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November 08, 2017Report to Forest Service Regulatory Reform Task Force - Member Only

Outdoor recreation and access to public lands are tremendously important to connect Americans to the wonders of the natural world.  Outfitted services provide access to active travel and to places that the general public would be unable to visit without those services.  Outfitting contributes to the vitality of many rural economies.  Thousands of family-run businesses and their employees in rural communities are dependent upon land-managing agency permits to access public lands.   Approximately 17,000 authorizations are issued by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies for outfitting, guiding, special events, and competitions.  Unfortunately, the crush of regulatory processes from various federal agencies is threatening the survival of many of these recreation businesses.  Some of those challenges are outlined in this report.

 While this report covers some of the regulations or policies that we would like to see changed, we would like to note that we understand the important role the agencies play in the management of public lands and applaud their efforts to authorize services to the general public.  By focusing on the problem areas, we do not want this paper to be interpreted as condemning their role in land management.

September 14, 2017AOA Whitepaper on Forest Service Permit Modernization 2017 - Member Only

America Outdoors Association issued this policy statement on the Forest Service’s special uses permit modernization in an effort to ensure that our general support and position on various aspects of modernization was known.  This policy statement will identify the aspects of the project that we think are valuable, as well as those which we believe, need adjustment in an effort to arrive at a successful outcome for the Special Uses Modernization effort.  Since this document was written, the agency has made changes to the original proposal on nominal effects, which resolve some of the concerns expressed in this document.

August 09, 2017Letter on Recreation Not Red Tape - Member Only

This letter outlines issues with H.R. 3400 that could lead to more Red Tape instead of facilitating recreation access and streamlining permitting which are the goals of Recreation Not Red Tape.  The letter also suggest using The GO Act language for effective permit streamlining.

January 17, 2017Sample Forest Plan Scoping Comments - Member Only

The new Forest planning regulations are being used to determine what Forest plan revisions say about outfitting and guiding opportunities in National Forests.

January 17, 2017Forest Plan, Forest Plan Revision, Draft EIS Comment Template Forest Plan, Forest planning - Member Only

This model letter enables AOA members to submit substantive comments to the Draft EIS for National Forest plan revisions. Outfitters must submit substantive comments to qualify to participate in the pre-decision objection process.  For example, if you object to the plan revisions lack of additional permits or capacity for outfitting activities in a specific area, you would use this letter to make those comments.

September 14, 2016Forest Service Schedules Sessions on Streamlining Special Uses Permitting - Member Only

Forest Service Schedules Sessions on Streamlining Special Uses Permitting
Since the Chief of the Forest Service (USFS) announced plans to streamline special uses permitting for some groups, the agency has begun looking at options to make the permitting process more streamlined. One of the options under consideration is to provide access without a permitting requirement to disadvantaged youth for overnight trips if those trips have "nominal effects".  Under certain circumstances, outfitters might be able to provide trips to these groups for overnight services without a permit or NEPA.  

July 07, 2016Forest Service Permit Streamlining Announcement - Member Only

Chief Tidwell announces plan to enable more outfitter and guide permits through streamlining the process for issuing permits for recreation services in National Forests.

June 28, 2016Forest Service Update on Permitting, NEPA and Needs Assessments - Member Only

Provides guidance on when and how to conduct various analyses before issuing outfitter and guide permits in National Forest.

June 17, 2016Forest :Service Press Release on Permit Streamlining June 2016

Using existing authorities the Forest Service plans to improve and streamline their permitting processes and staffing to provide greater recreational access to organized groups using National Forests.

May 14, 2015Rep. Bishop Supports FLREA Extension through September 2017 - Member Only

The House Committee on Natural Resources recently marked up H.R. 1991, which extends the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) until September 30, 2017.  FLREA is the authority under which outfitter and guide permits are issued. Meanwhile, the Committee is supposed to rework the bill that was marked up last year, which AOA supported because it contained some very positive language streamlining permit processing.

December 30, 2014Example of Forest Planning Pre-decision Objections Process - Member Only

Under the new Forest Service, planning regulations outfitters and others must submit substantive comments during comment periods to qualify as participants in the pre-decision objections process.  This excerpt from the Shoshone National Forest plan webpage provides an example (2014).

December 02, 2014How to Effectively Protect Your Access while Participating in Forest Planning - Member Only

Since 2008, and as revised in new forest planning regulations issued in 2012, the Forest Service has a pre-decisional “objection” process for the agency’s review of forest plan adoption, amendment, and revisions decisions. The objection process replaces the former post-decisional administrative appeal process.

The Forest Service is required to develop land and resource management plans for each unit of the national forest system under the 1976 National Forest Management Act. These plans provide management direction and general planning guidelines for up to 15 years. The plans include basic management and planning directions such as general levels of outfitter use and strategies for providing recreation services and facilities on the specific national forest planning unit. This memorandum describes the current administrative review objection process applicable to national forest plan, amendment, and revision decisions, and it identifies both how one may object to those decisions and participate in the plan decision-making process so as to qualify as an “objector” under the Forest Service regulations.


August 01, 2014GAO: Forest Service Maintaining 35% of Trail System

What GAO Found
The Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects. In fiscal year 2012, the agency reported that it accomplished at least some maintenance on about 37 percent of its 158,000 trail miles and that about one-quarter of its trail miles met the agency’s standards. The Forest Service estimated the value of its trail maintenance backlog to be $314 million in fiscal year 2012, with an additional $210 million for annual maintenance, capital improvement, and operations. Trails not maintained to quality standards have a range of negative effects, such as inhibiting trail use and harming natural resources, and deferring maintenance can add to maintenance costs.

June 06, 2014How to Participate in Forest Service Plans - Member Only

How to Participate in Forest Service Forest Plans
Participating Forest Planning under the Revised Planning Rule  (Excerpt from Brief from Murray Feldman, Holland and Hart which is posted in full on the AOA website under Forest Service).

January 08, 2014Forest Service Fee Handbook - Member Only


Amendment No.:  2709.11-2008-1 Effective Date:  September 17, 2008
Duration:  This amendment is effective until superseded or removed.


November 23, 2011AOA Comments to Forest Service Modification of Appeals Rule. - Member Only

The Forest Service proposed changes to appeals for special use permits.

May 12, 2011AOA's FS Planning Rule Comments. - Member Only

The following comments were submitted by America Outdoors Association regarding the proposed National Forest System Land Management Planning rules, 36 CFR Part 219, published in the Federal Register on Feb. 14, 2011.

July 13, 2010Forest Service Recreation Impacts and Demographics 2009 - Member Only

National Visitor Use Monitoring Results / USDA Forest Service, National Summary Report / Data collected FY 2005 through FY 2009, Last updated 25 April 2010

September 26, 2008 Forest Service Special Uses Handbook revised - Member Only

Excerpt of FSH 2709.11, chapter 40 issued 09-17-2008. Forest Service Special Uses Handbook.

September 24, 2008 Forest Service Permitting Directives - Member Only

The Lowdown on the New Forest Service Permitting Directives

September 17, 2008Forest Service Special Uses Fee Handbook - Member Only


Amendment No.:  2709.11-2008-1

Effective Date:  September 17, 2008

Duration:  This amendment is effective until superseded or removed.

February 22, 2008 Comments on Forest Service Directives - Member Only

Sample comments on FS Directives from White Cloud Outfitters, Challis ID.

March 12, 2007 AOA Comments on Forest Service permitting policy changes 2007 - Member Only

America Outdoors Comments to US Forest Service Regarding Notice of Proposed Policy: Outfitting and Guiding Land Use Fees in the Alaska Region

March 21, 2006 Final FS Cost Recovery Rule - Member Only

Final Forest Service Cost Recovery Rules

December 22, 2005 Fee Bill 2005 Enrolled - Member Only

108th CONGRESS, 1st Session H. R. 3283 To improve recreational facilities and visitor opportunities on Federal recreational lands by reinvesting receipts from fair and consistent recreational fees and passes, and for other purposes.

January 21, 2004 Forest Service Trails Classifications - Member Only

Trail prescriptions describe the desired management of each trail, based on Forest Plan direction. These prescriptions take into account user preferences, setting, protection of sensitive resources, and other management activities. To meet prescription, each trail is assigned an appropriate Trail Class. These general categories are used to identify applicable Trail Design Parameters and to identify basic indicators used for determining the cost to meet national quality standards.

How to Participate in Forest Service Forest Plans - Member Only

Participating Forest Planning under the Revised Planning Rule  (Excerpt from Brief from Murray Feldman, Holland and Hart which is posted in full on the AOA website under Forest Service).


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