Forest Service Sends Letter to Regional Foresters on Fees. Ranger Districts Should Base Fees on Actual Use at Actual Prices and Not on All the Permitted Use at Advertised Prices.
Some Ranger Districts in National Forests may be trying to collect fees on all permitted use instead of collecting fees on adjusted gross revenues or actual use. A letter from the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System (see below) advises National Forests to charge fees on actual use at actual prices. The letter states: "Adjust the payment schedule if appropriate to reflect anticipated revenues for the 2009 season."
In addition, the letter clarifies that non use may be allowed if outfitters cannot operate profitably and choose to shutdown due to insufficient business. The letter states that outfitter permits may be put into a non use category. Permit holders should inform the agency in writing if they do not intend to operate for the entire permitted season.
This letter is very helpful to many outfitters who were facing higher fees and we very much appreciate the agency’s rapid reaction to these unprecedented economic circumstances.
See the letter below, which went out June 1st.
File Code: 2720/2340 Date: June 1, 2009
Route To: (2300), (2700)
Subject: Outfitting and Guiding Administration
To: Regional Foresters
The effects of the current economic downturn are being felt broadly across America. One industry that has been hit hard is the tourism industry of which outfitters and guides are a part. There are several administrative steps that the Forest Service can take to reduce the impact on outfitters and guides holding special use permits.
Placing permits in non-use status. Agency policy at FSH 2709.11, section 31.23, provides that the authorized officer may place a special use authorization in non-use status when circumstances beyond the holder’s control deny the holder use of the authorization. Placing the authorization in non-use fully waives fees for that period. However, the holder will not be able to operate at all during the period of non-use. Please consider a holder’s request for non-use if the holder believes that it is not economically viable to operate this year. The decision to place a permit in non-use should be reviewed within one year. If a holder’s authorization is placed in non-use, the period of non-use will be excluded from consideration during the 5-year review of utilization of use.
Reviewing the estimated fee. Some holders are experiencing reduced bookings by as much as 50 percent this spring or are reducing their prices to attract business. Work with holders to adjust estimated use and pricing for the 2009 season in their operating plans and monitor the situation as the season progresses. Adjust the payment schedule if appropriate to reflect anticipated revenues for the 2009 season. As a reminder, the following payment schedule applies to priority and transitional priority use outfitting and guiding permits:
Single Payment. The holder pays the total annual estimated fee in advance when it is less than $500.
Two Payments. The holder pays half the total annual estimated fee in advance and the remainder by mid-season when the total is equal to or greater than $500, but less than $2,500.
Three Payments. The holder pays one-third of the total annual estimated fee in advance and the remainder in two equal payments by mid-season when the total is $2,500 or more.
Final Payment. The Forest Service reconciles the permit fee based on actual revenues, against permit fee payments made. The holder will be billed for any additional fees owed for the past year’s operation, or alternatively, if the holder overpaid, the Forest Service will process a refund or credit.
Outfitters and Guides are key partners in providing the benefits of recreational services to the public. They are usually small businesses that provide jobs in local economies. Therefore, we should make every effort to be fair and responsive to requests for non-use and review of the estimated fee.
/s/ Richard W. Sowa (for)
JOEL D. HOLTROP
Deputy Chief, National Forest System
cc: Carolyn Holbrook
Some State Transportation Departments Implementing Higher Federal Standards for Shuttle Buses
Buses carrying 16 passengers or more across state lines (interstate) commerce have been subject to “for hire” insurance and regulatory standards for some time. $5,000,000 limits on liability insurance have been required. Now some states are implementing higher standards on intrastate shuttle buses. One outfitter in Montana notified America Outdoors that the higher insurance and regulatory standards are being required in that state, which we confirmed with the state Department of Transportation. Each state has the authority to require the higher federal standards or make up their own standards for intrastate carriers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website states:
"The term ‘‘for-hire motor carrier’’ as defined in part 390 means a person engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation. The FHWA has determined that any business entity that assesses a fee, monetary or otherwise, directly or indirectly for the transportation of passengers is operating as a for-hire carrier. Thus, the transportation for compensation in interstate commerce of passengers by motor vehicles (except in six-passenger taxicabs operating on fixed routes) in the following operations would typically be subject to all parts of the FMCSRs, including part 387: whitewater river rafters, hotel/motel shuttle transporters, rental car shuttle services, etc."
Inspections of for hire buses crossing state lines will have to meet some of the requirements below. One the inspectors in Tennessee sent the following requirements to an outfitter subject to the interstate regulatory requirements.
"During the review I will need access to the following records or documents at the time of the visit:
• List of drivers used in the past 365 days including date of hire, date of termination, CDL state and license number, and date of birth
• Driver Qualification Files
• Controlled substance testing records for the past 365 days witn results and summaries
• Driver payroll records
• Driver records of duty status (logs, time records, etc) for the past 6 months
• Driver trip reports and expense records for the past 6 months, including scale and fuel receipts (Comdata, EFS) and all associated documents
• Motor vehicle accident files for the past 12 months
• List of equipment (company #, license/tag #, state, year, make, GVWR, seating capacity)
• Lease agreements and associated maintenance records if applicable
• Vehicle Maintenance Records
• Driver vehicle inspection reports for the last 90 days (DVIRs)
• All roadside inspections for the past 365 days
• Company gross revenue for the last full year
• Total fleet mileage for the last year
• A copy of your MCS-90, endorsement for motor carrier policies of insurance for the current policy
• Insurance claim information for the past 365 days"