Guides may get guidelines

  NATION

Close to 4,000 outfitters ply their trades in national forests, bringing in nearly $4 million annually to the Forest Service. With recreation booming on public lands, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has introduced a bill that standardizes outfitter operations in areas administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.


Craig's Outfitters Policy Act (S 1969) would establish criteria for allocating, transferring and pricing outfitter permits. It would extend a permit from five to 10 years, and make it easier to renew.


"It gives outfitters the incentive to stay in business," says Darryl Bangert, owner of Lakota River Guides.


The bill is a red flag to private users, however. Outfitters, they say, armed with legislated rights, will be able to keep their permits even when an agency tries to restrict land use - and the non-outfitted recreationist will lose.


"It's tying up a resource for commercial benefit," says Byron Hayes of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.


"This is overprotection of the outfitting community," says David Jenkins of the American Canoe Association. "Why not work within the Forest Service or the BLM to come up with a good policy at the agency level?" asks Jenkins.


Supporters of Craig's bill say legislation is necessary. "Management agencies can't make up their minds if they want the private sector to help them meet their mission," says Doug Tims, CEO of Cascade Outfitters. "This bill answers that question."


Land managers agree that standardization is necessary, but say they would like to keep some power on a local level. "Outfitting is not a right but a continued privilege under the discretion of the forest officer," says Steve Morton, northern regional outfitter specialist for the Forest Service. "We're doing all right without this bill."


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