Carson National Forest Outfitter-Guide Program Analysis



What is it? An outfitter-guide program analysis uses a number of factors to determine the future of the program on a forest. It provides a clear framework in which to decide what type and amount of commercial services are appropriate in an area.

Why are you doing it now?  In September 2008, the Forest Service issued updated guidance for outfitter-guide permit administration. The guidance includes a requirement for determining the public or agency need for outfitted and guided activities. It also directs the agency to conduct a resource capacity analysis if unacceptable conditions are occurring and to determine the allocation of use between the general public and those who use outfitter-guide services.

What are the benefits? Conducting an outfitter-guide program analysis can benefit not only visitors by identifying unmet needs, but can ensure that existing and future outfitters continue to offer quality experiences. This is a proactive approach that looks at trends, resource and social concerns, economic benefits to communities, and uses stakeholder input to determine the right mix of outfitted and unguided recreation opportunities.

How does it work?There are several steps to completing an outfitter-guide program analysis. The first step is the needs assessment. This is a look at national, regional, and local trends in recreation; a supply analysis, which looks at what other federal, state and private providers are offering; current outfitter-guide actual use of service days versus service days authorized and ranking current and anticipated recreation activities by a set of criteria to determine need. The next step is a capacity analysis, which divides the forest into a set of compartments based on visitor use patterns. Each compartment is then studied to determine the need for addressing capacity. Some compartments have very little use and no resource or social concerns. Others are experiencing problems like crowding, illegal guiding, and impacts to plants and animals. For those, the analysis determines a reasonable level of use that can be accommodated without unacceptable social or environmental impacts. This level of use is allocated as service days available to outfitter-guides for specific activities in that compartment.  Finally, a more site and activity specific environmental analysis is prepared to either issue new permits or to transition temporary permits to priority use.

What could it mean for us? The outcome of an Outfitter-Guide Program Analysis is long-term guidance on how the program will be managed. In some areas, new opportunities for existing or potential outfitters could be realized. In other areas, the existing use may be sufficient to meet anticipated need and demand. Overall, this process will eliminate uncertainty about whether an applicant will be permitted or not and will allow a degree of stability to existing operations. While competing services will always be a possibility on public land, determining true need and capacity will prevent overloading of outfitter-guide services where it is not appropriate or needed, thus benefiting those who are permitted there.

How can we help?

As outfitters, you spend a great deal of time out on the land. It would be helpful to know your perspective in order to shape this process. Things to think about are:

  • What kinds of experiences are your clients asking for? Do they want to be away from everyone else, or is that not as important to them? What group sizes do they prefer? Have you seen any changes in the length/difficulty/types of trips they want?
  • What kinds of conflicts, if any, have you experienced and where? Is it between other guides, illegal guides, or the general public? Is it because of conflicting uses, lack of terrain/facilities, or another reason?
  • Are there areas that you have had to avoid because of crowding or some other reason?
  • Are there activities for which you believe an outfitter is necessary for safety, skill level or some other reason? Areas where an outfitter is necessary due to terrain limitations or potential for resource impacts?
  • If you had to decide, what do you think the appropriate mix of outfitters and general public should be on this forest and why?

Draft Carson National Forest Visitor Capacity Analysis and Outfitter-Guide Allocation, January 2018

Draft Carson National Forest Outfitter and Guide Needs Assessment, January 2018

2709.14 - Recreation Special Uses Handbook, Chapter 50 - Outfitting and Guiding & other Concession Services


Forest Service Special Uses website

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.

Contact Person:   Amy Simms, (575) 758-6310.