Sedona AZ (November 20, 2019) – Several illegal outfitter guides in the Sedona area of the Red Rock Ranger District have recently been convicted, banned from national forests, and fined for illegally operating commercial businesses and offering paid tours without authorization or a special use permit.
Mark Truesdell, operating under the business name of Sacred Sites Journey; Georgina Rock of Air B&B Experience; and Kurt Raczynski of Inner Journeys, have all been sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, including being banned for one year from the national forests of Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott, and Apache-Sitgreaves.
Additionally, each was ordered to pay restitution in amounts ranging from $220-$460, as well as a fine ranging from $500-$1,000. They were also ordered to remove any physical business advertisements and Internet advertisements of tours on the national forests within the state of Arizona.
These convictions were the result of effective undercover work performed by Forest Service law enforcement and investigation officers, who continually develop leads about illegal outfitter guides conducting operations on northern Arizona national forests.
Businesses and outfitter guides seeking to offer any commercial activities on national forest land are required by law to obtain a special use permit from the district within which the activity will be provided.
The Red Rock Ranger District currently has 42 permitted outfitter and guide companies which provide guided ATV, equestrian, hiking, hot-air balloon, Jeep, metaphysical, and mountain bike tours. Each of these businesses are partners with the Forest Service in protecting natural resources and are required to meet specific standards and follow specific rules of operating to ensure the beauty of the land remains for generations to come.
Permitted outfitter guides help with road maintenance, are co-stewards for heritage sites, and assist in reporting graffiti, resource damage, and wildfires.
The Red Rock Ranger District estimates that permitted outfitters and guides have grossed approximately $36.5 million in 2019, of which $1 million in fees goes toward district operations such as road and trail maintenance, supplies and tools, and employee salaries.
By ignoring federal regulations, illegal guides have a number of negative impacts, including:
- developing and/or contributing to unplanned trails leading to sensitive areas;
- causing and increasing resource damage to sensitive soils and animal/plant species;
- exceeding road and trail capacity limits;
- impeding on the experiences of responsibly-recreating public;
- and avoiding Forest Service fees that fund resource stewardship.