Wild Wilderness is sounding the alarm about a new US Forest Service proposal that would grant preferred National Forest access to outfitters, guides, and non-profits. If this proposal is approved, it would have sweeping and potentially permanent effects on all Forest Service Lands — which is the vast majority of outdoorsy-havens around Los Angeles, by the way.
Their site has a good summary of a potential future:
* Outfitters and guides would be able to pay a small fee for sole and exclusive access to prime camping, hunting, fishing and picnic areas, including boat launch ramps.
* Outfitters, guides and non-profit organizations would be awarded an allocation of public use for ten-year periods. Commonly referred to as a “taking,” of public land the rule would give preferred access to the outfitters at the expense of the do-it-yourself public on all Forest Service-managed lands.
* This rulemaking would force allocating access in management areas where access is presently allocation-free, as it now is at Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the Deschutes River.
* Outfitters, Guides and non-profits become “Priority Users”. The public, who does not use outfitters, guides or non-profits for access would no longer have “priority use.”
* The general public would no longer be able to comment on USFS giving away blocks of access to Forest Service land. Outfitting and guiding in designated wilderness would not require public comment and review through an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, there is no provision to prevent outfitting services from selling their preferred access rights to their successor companies.
* The new proposed rules do not protect wilderness areas from commercialization.
Not all doom and gloom, WildWilderness also has helpful links for ways you can submit a comment on this action, either in writing or online. They suggest you CC your Senator or Representative, too.
Remember all comments have to be received by January 17th, 2008. If you do anything outside on National Forest land, from hiking to mountaineering to horseback riding to shooting, this affects you.