The U.S. Forest Service has issued new regulations regarding guiding and outfitting on national forest lands. If you plan to guide someone in the fall bear season and you have not made application for a permit, you may be out of luck as the application deadline was July 1. The new requirements include a permit fee of between $150 and $600 depending on the number of days of activity. In addition to the permit fee, guides and outfitters must secure a minimum of $500,000 in liability insurance and submit an operation plan. A permit from the Forest Service for guiding and outfitting is required even for a nonprofit operation.

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There is a legitimate role for the Forest Service in maintaining some control over commercial activities on public lands. It is not uncommon to have use conflicts and resource impacts from commercial activities on National Forest lands. The new guide and outfitter requirements, however, seem overly broad and should allow for exemptions for small-scale operations. It seems excessive for someone who only occasionally guides a bear hunter to have to obtain $500,000 in liability insurance and submit an operation plan.

After two years of acceptable performance, a permit holder may request a priority use permit of up to 10 years. Michigan sportsmen should be concerned with overbroad requirements that serve only to limit access and create a class of politically favored guides and outfitters. Most well-intentioned government regulations have unintended consequences.