Published on 18 February 2010
Middle Fork of the Salmon outfitters bring 6,000 visitors producing an economic impact of $15,000,000 to Idaho every summer.
Big Government Bureaucracy Raising Taxes on Small BusinessBOISE, ID - At a time when federal bailout and stimulus money is being channeled to businesses and government agencies to save jobs, the USDA Forest Service has initiated a policy with opposite implications. After paying $1.4 million in fees to the Forest Service over the past five years, outfitters on the Middle Fork say their businesses are threatened by a new fee the agency wants to charge to recover the cost for processing their permits. They wonder where the $1.4 million went which they insist should be enough to cover the cost for permit processing.
For the 25 outfitters offering river trips on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon, the financial burden is significant. The issuance of their permits has become complicated, and potentially costly, due to requirements of the Endangered Species Act and other federal regulations. Outfitters fear that open-ended studies, monitoring and the administrative costs associated with permit renewal will compound the impact of the recession and create an insurmountable financial burden.
The viability of outfitting is important to the economic health of rural Idaho communities. The Middle Fork Outfitters Association estimates that outfitted trips produce an economic benefit valued at more than $15,000,000 to local communities. Nearly 6,000 vacationers a summer float the Middle Fork with outfitters and often extend their stay beyond their river trip. Local stores, services, restaurants, motels and specialized recreation providers see benefits.
Grant Simonds, the Executive Director of the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association, sees Cost Recovery as affecting all outfitters operating in Idaho. “If this policy is applied to every permit as it comes up for renewal, the results will be devastating. Lots of our members are small family businesses where any new cost has a big impact. How is a small outfit grossing $50,000 going to absorb thousand of dollars in new expenses even before they take a single guest”?
Outfitters have asked the Forest Service to revisit the regulation and make changes that will protect small businesses from exorbitant costs of prolonged processing and studies.