In a recent column detailing the history of Adirondack guides, I included a quote taken from an 1880’s era tourist guidebook.
After detailing the benefits of hiring a guide for Adirondack adventures, the guidebook author had included a mention that guides were “often to be found available for hire at all the local taverns.”
While it may have been the case in the1880’s, it’s far less common in modern times, and it’s likely to remain so if Sen. Betty Little has her way.
Little is the sponsor of Senate Bill Number:S6663 which is intended to amend the NYS Environmental Conservation Law, in relation to guides and outfitters.
DEC last revised guide licensing laws in the early 1980’s and the updated standards were eventually enacted into law in 1985.
There have been very few revisions to the statute of what defines the term “guide” even though the range of guided adventures has grown exponentially since that time.
Guides now provide adventures that go far beyond the traditional pursuits of hunting, fishing and hiking.
Currently, the business of guiding is defined as ‘providing services for hire whereby a guide directs, instructs or aids another person in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater canoeing and rafting, or rock and ice climbing.’
However, the new standard is expected to define guides as a person ‘who offers services for hire, part or all of which includes directing, instructing or aiding another on the lands or waters of New York State.’
The updated revisions may also encompass guided activities such as birding, SUP/paddle boarding, caving, mountain biking and a host of similar outdoor pursuits conducted ‘for hire’ on Forest Preserve lands. Some of these pursuits weren’t even considered adventure pursuits when DEC last revisited the guide-licensing program in the early 1980’s.
The proposed legislation will likely include an increase in the guide licensing fees necessary to fund administration of the program.
Currently, there are more than 2,100 licensed NYS guides. Many are state residents, but there’s also a large contingent of non-resident guides who provide services in the state during specific timeframes such as the whitewater season, fishing season, hunting season, etc.
As the licensing authority, it is important for DEC to ensure all NY state guides are properly trained, fully licensed and not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time they are providing guide services.
It is equally critical for businesses offering guides service to ensure they provide only sober licensed guides.
According to the proposed legislation, “The purpose of the bill is to amend the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) to amend the definition of a guide, prohibit the act of guiding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and increase penalty provisions related thereto.”
Section 1 of the proposed legislation would “prohibit any person from guiding while in an intoxicated or impaired condition as defined and prohibit outfitters from knowingly providing guides for service who are or appear to be intoxicated or impaired.”
The proposed legislation will also define the extent of penalties for violation of the standards established by ECL § 11-1205 and it will address the definition of “outfitter” to mean any person soliciting to provide or providing guide services for hire.
The legislation will require outfitters to ensure their guides are fully licensed for the services they will be providing.
Many guides believe the proposed legislation is the result of a tragic incident that occurred on the Hudson River in which a guest drowned while rafting with a guide who had been drinking.
In addition, the proposed legislation will require all guides and outfitters to provide clients with a written contract defining the terms of services to be provided.
Licensed guides, who are considered to be independent businesses, will be required to provide New York state with a Federal Tax ID number.
It’s expected the revisions offered in the proposed legislation will benefit both the guides and their clients.
The updates will also benefit many of today’s aspiring guides, who are no longer just a “bait and bullet bunch.” Many of the new breed of guides are college grads and they have specialized in a variety of areas including backcountry ski touring ice climbing, birding and naturalist studies, wildlife photography, SUP trippers and mountain biking.
The mix includes a youthful influx of traditional hunting and fishing guides, as well as trained Chefs who can whip up a 5 Star meal over a campfire, or prepare lightweight, high energy, meals for extended adventures.
Today’s guides also know how to develop a small business, and how to market their adventures online.
While many are from the local area, others were attracted to the region for educational opportunities at local institutions such as SUNY Adirondack in Glens Falls which features an excellent program in Adventure Sports: Leadership and Management.
SUNY Plattsburgh now offers a masters level program in Expeditionary Studies, to compliment its well-established undergraduate program. North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, likely the only institution in the country to offer a college level guideboat-building course, continues to offer an associate degree program in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, which is among the oldest of its kind in the country.
Of course there will always be opportunities for prospective guides to further their education at Paul Smiths College, which was founded to honor a legendary Adirondack guide.
The college offers programs in Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Recreation and Adventure Travel, Fisheries and Wildlife Services, Culinary Arts and more. Course work is enhanced by a 13,000-acre campus that is set in the middle of some of the best fishing, skiing, hunting and paddling in the park, which is not a bad place for future guides to hang out.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.