Outfitter and Guide Needs Assessment
The Carson National Forest is gathering information from interested stakeholders to conduct an Outfitter-Guide Needs Assessment. At this time, we are looking at the need to expand existing and potential new commercial recreation activities across the forest. The needs assessment is not part of the outfitter-guide permitting process and we are not currently soliciting applications for additional outfitter-guides.
What is an Outfitter-Guide?
The role of commercial outfitters and guides on national forests and grasslands is to provide specialized knowledge, skills, experience and equipment that general recreationists might not otherwise possess. This contributes to high quality opportunities for people to recreate on public lands regardless of their skill level or prior experience.
Provide for outfitting and guiding services that address concerns of public health and safety and that foster successful small businesses consistent with the applicable land management plan.
Facilitate greater participation in the outfitting and guiding program by organizations and businesses that work with youth and educational groups.
Encourage skilled and experienced individuals and entities to conduct outfitting and guiding activities in a manner that protects environmental resources and ensures that national forest visitors receive high-quality services.
What is a needs assessment?
The basis for consideration of any new or additional commercial recreational service is first a determination of public or agency need for that service. Need can be assessed using a variety of information and criteria such as size and character of the area, market demand for specific services, existing outfitter-guide use, visitor demographics, safety and risk concerns, economic benefit to local communities, user experience (or lack thereof), user cost to become established in a specific activity, or sensitivity of the area. The Carson is currently in the process of drafting a needs assessment that will consist of:
Identifying locations where outfitter-guides are not appropriate due to legislation, Forest Plan direction, or other regulations. (For example, motorized use is prohibited in designated wilderness so activities such as jeep and ATV tours would not be appropriate in those areas).
Identifying existing outfitter-guide use (location and amount).
Gathering input from outfitter-guides, outdoor retailers, recreationists, interested public and other agency personnel about the public and agency need for additional commercial recreation activities by geographic area.
Why are we doing this now?
In 2008, the Forest Service released directives to more effectively manage the outfitter-guide program (http://www.fs.fed.us/cgi-bin/Directives/get_dirs/fsh?2709.11). We are following the
2008 policy which includes completing this needs assessment. We see this as an opportunity to improve management of the outfitter-guide program to better meet the needs of the public while protecting the forest/grassland resources.
For more information, see Questions and Answers (-> link to new page).
How can I comment?
Your comments are a valuable part of the needs assessment process. Comments received from the public will be used along with other input such as national and regional recreation trend data, information on percentage utilization of existing authorizations, and previous needs assessments to make a determination of need.
You can fill out the Comment Form (Link to Needs Assessment Input Form) or submit comments to:
Carson National Forest O/G Needs Assessment
c/o Jon McNeill
PO Box 110
Questa, NM 87556
The following questions may be helpful as you are formulating your comments:
Have you used an outfitter-guide to participate in a recreation activity? If yes, how did having an outfitter-guide affect your trip?
What are some of your “special places” on the ARP? What guided activities do you believe are suitable in these places and why?
Are there places that should not have any kind of outfitter-guide led activities? If so which locations and why?
Recreationists are often looking for new and different ways to enjoy the outdoors. What trends do you anticipate?
What future role(s) might outfitter-guides have?
Do you have any other comments you would like to share to help us determine the public need for additional outfitters and guides on the ARP?
We ask that you please limit your comments to answering the above questions or providing other information that is pertinent to helping us assess the need for commercial services on the Carson. This is not a forum for outfitter-guide administration topics or advocating for the issuance of a permit to a specific entity. These comments should be directed to the Ranger District responsible for administering a specific outfitter or guide permit. Comments unrelated to the topic at hand cannot be used to assess need.
“Final Directives for Forest Service Outfitting and Guiding Special Use Permits and Insurance Requirements for Forest Service Special Use Permits" http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/passes/documents/final-directive.pdf
Forest Service Special Uses website http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/index.shtml
Forest Service and BLM joint special use webpage:
What outfitter-guide activities are currently authorized in the Carson National Forest? The Carson currently authorizes many activities, including: hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, ATV riding, horseback riding, sleigh rides, rock climbing, photography, jeep tours, and mountain biking.
How will this affect me if I don’t use guided services? Outfitters and guides operate in many areas on the national forest including on roads and trails, in wilderness areas, and other general forest areas. They provide specialized equipment, knowledge and experience to people who may not have it. You may encounter commercially guided activities as you recreate on the Carson or you might be interested in using their services to introduce you to a new recreational activity that you’re interested in trying.
Will this change current outfitter-guide use on the Carson? The primary focus is to assess if there are additional needs and demand for commercial outfitted or guided services on the Carson. However, we are also interested in public feedback regarding the scope of the existing program. We anticipate the majority of existing authorized use to be maintained at existing levels but will ultimately rely on the results of the assessment to determine what changes might occur in any given management area. We’ll be looking at how to manage use by activity, location, timing and season to provide quality recreation opportunities for all.
Will you limit the general public’s use of an area if you limit outfitter-guide use? All authorized guided activity on the forest is already limited. There are no outfitter-guide permits without specified service day limits, and some areas on the Carson already restrict commercial guided activity to protect resource values. Over time and with increasing demand, it is feasible that additional areas on the Carson may have limits on total use (public and commercial) to protect resource conditions at sustainable levels.
How does the affect Forest Plan revision? The current Carson Forest Plan identifies general goals and desired conditions for the forest; however, there is not much guidance for managing commercial recreation. The needs assessment will help us identify desired conditions for outfitter-guides that we can use to develop specific management direction in the revised Forest Plan. There will be multiple opportunities to comment on outfitter-guide, and general recreation, guidance during the Forest Plan revision process.