Brokeback Outfitter Bill

Big Fin

Staff member
Dec 27, 2000
Bozeman, MT
Larry Craig met with the outfitters in a Minneapolis Airport bathroom. A few taps on the stall, and Larry and the outfitters were joined at the hips.:eek:

Anyhow, here is a proposal Larry Craig is pushing forward in the US Senate that will give outfitters preference and "quasi" ownership to access sites, facilities, and permits on National Forest lands.

Like they need any more preference than what they are currently provided, at least under MT law.

Looks like Larry wants self-guided hunters to "Take it in the ass!"

Can't you ID guys send someone to DC better than him? Or, did you just want to get rid of him, so you sent him somewhere that he would "fit in?"

Anyhow, seems like another stupid stunt that will make it that much harder for the DIY hunter. Letters are being drafted to my legislators.

Hopefully they haven't been meeting with Larry at any airport bathrooms.


WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 26, 2007 :: Last modified: Sunday, December 23, 2007 2:05 AM MST

Sweet deal for outfitters!

By BRODIE FARQUHAR Star-Tribune correspondent

Several conservation and recreation groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of trying to do administratively what couldn’t be accomplished in Congress: changing the rules about access to forest lands to benefit outfitters and guides, to the detriment of self-guided recreationists.

Representatives of River Runners for Wilderness, Wilderness Watch and Wild Wilderness say the Forest Service has taken allocation of wilderness permit concepts from a bill crafted by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and are trying to introduce those concepts via countrywide rule-making.

“That’s it in a nutshell,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, based in Missoula, Mont.

Nickas said he’d tangled for years with Craig over his bill because it downplayed wilderness values to benefit the commercial enterprises of outfitters and guides.

“Any time wilderness serves the economy, wilderness loses,” Nickas said.

The Wilderness Act does allow for limited exemptions, he said, but the Craig bill and this new administrative effort give a definite advantage to for-profit and nonprofit outfitters.

Early versions of the Craig bill viewed nonprofit outfitters such as the Lander-based National Outdoor Leadership School as competing with for-profit outfitters for a limited and increasingly precious commodity -- permitted days to operate in wilderness areas. That’s one reason the bill never went anywhere, Nickas said.

Craig’s bill did succeed in pressuring agencies including the Forest Service to consider administrative changes, Nickas said, and that’s when nonprofit outfitters became allies, rather than foes.

Agency's rationale. In explaining the need behind the proposed changes, the Forest Service said in the Federal Register, “Outfitting and guiding conducted on National Forest System lands have become one of the chief means for the recreating public to experience the outdoors. The Forest Service administers approximately 5,000 outfitting and guiding permits, authorizing activities ranging from guided hunting and fishing trips to jeep tours and outdoor leadership programs. The agency anticipates that outfitting and guiding will increase in importance as the public's desire for use of Federal lands increases and as the agency encourages use by increasingly diverse and urban populations, many of whom may lack the equipment and skills necessary in the outdoors.”

Carolyn Holbrook, of the agency's recreation and heritage resources staff, said the genesis of the proposed rules was concerns raised by clubs and universities that worried they could not reliably obtain special-use permits under the current regulations.

“The biggest change is that it allows for greater certainty” for those who’ve worked under temporary permit provisions, but wanted priority permits, Holbrook said. She sees no adverse impact on the general public.

Warning According to Tom Martin of River Runners for Wilderness, based in Flagstaff, Ariz., the nation’s outfitters and guides have joined forces with nonprofit groups that lead guided outdoor trips and are now attempting to rewrite the rules that govern the policies of the Forest Service to win special access privileges.

“If you do nothing,” Martin wrote in an e-mail to his membership, “these sweeping changes will impact all do-it-yourself (self-guided) recreationists, including hunters, fishermen, off-road enthusiasts, hikers, backpackers, canoeists, jet-boaters, paddlers, mountain-bikers and river runners. Once the rights to your favorite picnic area, boat ramp, or wilderness trailhead are sold, the change is permanent; the self-guided public enthusiast loses, and also loses the right to comment in the future."

According to Martin’s analysis, the proposed rule changes include but are not limited to:

* 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.

* Outfitters, guides and nonprofit organizations would be awarded an allocation of public use for 10-year periods. The rule would give preferred access to outfitters at the expense of the do-it-yourself public on all Forest Service-managed lands.

* The rules would force allocating access in management areas where access is presently allocation-free.

* Outfitters, guides and nonprofits become “priority users." Those who don't use outfitters, guides or nonprofits for access would no longer have “priority use.”

* The general public would no longer be able to comment on the Forest Service giving away blocks of access to forest land. Outfitting and guiding in designated wilderness would not require public comment and review through an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. Additionally, there is no provision to prevent outfitting services from selling their preferred access rights to their successor companies.

* The new proposed rules do not protect wilderness areas from commercialization.

Martin said the Forest Service is using the rationale that these proposed changes will benefit small businesses including outfitters and guides. Trouble is, he said, rule changes will discourage self-guided recreationists by limiting access to public lands.

“That in turn will hurt the gas stations, the restaurants, motels and gift shops,” which are also small businesses, Martin said.


Tom Reed, backcountry organizer for Trout Unlimited in Wyoming and Montana, said his concern is that public access to public lands be “fair for all.” From his initial reading of the proposed rule change, “it might be OK,” if there’s no exclusion of general public access.

Scott Silver, executive director of the Wild Wilderness advocacy group, said his reading of the Forest Service document “has the fingerprints” of America Outdoors, an organization of outfitters and guides, and the American Recreation Coalition of for-profit recreation businesses.

Silver is concerned that these business interests have found an extremely effective way to “frame” the case for commercializing public access to the woods and mountains, out of society’s concern that urban kids aren’t getting much exercise, much less exercise on public lands -- hiking, camping, fishing and so on.

“I know that the frame was created by special-interest groups who are less interested in kids than in customers and profits. The recreation industry is frightened that their customer base is declining," he said. "Kids do not merely represent future customers and increased sales... All of these target groups are being used by the industry to create a justification for transforming how public lands are managed."


Jen Lamb, public policy director for NOLS, doesn’t see any need for alarm among outdoor recreationists.

“I don’t see any conflict with the self-guided public,” she said, because the general public doesn’t need permits to go hiking and camping in wilderness areas.

Yet she acknowledged that as national forests conduct capacity studies, forest officials might find it necessary to limit the number of people venturing into the backcountry -- guided and non-guided.

She said the first she’d heard of the proposed rule changes was at an America Outdoors conference in Reno, Nev.

Lamb said she doesn’t see any major changes for NOLS in the draft regulations.

“It really doesn’t resolve any problems for NOLS,” she said. But it does help organizations that are having trouble getting enough permit days by telling other groups they need to use their allocated days or risk losing unused days.


New member
Feb 26, 2003
South of the Border
We have tried for years to send Craig "packing", but other than Fudge, no success. Craig has always been a well funded lapdog of the kooks at the NRA and the stupid hunters that waste money by sending it to the NRA. They once tried to find the last hunting license Craig owned and they were unsuccessful.

Craig has done this in the past, and he has also sponsored legislation to sell in-holdings to outfitters in the Frank Church.

Besides sending letters to your legislators, I would also suggest you send a check to "Advocates for the West" and let them know you would like them to keep protecting the wilderness for hunters.


Well-known member
Dec 16, 2003
red river of the north
Wow... that's a terrible, terrible idea that I think even Tom, NHY, Jose and 280 will agree on.

This will be a good one to watch to see exactly how difficult it is to remove an incumbent from office...which Sen. Craig clearly should be.
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