||Bright Industry Outlook for 2006
||Optimism abounds among America Outdoors members for a successful 2006
season. America Outdoors expects to see overall growth of 5% in the adventure
and active travel market in 2006 based on use data and trends from 2005.
Rafting, kayak touring, cycling, cabin rentals and multi-sport adventures are
expected to grow in 2006.
Use data shows a
significant recovery for river companies in the West in 2005. Commercial
rafting throughout the state of Colorado was up 14% and was within 4% of the
previous peak year. Guest ranches generally did well, according to reports from
the Dude Ranchers Association. Some multi-sport companies are reporting
This bright picture is
dimmed somewhat by flat trends for river companies in the East. Some recovery
may have occurred in the East last year if not for inclement weather in the
early summer. With the expansion of the school year into mid August in many
areas, a strong May and June is necessary for rafting businesses to
In 2005 commercial rafting was down or flat in
West Virginia, Maine and Tennessee. The Ocoee saw a 1.6% increase in 2005, but
is still down 16.6% from its peak year in 2000. In West Virginia, the industry
has declined by about 18% since its peak year in 1995. The State Tourism
Director recently reported that use was down 2% in 2005 compared to 2004.
The projected growth should help offset some of the slide in profit
margins since 9/11. Some outfitters are adding fuel surcharges to cover their
increased transportation costs. An unexpected cost for eastern outfitters with
big base camps is markedly increased property taxes.
||Permitting and Cost
||Federal agencies are looking for new sources of funding
to offset a decline in inflation-adjusted budgets. Agency budgets are under
pressure because automatic pay raises for employees keep their costs rising
even as their recreation budgets are cut or remain flat. Retirement costs,
which used to be a separate line item in the federal budget, are now embedded
in each agencies' budget. Cost recovery for permit administration is one of the
strategies used to offset losses in appropriated revenue because cost recovery
includes salaries and overhead costs in addition to the expense of analyses.
Bidding for permits, which NPS currently utilizes, is also an option the Forest
Service has attempted to implement as its "fair market value"
The Forest Service is
currently amending its permitting policy and has implemented a new cost
recovery rule which will require outfitters to pay for the costs of permit
administration when time spent exceeds 50 hours. Both efforts are seen as
revenue enhancement strategies. Most routine renewals will probably not be
subject to cost recovery unless the agency requires significant changes to the
operation. Permit monitoring is not included in cost recovery.
permitting policy changes will likely deal with fee issues and require higher
utilization of permit allocations. Cost recovery will impact outfitters when
management plans require changes to permits. Costs for analyses, including
NEPA, will have to be paid by permittees unless the process fits into the
agency's programmatic agenda, which is undefined.
NPS announced interim
guidelines for issuance of Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) requiring a
competitive process when authorizations are limited. Most Park superintendents
do not appear to be implementing the guidelines for 2006, but a proposed rule
is expected to be released this year and when final, Parks will be required to
abide by the directives within the rule.
Dirk Kempthorne, the Governor of Idaho, has been nominated to replace out
Interior Secretary Gale Norton. This appointment should give outfitter and
guide issues a higher status within Interior, since outfitting plays a
significant economic role in rural Idaho.
||Institutional Groups and Some Non Profits
Push for Exclusive Permit Allocation
||The Forest Service is developing a new outfitter and
guide permitting policy that will change the way use is allocated and fees are
levied. A group of institutional and non profits made up of religious camps,
universities and others are pushing for an allocation set aside for their
outfitting activities according to one of AO's non-profit members who was
approached to join the coalition. Some of these groups are seeking "non
commercial" status even though many charge for their trips or take donations to
fund their activities. This status will exempt them from cost recovery.
Since many institutions and non profits are already permitted in the
commercial category, how the Forest Service proposes to manage a separate
allocation pool exclusively for institutional or non profit use is a burning
issue. Will they be allowed to participate in both use categories, one of which
will be exclusive to their tax status? The agency is expected to draw the use
from unutilized outfitter allocations. A proposed rule on the new policy is
expected to be published sometime this summer.
||Church Camp Sues for Access
to the Youghiogheny River
||Represented by the libertarian think tank, Institute for
Justice, a religious camp, Summer's Best Two Weeks, sued the State of
Pennsylvania challenging what it calls the Ohiopyle State Park's
state-sponsored rafting cartel.
State Park limits commercial operations to four outfitters. The camp, which
raises donations to fund its operations, claims its campers don't pay for the
rafting trips (which would make them non commercial). Their website clearly
states: "Pay what you can if you can't pay it all."
Most campers are youth from well-to-do families,
according to an outfitter who ran steeply discounted trips for the group. He
even absorbed the State Park fees. The camp wants to be treated as a private
trip and is protesting having to use an outfitter for their summer program.
Dozens of summer camps, city and county recreation programs, non profits and
university programs across the United States operate their own outdoor
programs. They could easily overrun access to most resources where use is
limited and many of their activities are commercial though some claim
otherwise. A number of university programs offer their services to the
||Wilderness Watch and Other Groups
Sue Over Grand Canyon Management Plan; Charge That Commercial Services Are Not
||Rock the Earth, River Runners for Wilderness, Living
Rivers and Wilderness Watch filed suit last week to invalidate the Grand Canyon
River Management Plan in an effort to install wilderness management in the
Canyon and eliminate motorized raft trips. The complaint includes five counts.
There is no word on who is funding the suit, but the plaintiffs are represented
by the Western Environmental Law Center, Taos, New Mexico and Wild Earth
Advocates in Eugene, Oregon.
Count I accuses the NPS of failing in its perceived "duty to
manage the Colorado River as wilderness." Generally, this is the argument that
the river corridor's status as a recommended "potential wilderness" triggers a
non-discretionary legal requirement to manage the river corridor as de facto
wilderness until such time as Congress decides the question.
In the plaintiffs' view, elimination of
both motors and helicopters is mandated by law. The NPS position is that its
legal obligations here extend only to protecting the area's suitability for
possible wilderness designation at some future date. Because motors and
helicopters are both transitory uses that do not threaten or degrade the area's
wilderness suitability, NPS has taken the view that it retains management
discretion to allow or not allow motors and helicopters independent of its
wilderness recommendation for the river.
Count II argues that the commercial services
authorized under the new CRMP are not "necessary and appropriate" and that the
agency's decision to allow such uses at the designated levels is, therefore,
arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
This argument was used by Wilderness Watch in an effort to invalidate permits
in the Sierra Wilderness areas California. After losing in District Court the
Ninth Circuit agreed with Wilderness Watch because the Forest Service had not
done a cumulative impact analysis for outfitter permits in these areas. The
difference, however, is that in the California case, the areas were already
III accuses the NPS of failing in its perceived "duty to avoid impairment
of the Park's resources and values," or in other words, of violating the NPS
Organic Act. The plaintiffs argue here that motorboats and helicopters "impair"
the soundscape and the visitor's opportunity to experience solitude and natural
quiet in the river corridor and that this amounts to a violation of law. As a
general matter, it is NPS who gets to determine what "impairment" means on a
case-by-case basis, and the courts must generally defer, assuming the NPS has
not made some outrageous decision, to the agency's discretionary authority
granted by Congress.
Count IV accuses the NPS of failing in its
perceived "duty to provide fair and equitable access to the Park's resources."
Count V accuses NPS of a
failure to take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of the CRMP
decision. The success of this charge will depend on how the court views the
quality of the NEPA documentation.
||Park Service Funded Study Finds
New River Gorge Generates $80 million
||Visitors spent $79,401,000 last year while visiting the
New River Gorge in 4 West Virginia counties, helping to support 3,550 jobs,
according to a National Park Service Study. Park visitors came from 37 states
and Washington, D.C., as well as from nine countries. Forty-eight percent were
31 to 60 years old.
55 percent of
the more than 1 million people passing through say they came to sightsee, the
No. 1 activity, according to the report. After sightseeing, hiking and walking
were the most popular attractions, followed by boating and rafting.
Thirty-three percent said they came to enjoy the park's "solitude." Ten percent
favored rock climbing, with 9 percent each voting for fishing and bird
watching, and 5 percent for biking. Rafting and fishing guides drew the most
money directly from visitors: $15,084,200. Next in line were hotels, motels and
cabins, at $14,288,200.
||Most States Will Use Existing BLM
RAC's to Advise on Fees
||The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act called for
citizen input in the establishment of recreation fees through the establishment
of Recreation Resource Advisory Committees (RRAC). However, America Outdoors
has learned that the existing Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory
Committee (RAC's) which often have little recreation interests on them, are
going to serve as the advisors on recreation fees in most states. Currently,
only California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska are scheduled to have their own
Recreation RAC's. This list is preliminary and could have changed once
recreation interests get wind of the set-up. The other states will use existing
RAC's dominated by grazing and commodity interests, although some may have
recreation subcommittees. All states east of the Mississippi will have Regional
RRAC's. Region 8, the Southern Region, and Region 9, the Eastern Region, will
each have their own RRAC.
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