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US Forest Service seeking public comment for existing outfitters and guides for Bob Marshall Wilderness

Bozeman man fined for landing a helicopter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 11:00:32-05

HELENA — The US Forest Service is seeking comments on plans for the reauthorization of existing outfitter and guide permits for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

“You know, it assists us with understanding how we can better serve the public as outfitters and guides and how we can better support the economy, the region, and then better serve you know folks that come out,” says Will Israel, Executive Director for the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, a group in direct support of these tourism bolstering Montanans.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is made up of three separate wilderness areas: the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear. While individuals are able to adventure in this huge wilderness by themselves, many opt for a guide or outfitter to lead them through a hunting, fishing, hiking, or other outdoor adventures. This allows many to reach places and do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do without the help of an experienced guide says Israel.

“There are some parts of like the China Wall. It’s 25 miles to just to get in to see the wall. And so, you know, unless you have an outfitter who has the ability to provide stock and horseback trips, the public really, you know, is at a detriment to be able to get into that area,” says Israel.

Those who lead these adventures hold a permit from the US Forest Service and those permits are up for reauthorization for the following 10-year period from 2025 to 2035.

Michael Muñoz, Rocky Mountain District Ranger, says that while the majority of the outfitters perform their duties by the books, and the forest service keeps an eye on them throughout their decade-long permit, this comment period makes room specifically for folks to bring forth their thoughts and concerns to help the industry as a whole.

“But there are situations that come about that at times we’re not aware of, and this is the time for the public to share that if there’s something that’s really serious, that any operation should be considered or reconsidered on whether or not we reauthorize their permit,” says Muñoz.