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The renewal of existing priority use permits for activities licensed by the Idaho Outfitter and Guide Licensing Board has been turned into a scoping and public comment process by the Forest Service. Cathy Cranney of Rawhide Outfitters explained the change in the permit re-issuing process to the Lemhi County Commissioners Monday, September 14, and asked for a letter of support for the Outfitter industry and what it does for this county.

She said there are at least 125 outfitter permits on the Salmon Challis National Forest which equates to the highest per capita number of permits in the state. Cranney said that number of permits represents the economic importance the private enterprise outfitting industry provides to this area. Rawhide Outfitters alone has built up to at least 1,000 guests a year and has been in business for 26 years.

She said there is a concern that the scoping/public comment process may open the door to some negativity and she as well as other outfitters wants to stay ahead of that possibility by being proactive.

The re-issuing of permits involves 12 land based operators, two Middle Fork outfitters and 21 Main Salmon River Outfitters. She said that in past years if an outfitter wanted to make a change to the business it was done with a small notice in the paper. Now, it is a public scoping process open to all comments. Cranney said unfortunately people don’t seem to share the positive aspects as much as the negatives. What she and others are doing is encouraging people with positive experiences about the Outfitters and Guides to share those feelings in letters of support. The comment period closes September 20.

The same public notice has been published in Challis and in a letter of support from the Custer County Commissioners they stated that outfitter operations represent the custom and culture of both Custer and Lemhi Counties and are a great economic benefit to almost all businesses in the communities. They said, “These businesses are the means by which any visitors regardless of ability, age or experience may recreate on the Salmon-Challis National Forest and enjoy both its rivers and forests.”

Another issue is a paragraph in the Forest Service public request for comments. Under the question “How we will determine what to do?” the Scoping Notice states, “We will use issues identified by our specialists and those we receive from you to reduce impacts to the environment and to analyze the effects of implementing the project.”

In the Custer County letter of outfitter support the commissioners were firm in not supporting any reduction in the outfitters ability to serve the public and went on to say “…we do not support a decrease of user days or a reduction in reserved camp sites.”

In Cranney’s opinion the scoping notice language indicates the Forest Service is looking for opportunities to reduce recreational permit use. She said as an example, the agency wants to average out Rawhide Outfitter’s actual use of the river over the past five years, determine the highest number of trips and limit future use to that number. She said outfitters have the highest respect for the resource that provides them a livelihood and are very good stewards of the land. She said as long as an outfitter is doing a good job of managing the resource in all ways, including safety, what the outfitter offers is in many cases the only way people have to enjoy the river or the forests.

Cranney was accompanied in her visit to the Lemhi County Commissioners by Stephanie Burnt-Ellis and Peggy Burnt.

In reference to a limit on trips Ellis said, “What they’re trying to do is cap it.” She said wanting to put a cap on use is totally new. Ellis also pointed out the local outfitters almost exclusively hire people from Salmon since those who live in this area can answer questions about living here and know the area’s history which adds to the visitor’s pleasurable experience.

The Lemhi County Commissioners were in total agreement with the benefit of services provided by the local Idaho Outfitters and Guides and committed to writing a letter of support hoping other members of the community will do the same.

Letters should be addressed to: Chuck Mark, Salmon-Challis Forest Supervisor, 1206 South Challis Street Salmon, Idaho 83467. Faxes can be sent to 208-756-5151. Electronic comments can be submitted in MS Word (*.doc) or rich text format (*.rtf) to: The words ‘Outfitter Permit Reissue’ should be in the subject line.

Comments must be received by September 20, 2015.

Questions may be directed to Patti Schwind, Forest Permit Administrator. Her telephone number is 208-756-5147 and her email address is

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