The following document is the 19 pages of DRAFT suggestions that APHA intends to submit to DNR concerning the DNR Guide Concession Plan/Project. Due to the length of the document I had to break this up into three separate parts.
To their credit, they sent it to their professional members for review.
They also sent it to at least one former member, myself.
APHA Draft Program Comments:
APHA Draft Comments in Blue and Red, DNR Proposed Criteria in Black.
Regarding Continued Program Development:
As industry service providers, we request that DNR continue to provide opportunity for us to review and comment on future changes to the proposed program. This is a very important aspect as we have serious concerns with the program as proposed and feel strongly that we be allowed to review and comment on changes that are made in an effort to help continuing development produce the best results for DNR and the industry.
Regarding Makeup of the Selection Panel:
We strongly encourage DNR to have two industry representatives as well as a member of the Big Game Commercial Services Board within the makeup of the selection panel. Through the course of dealing with appeals related to USF&W guide use permits, the appeals regarding selection most commonly brought forward directly relate to the panels inability to define field craft, ethics, guide regulations and hunting regulation within the scope of the proposed plans of operations. If the selection panel has two industry representatives, and a member of the BGCSB it provides better integrity for the program and will diminish the potential for appeals. The industry representation should be made up of industry service providers of historic integrity who are either retired or do not operate on State or BLM lands. They may or may not have a vote related to scoring but their ability to point out important industry operation aspects is vital to providing a fair process.
Additionally, industry representation on the selection panel will reduce the effectiveness of professional prospectus writers or attorneys hired by service providers to write their prospectuses. There are certain aspects of the plans of operation which a industry representative can recognize that a agency person would not, such as: actual versus proposed amount of airplane, boat, horse, staff, effort to facilitate proposed services, actual versus proposed amount of fuel storage required, actual ability to facilitate a economically viable operation, actual ability to conduct the proposed time spent with clients, actual ability to conduct proposed scope of operation related to logistics, weather and terrain etc. etc, the list goes on and on.
Regarding Appeals and the Appeals Process:
We have enough concern about the proposed criteria to know that there will be appeals. As the existing DNR appeals process has a substantial backlog of cases and limited staff we recommend the following:
Use the scope of the above proposed selection panel as the appeals panel. If an applicant appeals a decision, they can come before the panel and argue their case once, as well as the selected winner. Decision by the panel after hearings are held for both sides would be final.
Regarding Scoring of Criteria:
With the makeup of the proposed scoring factors and low scoring ability within the plan of operations, and the high scoring for financial remuneration, the resulting applicant scores regarding stewardship, knowledge and experience are going to be very close regardless of the attempt of the criteria to discern the best operators.
We suggest that the financial remuneration points be significantly reduced or completely deleted as suggested within our specific comments related to Scoring Criteria Number 4. Additionally, we have made several other suggested proposed criteria changes that would result in reducing the number of points awarded for certain criteria factors. We have also suggested within the criteria a number of proposed new criterions for your consideration
Our recommendation regarding scoring has two options:
a. Reduce the proposed scoring as suggested for certain criteria and redistribute the points in the stewardship factors to allow a broader range of scoring opportunity which will help discern the best operators on the ground.
b. Reduce the proposed scoring as suggested for certain criteria and redistribute the points in the important stewardship factors. Then, convert the point system with a percentage system and combine aspects of each of the main scoring criteria with sub-factors as possible to allow a broader spectrum of grading ability. This will help determine the best applicants by broadening the scoring ability and well reduce the high potential for ties.
Regarding proposed number of concessions to be awarded and applied for:
We support the applying for maximum of four concessions.
We have strong objection to being allowed to be selected for only two based on the following:
For many years, Alaska’s guide industry service providers have been limited to three Guide Use Areas in an effort to restrain commercial impact. This concept has to a significant degree worked and has long been the established norm of the industry. No matter how many State, Federal or private land use authorizations held, a service provider can only operate within three GMU’s.
This model should stay the same for a number of important reasons.
Many existing service providers have been conducting hunts on State lands within three GUA’s for many years and have substantial investments in them. To suddenly disallow the three GUA concept to be used within State and BLM lands lends confusion to existing law and lends considerable potential challenge to maintaining the three GUA concept on Federal lands.
We strongly recommend that DNR take into consideration the historical intent of existing law and allow for award of three concessions per applicant.
Regarding proposed Full Rights and Limited Rights Concessions:
The main reason we all are involved in this process is to relieve commercial impact and its potential on important wildlife populations. The past several years of development has brought us a long ways in regards to defining the problem and seeking solutions.
As the program has been developed to reduce impact, naturally, service providers are worried that they may not prevail. When this comes to the surface, options that will allow the best opportunity to prevail, come to the surface. These options do not always provide for the conservation aspects that are important for the program to be a success but rather a manner to keep a larger number of service providers in the field. This being stated, the Full Rights Concession by itself, makes the most viable manner of effectively maintaining a good conservation basis to the program, as well as providing for less administrative oversight and long term sustainability of the program and the industry.
Many of the proposed concessions have one to three proposed opportunities within them currently. These proposed numbers were discussed and agreed upon as viable long-term sustainable opportunities. With the new proposed “Limited Concessions”, many of the negotiated proposed concessions will no longer meet the original goals of viable and long-term sustainability. This directs us back to another mapping process and numbers of what kind of concession opportunities are to be developed that can still maintain a conservation basis. In short, goes against the grain of the overall intent of the program.
It is also our understanding that once the proposed Concession Areas and the number of operators were defined, this information was given to ADF&G for conservation review, and with some changes was granted. With this new Limited Right’s Concession coming to the surface at this point in the process, it questions and jeopardizes all of the previous work.
Much of the user group conflict that has come before the Board of Game has come from towns and villages that are dependent upon the river systems for important food harvest. Central Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Mulchatna, Noatak, Squirrel are all river systems that have experienced this conflict and resulting in very expensive management/conflict working groups and subsequent conservation measures that reduced or eliminated other (nonresident) opportunity. We need to keep this in mind in relation to the concession program. We do not want to have conservation concerns coming before the BOG related to the concession program or operators. This will undermine the integrity we are trying to develop.
Much of the service provider conflict recognized through development of the Concessions program has come from highland region operators versus river operators. Please also understand that when the proposed concessions were developed, the upland seeking service providers had a certain sense of conservation and resource availability related to the river systems in the region and the migratory nature of the wildlife. Developing new river based concessions puts the original upland sought conservation basis in question.
We recommend that the program be implemented only with the full rights concession model and that the few areas of concern within GMUs 16 and 17 be divided into upland and river concessions. Existing number of proposed upland concessions should stay the same and the number of river system concessions should be minimal. Additionally, sideboards need to be developed for defining river operators from upland operators. It is important to try to keep from distinguishing the river habitats by corridor width. This leads us down the path of Corridor Closures, which work against the best interest of the whole for everyone.
Regarding Post Season Report and Ten-Year Terms:
Integral to making the proposed program work is the necessity of utilizing a graded post-season report. This report should provide the conservation, hunter effort, illegal activity and accident and fee oversight information for each year. Additionally and as a new and very significant conservation aspect for ADF&G, the report should contain anecdotal information questions about predator and prey wildlife populations, recruitment numbers as well as any range and nutritional concerns etc. This would be a very beneficial history and new tool for ADF&G.
Vitally important to the integrity of the program is for the service providers who are selected for the concessions to know that their work as good stewards results in the long-term viability of their businesses. This is very important to make this program work for the best interest of Alaska and the industry. Also important to understand is that service provider who starts into a new area has approximately a five-year learning curve regarding how to best operate in the area. This leaves five years left in the concession period before the existing operator under the program as proposed is thrown back into a pool of new applicants to compete for the area again. This is not in keeping with any good level of prudent business management or industry support. To help provide for this concern we recommend the following:
Annual scoring for the Concessionaires Post Season report should be the same as what the NPS Concessions program uses: Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory and Marginal. We also recommend that the same guidelines used by NPS for earned renewal be provided in the next ten-year cycle of the concession. This allows for an operator who has consistently been a good steward of the wildlife, land, and industry and earned a satisfactory report to have a sustainable business.
Ten-Year Terms Only. The five-year plus five year concept is an administrative burden and unneeded. Incorporate a method to take a concession back for unsatisfactory Post Season Report ratings and re-offer the concession with the next offering.
Regarding Tie Breaker Concepts:
The following recommendations were developed by the BGCSB DNR Subcommittee for consideration:
1. Allow communication between tied parties for potential agreeable solution opportunity.
2. Highest score of highest graded criteria.
3. Number of concessions – tie would go to the applicant who has the least number of state concessions.
4. Seniority factor.
We recognize that DNR has recommended not allowing any transferability of the proposed concessions. Please understand the following:
a. We encourage DNR to understand that operating a business as a professional guide represents in most cases as good stewards of the available resources, a way of life and not necessarily an economic boon. In most proposed concession opportunities, even the most prudent of service providers will have little opportunity to generate annual revenues for personal future health or retirement needs. The transferability aspects built into the existing USF&W and NPS programs are working within the concerns brought forward by the Owsichek decision. Permits and Concessions transfers are being allowed and the process in which they are overseen provides the agencies with opportunity to participate in important aspects of the new entry. At the same time, new entry is happening through their regular offering process and young, comparatively new service providers are being awarded great opportunities. In short, these systems which include some transferability aspects are working for the best interest of the whole.
b. Another important aspect of transferability revolves around a family oriented business. As a State, or as an agency, we should recognize the important aspects of providing good integrity to Alaska’s family run businesses. The professional guide industry operates in nearly a complete high-risk arena. Hunts are often booked several years ahead of time. If a concession operator has the misfortune to die while operating his or her business and has licensed and qualified spouse, sons or daughters that can help facilitate the existing plan of operations through the term of the concession, this should be taken into consideration.
As proposed, a service provide, no matter how good of a steward he or she is, may or may not win the concession at the end of a ten year term and has no transferability. Once again, this situation discourages prudent business administration, challenges good stewardship and conservation and discourages family sustainability within the industry.
We encourage DNR to look at the transferability provisions granted within the existing USF&W and NPS programs, review your existing authority in this regard and help make this program work for the best interest of the whole by providing some level of transferability opportunity within the program.
Comments, Additions, Deletions, Regarding the Scoring Criteria as Follows in Blue:
The following five questions must all be answered and supported with appropriate documentation prior to completing the remainder of the Criteria. Please circle the appropriate answer (you must be able to answer yes to the following to be considered further)
1. Are you a Registered or Master guide in good standing with the Big Game Commercial Services Board and Occupational Licensing? This includes current with all fees, testing and other requirements.
2. Are you certified by Occupational Licensing to guide in the unit you are applying for?
3. Are you certified to guide for the big game species you are intending to guide for in the unit you are applying for?
4. Are you currently registered for Commercial Day Use Activity on state land, on the DNR website?
5. Is your bid amount equal to or greater than the minimum bid?
6. Do you have proof you carry, and can provide coverage to the State of Alaska for bonding and insurance? Submit proof.