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Commercial Services Toolbox

The Commercial Services Toolbox is a 'work in progress' and represents only the information available. It provides information on agency policy and guidelines, examples of processes, plans, assessments and other related documents. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on Wilderness Connect. Date of last update: 5/30/17.
  1. Introduction
    Commercial enterprises are generally prohibited in wilderness by Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964. (Exceptions include valid existing rights such as pre-existing mineral leases.) A commercial enterprise is any use or activity undertaken for the purpose of the sale of products or services for the generation of funds or revenue, or for the promotion of a product, individual, or business, regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit. It also includes any use or activity where an entry or participation fee is charged.
    A commercial service, however, is a type of commercial activity that is permitted under Section 4(d)(6) of the Wilderness Act if the managing agency determines it to be necessary and appropriate for realizing the recreational or other wilderness purposes of the area. Allowable commercial services may include those provided by packers, outfitters, and guides, and may also include commercial filming.
  2. Case Law
  3. Policy and Guidelines
    1. General Guidelines
      1. Needs Assessment
        The most common approach to determining the need for Commercial Services in wilderness has been to prepare a Needs Assessment. Agency policy does not require a needs assessment nor provide guidance as to what should be considered in determining a need for commercial services beyond what is stated in the Wilderness Act. A Needs Assessment is typically a programmatic assessment that does not require a NEPA analysis.

        Identification of need is not based solely on public need for a service but may consider how a commercial service operation can contribute to preserving wilderness character, meeting wilderness management objectives, and support the public purposes of wilderness TWA, Section 4(b). The public's need for services can be determined by examining current and past use and trends, results of a visitor preference survey, state game hunting license data, etc.

        Consider the following elements when determining need:
        1. Visitor need for services
          • Specialized skills needed
          • Specialized equipment needed
          • Accessibility or age issues
          • Visitor safety
          • Wilderness dependent activity
          • Other wilderness specific factors
        2. Management objectives
          • Information and education
          • Resource protection
          • Other wilderness specific factors
        3. Public purposes of wilderness
          • recreational
          • scenic
          • scientific
          • educational
          • conservation
          • historical use
      2. Capacity Determination, Extent Necessary, Allocation of Use
      3. Determining Need, Allocating Use and NEPA
        Note - The following are general guidelines only and should be verified against agency regulations and current policy.

        The two levels of planning allow for both programmatic and site-specific analysis but have differing requirements for NEPA compliance.

        Planning Processes:

        Programmatic Planning:
        • Desired Conditions
        • Prescriptions, standards, guidelines
        • Capacity framework (guidelines)
        • Needs Assessments

        Project or Site-specific Planning
        • Specific capacity limits
        • Outfitter-Guide use allocation
        • Outfitter-Guide Special Use Authorization

        NEPA Analysis Requirements:

        Programmatic - NOT a NEPA Decision:
        • Needs Assessments
        • Need for Services
        • Role of Providers

        Programmatic - NEPA Decision
        • Allocation of use by activity

        Project (Site Specific) - NEPA Decision
        • Outfitter-Guide SUA
    2. BLM Policy
    3. FWS Policy
    4. FS
      1. Policy
      2. Additional Guidance
      3. National Forest Planning
      4. Commercial Filming and Photography Memo
    5. NPS Policy
  4. Examples (Plans, Analyses, Templates, and Agreements, etc.)
    1. Needs Assessments
      1. Bighorn Needs Analysis and Allocation
      2. Bob Marshall Wilderness Determination of Need
      3. Bridger Teton NF Outline
      4. Carson Service Days Analysis Table
      5. Deschutes NF-Sisters RD Needs Analysis
      6. Eagle Cap Wilderness Needs Assessment
      7. Humboldt-Toiyabe Needs Assessment Model
      8. Inyo NF Needs Assessment
        1. Inyo NF ROD
      9. Mt. Hood Needs Determination
      10. Salmo-Priest Wilderness
      11. San Juan NF Needs Analysis
        1. San Juan NF Compartment Form
      12. Shoshone NF Needs Analysis
      13. Sierra NF Needs Assessment
      14. Winema-Klamath NF Needs Analysis
    2. Analyses, Scoping, Prospectus, and Screens
      1. Inyo NF Cumulative Effects Analysis
      2. Bob Marshall Wilderness Cumulative Effects Analysis
      3. Bob Marshall Wilderness Cumulative Effects Summary
      4. Bob Marshall Scoping Letter
      5. Bob Marshall Decision Memo
      6. Gallatin Prospectus Process
      7. Humboldt-Toiyabe Proposal Screening Checklist
      8. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Commercial Services Evaluation Criteria
      9. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Guiding Information
      10. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Permit Application Procedures
      11. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Special Use Permits
    3. Operating Plans
      1. Selway-Bitterroot Operating Plan Example
      2. Gallatin NF 5-Year Operating Plan
      3. Gallatin NF Annual Operating Plan
      4. Payette NF Annual Operating Plan
      5. FS R6 Operating Plan Text
      6. Operating Plan Sample Letter
      7. Operating Plan Sample Language
      8. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Commercial Services Management Plan
    4. Monitoring Tools
      1. Performance Evaluation Form
      2. Field Inspection Form
      3. Inspection Form
  5. Training Materials
    1. FS Northern Region (R1) 2005 Workshop Agenda
    2. FS Intermountain Region (R4) Agenda
    3. Gila Wilderness Agenda
    4. Gila Wilderness Poster
    5. Commercial Services in Wilderness Outline
    6. Needs Assessment Training Outline
    7. Wilderness in the Courts Webinar Series
      Session 1: Commercial Services
      This webinar was held on November 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM Eastern time. The 90-minute session featured Peter Appel, the Alex W. Smith Professor of Law at the University of Georgia Law School, and introduced participants to existing case law that decision-makers can use to make more informed decisions regarding the extent to which commercial services are necessary in wilderness.
      1. PowerPoint
      2. Questions and Answers
    8. Resources
      1. Stankey, George H.; Cole, David N.; Lucas, Robert C.; Petersen, Margaret E.; Frissell, Sidney S. 1985. The limits of acceptable change (LAC) system for wilderness planning. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-176. Ogden, UT: USDA For. Serv., Intermountain Forest and Range Exper. Stn. 37pp. Leopold Publication Number 125.
      2. Gila NF Handbook Supplement
      3. Wilderness Stewardship Reference System (WSRS)
        1. Outfitters/Guides