America Outdoors Association
America Outdoors Association

June 27, 2013

John Jantsch to Keynote Confluence

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America Outdoors Association Bulletin

John Jantsch, Founder of Duct Tape Marketing, to Keynote AOA Conference

Forest Service Withdraws Decision to Issue Outfitter Permits over Threat of Wilderness Watch Lawsuit


Royal Gorge on the Arkansas Opens Up to Rafting

John Jantsch, Founder of Duct Tape Marketing, to Keynote AOA Conference

Check out John Jantsch's video to see why we are so excited about having him keynote the AOA Marketing and Management Conference in Albuquerque this year.  (The video is not his keynote presentation but still worth watching). He will also be conducting a seminar on The Marketing Hour Glass

See all the programs and exhibitors scheduled to date.  The tradeshow is selling out fast!  Conference registration will be open early next month.  See you in Albuquerque, December 10 – 12.  Book your room at the Hyatt using this portal.  The code is DOOR for the $89 rate if you call the hotel to make reservation. Let us know if you run into problems with your booking request.  We highly recommend that you book early to get the rooms you want at this rate. Most hotels have an inventory of singles and doubles, so they may run out of doubles unless you book early.

Forest Service Withdraws Decision to Issue Outfitter Permits over Threat of Wilderness Watch Lawsuit

After spending ten years and producing a 700-page EIS followed by a record of decision to authorize 1,200 people to enter the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wildernesses using pack and saddle stock outfitters, Forest Supervisor Becki Heath rescinded the decision to issue 10-year permits on June 26th.  According to the outfitter’s attorney, Wilderness Watch (WW) had raised concerns about hitch racks, which have been in use for years and are not permanent structures, and about the "assessment of need" used to justify the level of use associated with the permits. Outfitters had also appealed some of the provisions in the record of decision, but the fear of being sued by Wilderness Watch apparently led to the decision. The Forest Service caved-in.

The Forest Service press release on the decision states: “The results will be documented in a new Needs Assessment and Minimum Extent Necessary Determination. The Wilderness Act prohibits commercial services in wilderness except for the extent necessary to provide for wilderness-appropriate activities.”  This is a biased and incorrect interpretation of The Wilderness Act.  Under special provisions in (d) (6), the Act states:  “(6) Commercial services may be performed within the wilderness areas designated by this Act to the extent necessary for activities which are proper for realizing the recreational or other wilderness purposes of the areas.”  This provision is more affirmative than the prohibition against non recreational commercial services. The Okanagan National Forest spent thousands of dollars completing a defensible assessment of need, which surveyed users of the resource.

In a 1998 ruling, Wilderness Watch’s arguments on these very issues were vacated by the DC Circuit in a ruling in Wilderness Watch v Robertson. While the Court had early ruled in favor of Wilderness Watch on the removal of caches from the Frank Church Wilderness, the Court rebuffed Wilderness Watch’s effort to hold the Forest Service in contempt for allowing spring boxes and the location of camps within 200 feet of streams.  AOA provided an amicus brief on behalf of the outfitters in the contempt complaint filed by Wilderness Watch.   In a portion of the ruling dismissing WW efforts to hold the Forest Service in contempt from an earlier ruling, the Court stated:

Id. Thus, the statute clearly directs defendants to administer the Wilderness with an eye not only toward strict conservation, but also to ensure the “use and enjoyment of the American people.”

The Wilderness Act does not direct defendants to pursue a single, limited purpose, as plaintiffs suggest, but instead requires them to serve a number of public purposes, and to foster “recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.”16 U.S.C. § 1133(b). For this reason, defendants' management decisions must consider all these purposes, and defendants must undertake a minimum of administration, in order to make the Wilderness accessible to those Americans who wish to use it.


By caving into legal threats from Wilderness Watch and ratcheting up the assessment of need to focus on the “extent necessary” provision in the prohibition of commercial services, the Forest Service may put in jeopardy other commercial services in Wilderness. There is little hope for permitting new services under such a strict interpretation of The Wilderness Act.

This decision is one more example of why outfitters should be cautious about supporting new wilderness designations without clear legislative language establishing that outfitting at existing levels is necessary and proper to fulfill the recreational and other purposes of The Wilderness Act. Senator Udall’s  Brown’s Canyon National Monument legislation has just such a provision for the wilderness area designated within its boundaries.

The best solution for outfitters in the Pasayten would be legislative.  As we discovered during the Deschutes lawsuit in 2003, outfitters cannot depend on the Justice Department, representing federal agencies, to defend the outfitted public’s access in Wilderness or on Wild and Scenic Rivers. While outfitters may intervene in a lawsuit brought against the agency by Wilderness Watch, the potential to be undermined by the agency’s own lawyers in jurisdictions sympathetic to the anti-commercial recreation plaintiffs makes those expensive efforts a crap shoot at best.

Royal Gorge on the Arkansas Opens Up to Rafting

With the fires abated and the cables from the gondola over the Royal Gorge removed from the river, Royal Gorge on the Arkansas is once again open for business. The river was shut down for about 11 days after a wildfire moved through the area. It will take some time for outfitters to recover from the negative publicity about the damage left by the fire, which destroyed 48 or 52 structures at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

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