AO Has a New Name: America Outdoors Association
America Outdoors has changed its name to America Outdoors Association to improve outfitters’ and the public's understanding of the nature of the organization. The new mission statement is "Growing, protecting and supporting America’s outfitting businesses.”
AOA’s strategic goals are:
1. Improve members’ profitability
2. Ensure a fair and reasonable regulatory environment
3. Enhance members’ ease of doing business.
At the annual meeting December 4th, 2008, the membership voted unanimously to approve changes to the bylaws.
West Virginia Supreme Court Rules That Rafting Is Not Subject to Federal Maritime Law
Last week, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a Circuit Court Judge that prohibited the use of assumption of risk and waiver agreements because he considered rafting to be subject to federal maritime law. The Justices granted a “writ of prohibition” against Circuit Judge Thomas Steptoe, who would have applied maritime law in a Jefferson County West Virginia trial over a fatal rafting accident. The ruling does not end the case but prohibits the use of federal maritime law, which the court invalidated because it was not "customary navigation" and the rafting activity did not disrupt navigation. Waivers are prohibited in liability cases in which federal maritime law applies.
"Whitewater rafting is a recreational activity where participants seek the adventure of paddling a rubber raft in rapidly moving whitewater streams and rivers," Justice Brent Benjamin wrote.
"Such use of streams and rivers carrying people, not as traveling passengers, but rather as participants seeking adventure, makes it difficult to conceive that whitewater rafting bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity."
America Outdoors Association and West Virginia Professional River Outfitters filed amicus briefs in the case. AOA sourced the maritime attorney, Michael Barcott of Seattle, who provided the arguments regarding the application of maritime law in the case. WVPRO and AOA both argued that rafting was not customary navigation and that the West Virginia Whitewater Responsibility Act should prevail over federal maritime law.
AO Conference Gets High Marks, Recognizes Outfitter Hall of Fame Recipients
“I know I tell you this every year, but Confluence really does make a HUGE difference, in a very positive way, for our business,” said Max Young, Renaissance Adventure Guides. A first time attendee, Sarah Mayo of Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness said, “I came home more knowledgeable, inspired, and with some new friends. Best value for the money I have gotten in a long time!”
Over 450 people attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration. Payson Kennedy, founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Jim Greiner, founder of Wildwater Limited, Sheri Griffith, founder of Sheri Griffith Expeditions, Claude Terry, founder of Southeastern Expeditions, Bunny Johns, past President of AO and NOC, Imre Szilagyi, founder of Appalachian Wildwaters, and Marc Hunt, founder of Sunburst Expeditions, one of the first Ocoee River outfitters, received Hall of Fame Awards.
Lines of Credit and Loans Drying Up for Small Business
Despite being reinforced by billions of dollars in tax revenues, banks are withholding lending to small business. One financial analyst reported to America Outdoors Association that he was told by one of the nation’s largest banks that any business with “deteriorating financials and they don’t have to change that much" will not receive loans or lines of credit. What small business isn’t seeing some downturn at this point?
This analyst said smaller mutual banks without exposure to subprime mortgages are more likely to lend than larger institutions with bad paper on their books. A number of outfitters have had their lines of credit withdrawn, and other small businesses across America are reporting similar problems. We suggest that if you have a good credit history and have had your line of credit withdrawn, that you tell your member of Congress. As usual, big business and big government seem to get all the attention.
Some outfitters and other small businesses are arranging loans through friends or, according to a CNN report, using home equity loans to fund their short term borrowing needs.
America Outdoors Association Hires New Washington Representative
At our recent conference, Jonathan Simon of Van Ness Feldman was introduced as the association’s representative in Washington, DC. Jonathan and his firm have worked for outfitters and concessioners on a number of issues for several years and have done work for AOA on a variety of issues over the years. Jonathan got his start as an aide for Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and was an intern in the Solicitor’s Office at the Department of Interior in 1997. Since 2005, he has served as the America Bar Association’s Vice Chair for Public Lands and Public Resources Committee.