that there is no "intention" to interfere with public access, this is vague and would prove hard to enforce.

There is time to get your comments into the hearing record before the 10 business day comment period expires, but probably not by mail due to the new mail screening procedures. Please fax your comments to the all of the 3 numbers listed below.

You might mention that the bill serves to:

o Burden federal land managers by forcing them to guarantee "reasonable opportunity" for successful business ventures to commercial outfitters and guides using public lands, thus granting outfitters potentially greater access to federal lands than the public;

o "Grandfather" commercial outfitter use in areas where high recreational demand mandates restrictions on public recreation access -- thereby creating disproportionate use of scarce public resources by a select group;

o Elevate commercial outfitter permits to a legal status greater than other types of federal permits, allowing permits to be transferred or sold, and restricting the ability of public officials to modify, enforce or revoke permits.

Address your comments to:

The Honorable James Hansen, Chairman, House Resource Committee
The Honorable Nick Rahall, Ranking Member, House Resource Committee
1324 Longworth Building
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
RE: HR 2386

Fax numbers (202) 226-2301, (202) 225-0521 AND (202) 225-4273 (all 3).

Although the hearing record is open for ten business days, there are delays in getting mail to Congress. Be sure to note on your comments that they are being submitted for the hearing record on HR 2386.