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News & Views - Oct, 1995 Issue #36 

WILDERNESS PROGRAMS
By Larry Wells Wilderness Conquest Inc.
Monticello, Utah 
801-587-2801 

(Larry Wells was one of the first to use wilderness experiences to work with young adults with behavioral/emotional problems. He started pioneering this approach in the late sixties and early seventies. He was featured on Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story," and has frequently been called in to help with setting up new programs on a solid basis.) 

In the Spring of 1995, a nationally advertised out-of-state wilderness treatment program was caught operating in Utah without a Special Use Permit by the Bureau of Land Management and without a license from the State of Utah. The program tried telling a few stories, but needless to say they were given 24 hours to be out of the state. 

Any program that gains profit from operating on any public lands, National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service or State Lands, is required to have a special use permit by law. B.L.M. may take a minimum of two months to authorize a permit, Forest Service can take up to a year or longer, Park Service may or may not give a permit, (depending on how used the park is) if they do, it may be a month or more and generally the same is true for State lands. 

Park Service and State lands are generally a flat fee $100.00 to $200.00 plus so many dollars per person. B.L.M. and National Forest fee is 3% of the gross income. They will require an environmental impact assessment and a minimum $300,000.00 liability insurance policy with the land agency as co-benefactor. They will require public notification and possibly public hearings. 

Some states (more are coming on line each year) require some form of licensing with Social Services, Human Services or Health and Welfare. Some states such as Idaho will also require a license with the Outfitters and Guides Board. Don't ask me why? 

Utah involved the Wilderness treatment industry leaders in creating policy and standards for licensing. Utah has become the leader in helping other states to set standards and helping honest, concerned folks to set up a safe and productive program. Licensing and special use permits have helped to bring a degree of professionalism to the industry and, contrary to the news media, have increased the quality and safety of the wilderness based treatment industry. 

There is now a movement for national camp standards to be enacted by congress. Washington seldom comes up with applicable common sense standards and generally becomes an enforcement nightmare. The IRS being a prime example. 

It appears the already existing National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps, Inc. and perhaps the Association for Experiential Education, could set standards, and with accreditation, maintain high standards in the industry much more effectively and with no cost to the taxpayer. It would provide a clearing house for IECA's and parents, and make the people with the most at stake responsible to see the industry stays honest. 

Programs running without licensing and special use permits bring the whisperings of Washington to the industry. Before you send your child to a wilderness program, ask for their state license, special use permit, city business license and their FCC radio license. 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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