***Posted to the @PublicLandsHateYou Instagram page on 12/26/2019***
All public lands regulate commercial activities, typically through a permit process. Commercial use permits are issued “as a means to control visitor use, protect recreational and natural resources, and provide for the health and safety of visitors” (BLM). Fees associated with these permits also provide an important funding source to land management agencies, essentially compensating public land owners like you and I for private profits that are generated on public lands.
One of the most common commercial uses of public lands are guided activities. Professional guides provide a measure of knowledge and skills that can be useful to anyone using public lands, from first-timers to experts. Registered guides often have to go through a rigorous vetting process. Although standards vary by location, in Maine becoming a guide can take 6-12 month and involves obtaining multiple certifications, providing proof of insurance, and taking written, oral, and skills tests.
Recently a number of “social” websites & apps like @exploreorigin, @adventureio, @airbnbadventures, and @lyfx have cropped up, offering just about anyone the ability to become a paid “guide” and take people onto public lands with little, if any vetting. It took me under 5 minutes to register to be a “Local” at @exploreorigin. Aside from the obvious safety, security, and environmental concerns that come with an inexperienced “guide” putting other inexperienced people into dangerous situations, the biggest issue I have with this on public lands is the lack of permits.
Without the proper permits, these companies and their “guides” are stealing from our public lands, and therefore you. They use our public lands without going through the proper channels and without paying the required fees. This eliminates essential revenue from land management agencies and undermines legitimate guide services.
If you’re planning a guided trip on your public lands, make sure you are using a legitimate guide service, which will have all the experience, equipment, and knowledge needed to make sure you have a safe, fun, and successful trip to your public lands.