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MARCH 13, 2007

America Outdoors E-News

 
AO Submits Comments to the Forest Service Proposed Flat Fee Policy Reservations Training Session Scheduled for April 5th in WV
AO Representatives Meet with the NPS Concessions Advisory Board Electricity Deregulation Takes Hold in 2007
Outfitters on the Upper Ocoee Take Out Loan to Pay for Water Releases Confluence, America Outdoors Marketing and Management Conference Set for Reno in 2007 and Knoxville in 2008
AO Submits Comments to the Forest Service
Proposed Flat Fee Policy

  The proposed flat fee policy for the Alaska Region of the Forest Service may become the guide to the new fee policy for the rest of the nation. AO submitted its comments on March 12th. We objected to the disparity in fees between various activities, such as the fees for remote setting nature tours and road based tours. Fees for remote setting nature tours are over three times the fees for road based tours. AO also asked that the Forest Service reconsider its efforts to turn permit fees into a profit center and to consider the public policy implications of fee increases. The comments may be viewed under Government Affairs, proposed rules and comments on www.americaoutdoors.org.

The Forest Service is revising its outfitter and guide permitting policy, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register by early summer followed by a comment period. A new policy on fee determination will follow the permit administration policy. For more information on the development of the new Forest Service outfitter and guide permitting policy, see hot issues on americaoutdoors.org home page.
   
Reservations Training Session
Scheduled for April 5th in WV
  The first on-site training for reservationists for AO members is scheduled in West Virginia on April 5th. AO is coordinating training sessions in areas where there is interest among outfitters and 18 reservationists can attend a 6-hour session to improve sales and customer service. America Outdoors has an agreement with Signature Worldwide to conduct the sessions. Signature is a world leader in providing training to the hospitality industry. 7 slots are still open for the West Virginia seminar.
   
AO Representatives Meet with the NPS
Concessions Advisory Board
  Mike Mills, owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center, and David Brown, AO's Executive Director recently attended the NPS Concession Advisory Board meeting for dialogue with NPS on concessions issues. Dick Linford, former AO President and member of the Advisory Board, was also present.

Representatives from Price Waterhouse Coopers gave an overview of the NPS proposed insurance requirements. NPS is still considering requiring "admitted carriers" and high pollution limits but did say they are reconsidering these issues after being advised by AO that there are no "admitted carriers" in most segments of our industry. We also discussed the overlays of regulations some NPS concessioners are facing after contracts are issued, including extensive new requirements for the Environmental Management Plan, which apply only to Category I and II contracts.
   
Electricity Deregulation Takes Hold in 2007
  Rate caps for electricity are due to come off in many states in 2007. Maryland and Pennsylvania are bracing for increases of as much as 75 to 80 percent, which would have a negative impact on the economy of those states, according to NFIB.

While deregulation was implemented by Congress ten years ago, many states have held on to their rate setting authority. However, in 2007, the last of the state-rate protections will expire, and the true free-market system will finally be in place. Given the production costs for power and the antiquated state of the power grid, some analysts predict that competition will not result in the reduced rates that many have projected. Deregulation lowered prices in the telephone and cell-phone industries. Difficulties with production costs and the power grid, may not lower rates for electricity for the short term. De-centralized generation and co-generators, who sell power back to utilities at prevailing rates may benefit from deregulation.
   
Outfitters on the Upper Ocoee Take Out Loan to Pay for Water Releases
  Outfitters on the upper Ocoee River are required to reimburse TVA for lost power, when water bypasses generating turbines and it is released into the riverbed to support whitewater rafting. TVA is not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which often mandates water releases for recreation during relicensing. The middle stretch of the Ocoee is also dam controlled, but a Congressional appropriation in 1984 paid for water on that stretch for a 35 year period, which outfitters are paying back at the cost of $1.00 per person.

The upper Ocoee was developed as a site for the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition. The Forest Service and the state of Tennessee put over $20 million into the site for the Olympic competition, revising the riverbed with grout to create a world-class whitewater course. Unfortunately, no plans were made to provide water for recreation after the event, so the burden of working out a deal fell on the 22 outfitters operating on the river. Year to year deals for water releases were not giving outfitters enough certainty to price and promote the upper stretch. Last year a creative solution was reached for 34 days of scheduled water releases per year over a 12 year period. Under the contract outfitters paid TVA over $1.3 million in advance for 12 years of water and a grant for $600,000 covers the balance of the nearly $2 million payment. According to press reports, TVA claims it is losing money on the deal.

A loan was arranged through the Southeast Tennessee Development District with 8 different banks for the outfitters portion ($1.3 million). The Ocoee River Outfitters Association is the entity signing the contract with TVA to pay for the water and will collect fees from its members. If the Association defaults on the loan, TVA will have to reimburse the banks for the money advanced to pay for future water releases on a pro-rated basis. The State of Tennessee will determine which outfitters get to run the river and the state of Tennessee will enforce the prohibitions for failure to pay fees.
   
Confluence, America Outdoors Marketing and Management Conference Set for Reno in 2007 and Knoxville in 2008
  Get ready for another informative conference in 2007 as America Outdoors returns to Reno for its Marketing and Management Conference, December 5-8 at the Silver Legacy Resort. Make plans now to be with us in Reno for Confluence 2007.

With emphasis in marketing and improving your bottom line, AO's conference will give you concrete ideas you can take home and use in your business immediately. Also in 2007 a revamped networking session with topics focused on operation issues relevant to your business will be featured.

Knoxville Tennessee's new state-of-the-art convention center will host the America Outdoors conference in 2008 from December 3 to 6, 2008.
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America Outdoors® Inc., PO Box 10847, Knoxville, TN, 37939

America Outdoors Staff Title E-mail address
David L. Brown Executive Director dbrown@americaoutdoors.org
Robin Brown Communications Director robin@americaoutdoors.org
Office Manager office@americaoutdoors.org
Office Phone 865-558-3595
Office Fax 865-558-3598

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