Rafting companies do not have to comply with a presidential order to pay guides at least $15 an hour, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals gave Duke Bradford, the owner of Chaffee County’s Arkansas Valley Adventure and the Colorado River Outfitters Association, a reprieve in their lawsuit to block President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring federal government contractors to pay workers at least $15 an hour plus overtime.
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The appeals court granted an injunction the rafting outfitters were seeking, which had been denied by a federal judge last month.
“This is not a win. It’s an opportunity to be heard,” Bradford said. “This is a breather.”
Bradford and the association sued the federal government in December, arguing that the Biden administration’s wage spike for rafting guides who operate on federal land would hinder outfitters from offering affordable overnight trips. They argued that Biden overstepped his authority with an executive order, instead of routing the wage increase through Congress. They also argued that rafting, hunting, hiking and other outfitters who operate under agreements with federal land managers are not contractors but permit holders.
In a short ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Gregory Phillips and Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Kelly gave the rafting outfitters a temporary injunction while they pursue an appeal of the federal court’s January decision.
Bradford expects the ruling means outfitters can move forward as planned for the upcoming summer season. While he does not necessarily anchor his business on overnight trips, he said the lawsuit represents outfitters across the country who regularly bring guests into the backcountry for extended trips.
“This gives hunting guides, hiking guides, horseback guides a chance to better understand what’s going on,” Bradford said. “Anyone who is doing long trips in the backcountry, they are really all concerned with this.”