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Comment Period on Proposed Forest Service Permitting Directives Extended to March 20th

February 13, 2008

Comment Period on Proposed Forest Service Permitting Directives Extended to March 20th Study Finds Declining Interest in Nature-Based Recreation
Classified Ad Page on AmericaOutdoors.org Available for Selling Outfitting Businesses    
Comment Period on Proposed Forest Service Permitting Directives Extended to March 20th

Today, the Forest Service announced another extension to the comment period for the outfitter and guide permitting directives, which now closes on March 20th. As you may know, the comment period on the proposed directives for permitting outfitters and guides in National Forests was scheduled to end on February 19, 2008. We recommend that you submit your comments as soon as possible to ensure they are received on time. If you have already sent in your comments to the Forest Service, congratulations! Send a copy to dbrown@americaoutdoors.org if you have not done so already.

While the proposed directives have some important changes, they will have a negative impact on a number of small businesses and organizations unless they are revised. Temporary use permits for more than 100 user days will be abolished. While the agency says they plan to convert temporary use to priority use, there is no transition process other than a requirement to pay full costs for NEPA and other analyses if the process requires more than 50 hours of work. For existing priority use permittees, unutilized allocations of priority use will be transferred to a temporary use pool unless the permitee operates at 100% capacity in one of five years during the permit review period. The agency proposed to issue temporary permits for no more than 100 user days from a common pool but that use will be very loosely regulated. Priority use permittees are subject to inspections, which cannot be appealed, but temporary use is not regulated in the same manner.

There are some positive elements that deserve supporting, including the re-affirmation of ten year permits that are subject to renewal based on performance. The agency also acknowledges inherent risks. Support for those positive proposals are outlined in our proposed comments.

Comments should be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=09000064803304bc

You will find a template for submitting comments at http://www.americaoutdoors.org/docs/TemplateMembersComments.doc

You may copy and paste the document into your word processor and customize your comments.

For an electronic version of the document, send an email to dbrown@americaoutdoors.org

If you need help or have questions, please call David Brown, Executive Director, at 800-524-4814. If you want your comments reviewed prior to submission, send them well in advance of the comment deadline to dbrown@americaoutdoors.org

Study Finds Declining Interest in
Nature-Based Recreation
  A new report published by the National Academy of Sciences by Oliver Pergams and Patricia Zaradic cites a long, pervasive decline in visitation to National Parks and participation in nature-based recreation despite a steady increase in the population in the U.S. The study cites declining visitation as evidence of a "fundamental shift away from nature based recreation." The study states that declining visitation has crucial implications for current conservation efforts because the value placed on natural areas and experiences will decline along with support for biodiversity. The study: "Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation" can be found at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0709893105

America Outdoors data shows that declines are not inevitable for all activities. For example, participation in rafting on the Ocoee and Pigeon Rivers hit records in 2007. But other areas have had difficulty maintaining demand.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts website cites the decline in visitation to the National Parks in which it operates and offers the following explanation for recent drops in demand.

"Dramatic changes in the tourism industry have occurred in the past several years. The major U.S. airlines are recovering from the staggering losses incurred in the early years after the events of 9/11. The price of gasoline, fuel for cruise ships and jet fuel for aircraft remain a major hindrance to the travel industry. Fuel constitutes about 26 percent of operating expenses for airlines today, compared to 10 percent in 2003. Gasoline costs in the U.S. have tripled in only five years. This not only makes it much more expensive to travel by automobile or to drive cross-country in an RV, it also cuts deeply into discretionary spending for leisure and business travel. This may be one reason why visitation has declined roughly five percent in the last six years at national and state parks."

Visits to all U.S. National Parks declined from 285,891,275 visits in 2000 to 272,623,980 visits in 2006. It should be noted that NPS also counts commuters on the George Washington Parkway in the Washington, DC area and some other routes as Park visits.

Many factors lead to declining interest in nature based recreation. Participation in camping, the most common outdoor recreation activity per capita, has declined since 1987, according to the study. The rise in single parent households, increased urbanization, a wider range of home entertainment opportunities, federal land management strategies, increasing fees, and the importance of social networking among youth are some of the causes for the trends in addition to the fundamental cultural shifts in society. Federal land management strategies and higher fees for activities in national parks also contribute to reduced demand for backcountry experiences.

  Classified Ad Page on AmericaOutdoors.org Available for Selling Outfitting Businesses
  Need to advertise your business for sale, or looking to buy an outfitting business? America Outdoors is adding a classified page to the AmericaOutdoors.org web site.

Contact Robin Brown at robin@americaoutdoors.org for more information.
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America Outdoors Staff Title E-mail address
David L. Brown Executive Director dbrown@americaoutdoors.org
Robin Brown Communications Director robin@americaoutdoors.org
Chrystal Graham Office Manager office@americaoutdoors.org
Office Phone 865-558-3595
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