An important comment deadline for United States Forest Service (USFS) proposed new rule changes has been extended by 30 days to February 19, 2008. The new rules would heavily favor outfitter/guided access to public lands over noncommercial users.
The massive countrywide rulemaking changes will jeopardize your access to a favorite campsite, hunting blind, fishing hole or boat ramp, by restricting unguided access--your access--to certain choice spots.
Your comments to protest the changes can counter these new USFS rules which apply to all Forest Service lands. Now is the time to stand up and protect your right to use these lands equally with outfitters and their clients.
If you do nothing, these sweeping changes will impact all do-it-yourself (guide-free) recreationists, including hunters, fishermen, off-road enthusiasts, hikers, backpackers, canoeists, jet-boaters, paddlers, mountain-bikers, photographers, and river runners.
The USFS is setting stringent guidelines for comments, requiring cites of the specific referenced passages. If you have commented already, comment again citing the line and verse provided below, so that your comments are considered substantive. And, most importantly, tell your outdoor recreation friends!
While defining the total limit on recreational use is necessary in heavy-demand areas, restricting access unilaterally to one group of public recreationists simply because they do not require guided assistance is inappropriate. Land managers limit access to unguided users through set-aside blocks of "allocation" which often reserves access for outfitter's clients and bars use to the public. River runners are all-too-familiar with the problems of being locked out of areas that are open to customers of outfitters and guides.
Only in a very few locations, and only after a huge effort on the part of do-it-yourself recreationists against the resistance of outfitter and guide groups, have allocation-free permit systems been implemented. These permit systems, called Common Pool or Freedom of Choice permit systems, do not set aside any access allocations. In those systems, outfitter/guide clients and the do-it-yourself public compete equally for permits.
With that background, the proposed rulemaking changes include but are not limited to:
* Outfitters, guides and non-profit groups would be awarded an allocation of public use for up to ten-year periods.
* Outfitters and guides would be able to pay a small fee for sole and exclusive access to prime camping, hunting, fishing and picnic areas, including boat launch ramps.
*The rule change would give preferred access to the outfitters at the expense of the do-it-yourself public on all Forest Service-managed lands.
* This rulemaking would force allocating access in management areas where access is presently allocation-free.
* The new proposed rules do not protect wilderness areas from commercialization.
The US Forest Service has established procedures to be used for citizen comments. Be sure to cite the appropriate section listed, and feel free to relate any anecdotal story from a National Forest near you to illustrate the issue.
Here's what you might want to say to the Forest Service in your own words (with appropriate cites to insure your comments are counted):
Cite 41.53d - Definitions: Allocation of Use:
* Add a definition for Common Pool, since a new definition for Allocation of Use is proposed.
*Add a definition for Allocation Free Use, where commercial use permits may be awarded without a guaranteed amount of use, service days or quota.
*ALL outfitters, guides and non-profit organizations using public lands should compete on an equal footing with the public for permits in a common pool type of permit system.
Cite 41.53d - Definitions: Assigned Site:
* Do away with the Assigned Site definition: there should be no Assigned Sites specifically set aside for outfitter, guide or non-profit use including campsites, launch ramps, trails, and prime hunting and fishing locations. Assigned Sites diminish the recreational value for the do-it-yourself recreational public with the establishment of locations the do-it-yourself public may not use.
Cite 41.53d - Definitions: Needs Assessments:
* The definition of Needs Assessment must include assessing the need for commercial services in relation to existing public demand for do-it-yourself recreational access.
* In areas where there is presently a backlog, waiting list or overcapacity of demand for do-it-yourself public recreation, no new outfitter or guide services should be considered outside of a Common Pool in applicable land management plan Needs Assessments.
Cite 41.53d - Definitions: Priority Use:
* Calling outfitters and guides Priority Users is insulting to the do-it-yourself recreational public, and commercial services should be called just what they are: Commercial Use.
* Priority Users should not be awarded 10 year permits, 5 years is long enough, and permits should not rollover after expiration.
Cite 41.53d - Definitions: Quotas:
* The do-it-yourself public understands Quotas as they relate to Resource Protection, and require all quotas for Priority Users or Temporary Users such as group size and pack-stock numbers be the same for quotas applied to the do-it-yourself recreational user. As an example, a Priority User should not be awarded a maximum group size of 32 while the do-it-yourself group size maximum is 16.
Cite 41.53e - Needs Assessment, Resource Capacity Analysis, and Allocation of Use:
* Quantification of how many people in a resource area is too many needs to be established BEFORE "reliable information suggests that resource capacity has been reached."
* Resource Capacity Analysis must also inventory the type of permit system presently in place if one exists.
* Consider whether authorizing Priority Use would impede the Forest Service's ability to meet the recreational and other goals of the Wilderness Act.
* Recognize in this proposed rulemaking that Allocation-free Common Pool areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area presently exist, and they must be preserved allocation free.
* Permit distribution using Common Pools should be implemented in the future instead of defaulting to allocating access to Priority Users in areas which are currently free of burdensome allocations.
* The decision process for deciding an allocation of use for outfitter and guided services must include accurately determining the allocation needs of the do-it-yourself public.
Cite 41.53g (3)a - Issuance of New Outfitting and Guiding Permits:
* Before evaluating any need for new or increased commercial services, the agency must consider present do-it-yourself recreational demand. If there is greater demand for do-it-yourself recreational permits then available supply, consideration must be given to increasing the do-it-yourself public sector's allocation before awarding new commercial service allocations.
* In areas where no competitive interest exists, a commercial permit may be awarded, but no allocation of any type should be included with that permit, and a Common Pool management plan should be instituted for the distribution of permits.
Cite 41.53h (1) - Applications for Outfitting and Guiding Permits:
* While it is appropriate for the agency to request identification of the commercial services to be performed, requesting a commercial enterprise to define the service days or quotas they require, without considering the do-it-yourself recreational public's needs, is unacceptable.
Cite 41.53j (7) - Issuance of Temporary Use Permits:
* If the USFS decides to have a unilateral Temporary Use Common Pool, the allocation available for distribution in the Temporary Use Common Pool must come from the present outfitter and guide Priority Use permit allocations.
Cite 41.53l (2) a -Allocation of Use for a Priority Use Permit:
* Adjust commercial allocations yearly instead of once every 5 years. A Priority (commercial) User with unused service days or quotas during the recreational season adversely impacts do-it-yourself access and regional small livery and recreational supply businesses that cater to and survive on the local spending of the do-it-yourself public.
Remember, comments must be received in writing by February 19, 2008 as per the instructions below.
Comments may be submitted by mail to:
U.S. Forest Service, Attn: Carolyn Holbrook,
Recreation and Heritage Resources Staff (2720)
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., MailStop 1125,
Washington, DC 20250-1125.
You can submit electronic comments; start by clicking here:
Proposed Directives for Forest Service Outfitting and Guiding Special Use Permits and Insurance Requirements for Forest Service Special Use Permits
Click on the "Add a comment" yellow balloon to open a "Submitter Information Form." Note that it will be easier if you have already typed your comments in a separate document. You may then either copy and paste it into the form or attach your document through the "Browse" feature.
If the link above is broken, use these instructions:
Start by clicking here: http://www.regulations.gov
Under "Search", type in the document ID which is FS-2007-0008-0001 and hit go.
You should see a page with "Proposed Directives for Forest Service Outfitting and Guiding Special Use Permits and Insurance Requirements for Forest Service Special Use Permits", then click the hotlink called, "Send a comment or Submission"to get to the "Submitter Information Form." You may type your comments or attach them via a separate document.
Want to learn more? Check it out for yourself! To see the DRAFT document in its entirety, click here:
To see the Federal Register Rulemaking announcement click here:
To see the Federal Register Rulemaking comment period extension, click here:
Please send a copy of your letter to your Senator or Congressman as well, since the outfitting industry has, throughout the years, tried and failed to get special considerations like these proposed changes through special interest legislation.