Guidefitter interviews association leader about relevance of associations today
Guidefitter’s founder and CEO interviewed Kerrie Romero, executive director of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, on the relevance of associations and how they help their members.
Bryan Koontz: First, let’s start with the basics. What are guide and outfitter associations?
Kerrie Romero: Guide-outfitter associations exist in every Canadian province and in most US states. Called everything from Council of Outfitter and Guides to Professional Hunters Associations, all of these non-profit organizations are established with the same primary mission: to advocate for the rights of the many individuals who earn a livelihood taking clients hunting and fishing.
BK: So what do these associations do?
KR: Associations provide many benefits to their members as well as non-member industry professionals. However, the primary benefit of any association is continuous, effective and respected representation in their local government. In many states and provinces the outfitter and guide association is the primary voice advocating on behalf of pro guides and outfitters and is generally the only group fighting to maintain nonresident hunter/angler opportunity.
All associations work closely with their local government agencies, such as the departments of game and fish, Forest Service and BLM. They attend important meetings where government agencies establish the rules that govern hunting and fishing to keep their members informed on the latest changes in the industry. Many associations also have an established relationship with their local department of tourism. These relationships help the hunting and fishing industry by educating the general public about the economic, social and conservation benefits provided by hunting and fishing outfitters and guides.
Most associations are also involved with their national counterpart, the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America (POGA) and the Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations (CFOA). This helps the local association stay connected on a national level and provides a unified voice on issues that would have a country-wide impact on the industry.
Additionally many associations give members marketing assistance through their website and publications. Most association websites include a searchable database of member outfitting businesses where visitors can locate outfitters. They produce magazines that often include a membership directory and are distributed to interested hunters. The magazines also provide the association with something tangible to be given to hunters and anglers at industry trade shows.
Many associations also provide an additional valuable service to prospective guided clients by making sure their guide and outfitter members are properly licensed (in those areas that require a license) and have no outstanding complaints or legal matters pending against them. It’s like getting an additional stamp of approval on your outfit or your status as a guide from a third-party organization who is rooting for your success.
BK: But joining an association requires paying membership dues, right? What are these dues used for?
KR: Associations are 100% funded by membership dues, individual donations and grants from other non-profit conservation organizations such as Safari Club International, Dallas Safari Club and the Wild Sheep Foundation. Government funding is not an option for most associations, so many are forced to operate on a very slim budget. Most associations are actually underfunded and struggle to provide advocacy at a level equal to that of the extremely well funded anti-hunting organizations that are typically at the forefront of legislation that would negatively impact the hunting and fishing industry.
BK: Is membership in an association only open to guides and outfitters, or can others join in to help promote better advocacy for the industry and fight anti-hunting organizations?
KR: Membership opportunities vary from association to association. However, most provide multi-level memberships. All associations provide outfitter memberships. Most associations also provide guide memberships for a smaller annual membership dues amount. Some also provide sportsmen memberships, and many associations provide corporate sponsorships from manufacturers like Kenetrek, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics and others.
BK: This all sounds good, but why are some outfitters and guides in the industry anti-association or at least highly skeptical of what associations do, and why do they ask their members to pay membership dues?
KR: It is a reality that many individuals who earn a livelihood as an outfitter or guide are skeptical of the value provided to them by an association. This is primarily due to the fact that most individuals have little idea what really goes on day-to-day in their state government.
In any particular year, industry professionals simply don’t understand how close they came to losing their rights as a pro guide or outfitter, nor do they realize that it was due to the efforts of the associations that many of those rights were preserved.
For example, the Alaska Professional Hunters Association is currently in a huge legal battle to save nonresident hunter opportunity on Kodiak Island. One person has filed a lawsuit to make all Kodiak tags resident only.
Our association, NMCOG, is opposing the Colorado wolf re-introduction plan. The proposed range is close to the New Mexico border. It’s highly likely those wolves would move south into our state, especially in the winter when their prey base migrates into New Mexico. The association must direct the bulk of its annual operating budget to advocating on behalf of the industry. That means, unfortunately, there is typically not much left over to effectively communicate all of the successes with non-member professionals in the industry. That is why it is so important to become a member.
You will help support the efforts of the local association and provide an avenue to further industry communication to the individuals earning a livelihood as a hunting or fishing outfitter or guide.
Guidefitter, to keep its members informed, assembles a comprehensive list of all the world’s outfitter and guide associations.
The groups listed here promote and defend those who make their living taking sportsmen and women hunting and fishing.
If you have information to add to the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get it added to the list.
The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA) is a statewide organization representing licensed outfitters and guides throughout the state. The organization was established in 1954 in Salmon, Idaho. IOGA in now approaching it's 7th decade of advocating for and defending the things most central to our industry needs and outdoor, recreational values: clean, free-flowing streams; quality fish and wildlife habitat and populations; reasonable rules and regulations; appropriate access, and; generally the conservation of Idaho's lands, waters, and wildlife and the enhancement of quality outdoor recreation experiences therewith .
As the official organization for NM Outfitters and Guides, we are proud to represent the finest hunting and fishing professionals in the state of New Mexico. Established in 1978. NMCOG strives to promote and enhance the outdoor recreation industry by supporting ethical hunting practices and wildlife conservation. Our members spend thousands of hours in the field annually and have a practical knowledge regarding location, health, and quality of game populations.
The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society (APOS) is a not for profit, Delegated Administrative Organization (DAO), administering the outfitted-hunting industry in Alberta. Established in 1997, it is an arms-length, self-funded, legal entity with the purpose of delivering services traditionally handled by government.
Working together to protect, maintain and enhance the opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy the Colorado outdoors.