The Outdoor Access Working Group Meets with National Forest in D.C.

In April, The Mountaineers’ Executive Director Martinique Grigg, along with other Outdoor Alliance Working Group steering committee members, met with the National Forest Service in Washington, D.C. to discuss the issues outdoor organizations experience with the permitting system for outdoor group use in National Forests.
Luke Hogfoss Luke Hogfoss
July 01, 2015
Pictured above: Outdoor Access Working Group (OAWG) steering committee members (from left to right) Rebecca Bear - Recreational Equipment Inc., Martinique Grigg - The Mountaineers, Paul Sanford - The Wilderness Society, Adam Cramer - Outdoor Alliance, Jeannette Stawski - Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE), Brian Shirley - AORE.

 

In April, The Mountaineers’ Executive Director Martinique Grigg, along with other Outdoor Alliance Working Group steering committee members, met with the National Forest Service in Washington, D.C. to discuss the issues outdoor organizations experience with the permitting system for outdoor group use in National Forests.

At the meeting, the OAWG highlighted the following issues that outdoor organizations and companies experience with permitting on National Forests:

  • Many people would never experience America’s National Forests without the facilitation of an outdoor organization or company. In addition, most outdoor leaders place a heavy emphasis on responsible, leave-no-trace outdoor ethics, providing important education to their participants.
  • Due to issues including limited transparency on permit availability, difficult requirements, and categorizing nonprofit recreation organizations as ‘commercial,’ numerous outdoor organizations are unable to lead trips into National Forest lands. Permits are often unavailable or too difficult to obtain.
  • The current permitting system is problematic for stakeholders across the board, including the land managers. Land managers, along with permit holders, devote significant time to processing and administering the cumbersome permit system. We would like to see our land managers dedicate their time towards other important issues.
  • Even for permit holders, the current permitting process is cumbersome. It takes lots of capacity to implement and often makes adapting offerings difficult.

The meeting produced some potential action steps. The OAWG is currently working to:

Surface Best Practices

The Forest Service asked the OAWG to identify best practices or national forests that are managing outdoor recreation permits simply or in an innovative fashion. With National Forests having different permitting processes, effective, helpful, and streamlined permitting processes could be identified and used as a model for all Forests.

Create Transparency with Permit Availability

There is little information on permit availability for National Forests across the country, and many National Forests have moratoriums on issuing new permits. The OAWG will work with the Forest Service to identify Forests that are issuing permits and those that are not, which will give scope to the issue and help identify where to apply more resources to make issuing permits easier.

Making Progress

We are thrilled to now be engaging in conversations and partnerships at the national level on this issue. The OAWG will continue to be a resource for the Forest Service as we move forward.

The Path Ahead

Each route to fix these problems has its trade-offs. While some options take a long time, others do not enforce the recommendations very well. We will continue to find the most effective path towards responsible access to America’s National Forests.

The OAWG is holding meetings on this issue on August 5th at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT and October 7-10 at the SHIFT Conference in Jackson Hole, WY. Organizations and individuals interested in this issue are welcome to attend these meetings.


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