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Those who serve as hired guides on trips into the High Uintas say wilderness management proposals target them for discrimination.

Joe Jessup, Whiterocks, president of the Northeast Utah Outfitters, Packers and Guides Association, said the Ashley National Forest's latest draft environmental impact statement for amendment of the High Uintas Wilderness Forest plan lists four alternatives that would limit or exclude outfitter-guide businesses using horses or mules, while allowing the public to travel into the same areas unrestricted.The High Uintas Wilderness plan covers 640,000 acres of wilderness designation in Uintah, Duchesne and Summit counties. It is designed to protect recreational areas, wildlife and natural habitats and watershed.

Jessup said that although outfitters and guides were involved in the public-input process, Forest Service officials did not include any of the group's recommendations when formulating the draft statement.

"It's very discriminatory and is contradictory to itself," said Jessup. "This final EIS draft has been prepared with a total disregard for the outfitter-guide permittees."

Gayne Sears, wilderness coordinator for the Roosevelt/Duchesne Ranger District, said the proposals don't entirely exclude outfitters but do limit their use of horses and mules on "catered trips" into the wilderness area by not allowing the animals to stay with the group overnight. She admitted, however, that "other users" would be allowed to go into the same area with livestock and camp overnight unrestricted.

"Wilderness is supposed to provide a challenge and a pristine environment. As managers we try not to market the wilderness to make a profit. Outfitters are in it to make a profit, so there is a very thin line," she said.

Jessup said Forest Service officials are missing the boat by not realizing the benefit the guides provide not only to a specific segment of the public - more than 70 percent of pack trip clients are more than 60 years old and many are physically challenged, so they must rely on outfitters as their only means to enjoy a wilderness experience - but to the Forest Service itself.

Sears said that in response to the criticism by outfitters and guides the Forest Service has extended the comment period prior to the release of the final statement, expected in January or February.