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Hearing on NPS Contract and Insurance Requirements Highlights Challenges for Small Businesses

At the hearing on Concession Contract Issues for Outfitters, Guides and Smaller Concessions America Outdoors Association Executive Director David Brown told the members of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in the U.S. House of Representatives that “regulatory creep and prospectus requirements are imposing substantial burdens on and threaten the very viability of smaller concessioners.” While citing the success of the relationship between outfitters and the National Park Service in the past, Mr. Brown said that storm clouds are gathering over that success as NPS relies on consultants with limited knowledge of outdoor recreation to set liability insurance and other contract requirements.

Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) expressed concern that “increased fees, bureaucracy and regulation are driving up the cost of running private businesses in national parks making profitable operation difficult and threatening the continuation of visitor services that make visitor access possible and affordable for American families while providing thousands of local jobs.” Rep. Bishop also expressed concern that NPS in some cases was “pushing small businesses into making expensive capital improvements to government facilities that were not contemplated by the concession contract and with costs that are impossible to recoup over the short course of the standard ten-year contract.”

During his testimony Mike Mills of the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Arkansas and Nat Patridge of Exum Mountain Guides delivered evidence to support Representative Bishop’s assessment. Mills held up the more than 300 pages of documents that he was required to review before submitting a proposal to operate a small canoe livery operation at Buffalo National River. The contract for canoe liveries at Buffalo River requires concessioners to cease operating in swift water or Class II conditions unless the concessioner can verify the paddling experience in swift water of each person renting a canoe. Patridge revealed that an increase in insurance premiums to meet a $5,000,000 limit would take over 25% of his company’s net income. Rick Lindsey, CEO of Prime Insurance Company told the committee that for some unknown reason, NPS was creating many new draconian, unwanted, and unwarranted burdens on the outdoor recreation and guided tour industry.”

To read the hearing testimony click here.
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