Washington • President Donald Trump on Friday overturned an Obama-era order that required outfitters with federal permits for excursions on public lands to pay their workers a higher wage.
Trump’s executive order, which takes effect immediately, was unveiled just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, when summer tourists begin descending on national parks and other lands in large numbers. It also comes at the request of outfitters, who say paying a higher wage would limit the number of employees they can hire, while also raising costs.
In 2014, President Barack Obama had required federal contractors to pay at least a $10.10 hourly wage, an order that was later extended to private businesses who hold federal permits for taking customers onto public lands. Trump’s action vacates the latter provision.
“The order will have a positive effect on rural economies and American families, allowing guides and outfitters to bring tourists out on multiday hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping expeditions, without enduring costly burdens,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a written statement. “The outdoor recreation sector is a multibillion-dollar economic engine, and the more people able to enjoy our public lands, the better.”
Zinke said Trump’s order, signed in private at the White House on Friday afternoon, gives more flexibility to small guide shops and outfitters.
The move will have big impacts for businesses near Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks and other public lands as summer months approach.
David Bernhardt, deputy Interior secretary, said Friday the order is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to get rid of “nonsensical regulations.”
“The president has been very clear that first off, fundamentally, it’s highly questionable whether these type of hunting and outfitting permits and their idiosyncrasies really blend very well with the government requirements for hourly wage requirements,” Bernhardt told The Salt Lake Tribune. “These are fundamentally different types of jobs for folks.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, had introduced legislation previously to exempt the river guides and outfitters from the higher-wage order.
He said Friday that the Obama-era rule was “prohibitively expensive” for outfitters and didn’t make sense for guides who often go on multi-day trips and are not working a set 8 hour day.
“We’re grateful for it and so are a whole bunch of mom-and-pop river guides,” Stewart said in an interview. “These aren’t big companies. These are all little family-owned businesses; it’s been really, really difficult for them. It’s been hard on the people who want to work, too.”
Stewart said that because the guides are seasonal workers and mainly college students, their employment isn’t about making a living but extra cash.
Trump’s order does not affect federal contractors who provide lodging, food service or other services on federal lands.