- A Message From IOGA Board President, Jeff "Real Country" Bitton
I. IOGA COVID-19 RESOURCE COMPLETED After weeks of work, and final expert review, we have completed an IOGA COVID-19 RESOURCE, with Considerations, tools and helpful information for COVID-19 Operations Planning.
Preview of the [interactive] Table of Contents
O-19 has developed this document as an informational tool for Outfitters to make use of in building a plan of operation for business during the pandemic, or informing their decision to do so. This tool is a culmination of research efforts; conversations and meetings with experts, directors, administrators, operators; and internal industry discussions and feedback, on mitigating on-the-ground, legal, and business risk associated with operating during during COVID-19.
There is no way for Outfitters to operate without risk. We are all very aware of the risks generally associated with outfitting and addressed in our Acknowledgment of Risk forms or liability waivers provided to our guests. Viral risk at the level posed by the Covid-19 adds new challenges to an Outfitter’s operation. But just as in the case with our formerly accepted risks, Outfitters may choose to move forward with individual plans that allow us to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 in our operations. This tool is meant to help you develop your own plan by providing you with information and resources generated from the research, meetings, and conversations undertaken by this Group. This is by no means meant to be a directive to Outfitters, nor should it be construed as a “Standard of Operation” or “Industry Standard” for Outfitting during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Group recognizes that each Outfitters operation has its own unique methods, operating areas, and challenges, and specifically disclaims the idea that the establishment of “industry standards” is appropriate in this situation. Certainly, nothing herein should be considered legal advice. You should consider all your planning decisions carefully. Address them with your legal team, your permit administrator(s), your insurance representative(s) and anyone else who may have oversight or managing authority over you and your business.
There will be portions of our individual plans that will need to be compatible with those that we operate in concert with as appropriate: e.g. boat ramps, trailheads, mutual gathering sites, permit administration, shuttles, backcountry air travel, etc. But once alone in the great outdoors of Idaho, it is our individual responsibility to operate, responsibly and independently, as is reflected in our individual plans of operation and in accordance with relevant directives.
This tool is a work in progress and will be revised and updated as the pandemic and the response to it evolves. Our aim is to provide guidance and resources as best we are able given the rapidly evolving nature of all aspects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
To review this Resource document and join in on conversations with other members of the industry, please visit
You will need to register as a member of the site in order to access the Resource / planning document and the associated Member Forum.
(Don't worry, registering is easy.)
II. IOGA INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN PHASE 3 - REBOUND COMMITTEE PLANNING ON
"PROMOTION AND ATTRACTION"
We have also just received formal word that IOGA (represented by Aaron Lieberman) is invited by the Economic Rebound Committee to participate in a Phase 3 "Promotion and Attraction" planning / discussions.
This is great news, and a testament to the hard work of IOGA and O-19 to ensure that our industry and our communities are recognized and part of the conversations whose outcomes stand to directly affect us.
III. IOGA's O-19 Update
By Steve Zettel
[Here's an Update from the guy that's been leading the O-19 charge]
COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge to outfitters and guides, prompting questions and concerns that can seem impossible. How do I take care of my guides, or take care of myself as a guide? How do we transport people to and from trip locations? What does this mean for emergency protocols? What’s the best technique to sanitize saddles between ½ day rides? My boats don’t allow for full-measures of social distancing—what does that mean for operating? Do folks always need to wear masks? Other Protective Gear? When can I operate? Will I operate?
The questions may seem endless.
IOGA represents everything from Goat Packing to 5 Star Backcountry Lodges, and every facet presents different, challenging nuances and more questions to boot.
O-19 is the Lead Work Group formed by the IOGA Board of Directors, with the mission to address as broadly and effectively as possible, the concerns and industry needs created by COVID-19 for outfitting and guiding in Idaho.
The O-19 Work Group was formed less than 4 weeks ago, and by the end of this week, will have or will have:
Met with Idaho, Custer, Idaho, Valley and Lemhi County Commissioners and the Mayors of Stanley, Riggins, Salmon, and Challis, and scheduled meetings with in the coming week with the Mayors and the County Commissioners of the Salmon, Clearwater, Upper Snake and Big Wood Rivers.
Met with the Chairman of the Governor’s Testing Task Force, Dr. Souza and local health districts, clinics, hospitals, and small town medical service providers.
Met with representatives from the Department of Health and Welfare regarding public health related questions/concerns, and provided input to state guidelines bearing seasonal employees and the industry.
Helped inform and organize fishing outfitters in East Idaho and reached out to the communities in which those outfitters operate.
Coordinated with transport and air taxi companies to communicate planning and coordinate operational considerations relating to the industry .
Coordinated with IDFG, USFS, BLM and other management authorities on plans, cooperation, operational plans and requirements
Worked to inform measures for safer working environments for guides and staff by reaching out and finding commonality in efforts by the Redside Foundation, America Outdoors and other Outfitter organizations around the Country.
Coordinated with Idaho Commerce and Tourism to align messaging and find ways to highlight our industry and rural Idaho.
We have recruited the help of the Middle Fork and the Salmon River Outfitters Associations
We have also been pursuing bigger picture items, including but not limited to: advancing consideration of Statewide, convenient, reliable test for our guides (and perhaps guests as well), and; Pursuing Liability Immunity for Outfitters/COVID-19.
NEW(S) (SEE ABOVE)
Created usable industry-wide operating Tool with considerations, tools and helpful information to assist outfitters in COVID-19 Operations Planning.
Achieved meaningful representation on Statehouse Committees
O-19 Members include:
Lonnie Allen - lodges/drift boats/ retail/fishing Upper Snake, also on Idaho’s Travel Council
Jeff Bitton - 2nd Generation Horse Operator, Stanley Basin, IOGA President
Rebekah Cain - Horse operator, Stanley Basin and Arizona, also deals with a Major Resort,
Willi Cannell - Middle Fork Outfitter, Ketchum, Heading up the work on Air Taxis and Evacuation/Life Flight,
Aaron Lieberman - IOGA Executive Director, Liaison to all Federal Agencies and the Statehouse, and the Industry Representative on any the Governor’s Committees
Seth Tonsmiere - 2nd Generation Outfitter on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon, operates throughout Idaho and MT, Heading up the work on Bus and Van Transit
Kristen Troy - Middle Fork Lodge Manager, Middle Fork and Main Salmon Outfitter, Heading up the work done on Pre-screening and “Sick Guest and or crew” guidelines
Erik Weiseth - IOGA VP, River Outfitter Main Salmon and throughout Idaho and OR, Spearheading the O-19 movement on the Clearwater River
Mark Yates - Jet Boater, Hells Canyon, also assisting with the Clearwater River Project
Steve and Jess Zettel - Live in Challis, Middle Fork and Hunting Outfitters, Steve Organizes O-19 and Jess Organizes Steve
Our efforts are impressive, our goals broad, aggressive and yet attainable. We will take any help we can get. Contact any of the above if you would like to join our effort to support the industry, its members and our communitiese during these very unique times.
Outfitting in the Age of COVID-19
[A letter to the Industry from IOGA President, Jeff Bitton]
It has been a long two and a half months since COVID -19 became an “Idaho thing.” First the paper products disappeared off the shelf, then the phone stopped ringing, and soon thereafter the closures started. What little outfitting business there was crawled to a stop. IOGA stepped up to counter, inform, and help folks navigate the many aspects of the pandemic as it unfolded in our own back yard.
Aaron Lieberman, IOGA’s Executive Director, worked with the Governor’s office to ensure that outfitting would be ‘permissible’ for those operators able to meet the requirements and comfortable with doing so, then with Fish and Game staff to allow those clients already booked to utilize outfitted services. He sent out Newsletters keeping all of us up to date with the latest information about Federal grants, loans, payroll law changes, Forest Service policies and more. His “behind the scenes” work and contacts with staff at the Statehouse and the Forest Supervisors offices kept bad policy ideas from becoming outfitter roadblocks.
Steve Zettel, IOGA member from Challis, spearheaded the outfitter group O-19, to research all things COVID and provide information to help Outfitters put together their own operating plans to deal with COVID procedures in their own businesses. This outfitter tool, called the IOGA COVID-19 RESOURCE TOOL is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the 10 outfitters, listed below, who together gathered the information and the resources that outfitters must have to develop their COVID Operating Plan. That resource is now available.
Many of us have started operating, others are just starting operations this weekend or next week. Much of the industry is looking forward to the start of Stage 3, when additional restrictions are lifted. Before we are operating at full capacity, we should take the time to develop our COVID Plan, make sure we can implement it, and protect our two most valuable resources. Those resources are our employees and our reputation.
Our guides and other staff are the engine of our operations, and those who make our trips memorable and enjoyable. Many employees have heard plenty about COVID and are concerned about what their outfitter is doing to protect the health of employees and guests. Develop your employee protection plan as part of your COVID Operating Plan, then share that along with the rest of your plan so your staff knows that you, the Outfitter, are prepared to open for business and offer trips responsibly for your guests. Be prepared to train your staff in new elements of operations. Take the time to make them comfortable.
Your reputation as an Outfitter and a local businessperson has never been more critical. We must certainly always consider the importance of public perception.The public will have new expectations of care, of protocols that protect their health, visible signs that your business takes their wellbeing seriously. Whether it is wearing a mask or making them available to guests, Outfitters need to be prepared to demonstrate and show our guests that we are committed to doing our part. When we share space with other users, whether private or commercial, we must do so in a way that not only keeps ourselves and others safe, but also delivers a visible message that we are acting as good stewards, good neighbors, good citizens and good operators.
Please respect all others and the image of the Idaho Outfitting industry by setting only the best examples at these resource and gathering sites, whether it be at the boat ramp, the permitting site, the fly shop, the trailhead, the airstrip, or the communal bathroom. Remember, we Outfitters are always in the public view. Following the States recommended social distancing guidelines at these areas will be the most important thing we can do to do to maintain great public perception and reputation. Not following the same, will be the easiest way to lose it. Be safe, be respectful, be responsible.
Our communities where we live and operate will also be watching our actions--party size, social distancing, use of masks, hand washing stations and signage. These are our neighbors and fellow business owners, who either promote our businesses or tell visitors to avoid them. They are your unpaid sales force. Make sure they know you are ready to serve visitors and guests in our community responsibly and in coordination with the community. Let them know you are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID in your community while providing the economic boost we all need.
These are NOT normal times! The 2020 operating year will go down in the books as one of the strangest. As an industry, we must step up to the COVID challenge if we are to survive. Each Outfitter business can modify your businesses to greet the recreating public with great outdoor experiences. The public will be ready to go enjoy our rivers and forests. Your IOGA organization is here to help you be ready. The Outfitters listed in the O-19 Update have volunteered their time to collect the resources compiled in the IOGA COVID-19 RESOURCE TOOL. If you have any questions about information in this TOOL, please contact them. Collectively and individually, they are a wealth of knowledge for the Outfitting industry navigating through these most uncommon circumstances.
I hope you have a great summer and fall season.
Jeff Bitton – Board President
Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association
THE "MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS" SECTION
Encourage Idaho's Senators in DC to Support/Sponsor Sen. Manchin's PPP Seasonal Forgiveness Extension Bill
1. (They need a Republican Cosponsor)
2. (Bill Would Extend PPP Forgiveness Through August 25)
Senator Manchin (D-WV) introduced a bill that will extend the Payroll Protection Program forgiveness window from 8 weeks to 16 weeks. While seasonal operators have already been given more flexibility to determine their loan calculation period, the forgiveness period was still confined to June 30. Through this bill, the forgiveness window will be extended through the end of the summer.
Senator Manchin’s office is actively seeking additional co-sponsors. Please reach out to members of our Idaho delegation and ask them to join the growing, bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who are supporting this effort.
Contact Senator Risch HERE
Contact Senator Crapo HERE
If you haven't already, please ask for our Delegation's support for Sen. Wyden's Bill
TAKE ACTION TODAY TO SUPPORT THIS BILL
Call or Email Idaho Senators Risch and Crapo and ask them to support the Wyden bill.
This bill, if passed, could be the difference between solvency and insolvency for a significant proportion of outfitters in Idaho--and like the proposed bill from Senator Daines, it is built on nonpartisan principles and practical needs across rural economies and hard-hit industries.
Contact Senator Risch HERE
Contact Senator Crapo HERE Wyden’s 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act will provide significant investment in wildfire prevention and resiliency efforts; programs that can get rural Americans back to work when it’s deemed safe by public health experts to do so; direct relief for outfitters and guides; as well as extensive resources for watershed restoration.
Some Key Elements:
Establishes a $7 billion relief fund to help outfitters and guides who hold U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior special use permits – and their employees – stay afloat through the truncated recreation season;
Provides an additional $3.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service and $2 billion for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to increase the pace and scale of hazardous fuels reduction and thinning efforts, prioritizing projects that are shovel-ready and environmentally-reviewed;
Establishes a $9 billion fund for qualified land and conservation corps to increase job training and hiring specifically for jobs in the woods, helping to restore public lands and watersheds, while providing important public health related jobs in this time of need;
Provides an additional $150 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, the flagship program for community forest restoration and fire risk reduction;
Provides $6 billion for U.S. Forest Service capital improvements and maintenance to put people to work reducing the maintenance backlog on National Forest System lands, including reforestation;
Provides $500 million for the Forest Service State and Private Forestry program, which will be divided between programs to help facilitate landscape restoration projects on state, private and federal lands, including $100 million for the Firewise program to help local governments plan for and reduce wildfire risks;
Provides $10 billion for on-farm water conservation and habitat improvement projects;
Provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has broad bipartisan support; and
Provides $100 million for land management agencies to purchase and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees, contractors and service workers.
A one-page summary is available here. A section-by-section summary is available here. A copy of the legislative text is available here.