Earlier this month, a non-permitted Buffalo National River guide was banned for two years from the national park, and given two years of probation, following hikes that resulted in an injured hiker having to be carried out and the death of another hiker.
Jeffrey Johnson also was ordered March 7 to pay $2,686.27 in restitution. The amount of restitution equals the cost of both search and rescue operations performed for members of his hiking groups by the National Park Service in the spring of 2022.
On two separate occasions in the spring of 2022, Johnson led a group of hikers on a very rugged and remote unofficial trail within Buffalo National River. One of these hikes ended with the injured hiker and a May 7, 2022, hike ended in the death within Johnson’s group.
Johnson was found to be running a guided hiking service through Meetup.com to gather people with similar outdoor interests. He was found to be soliciting donations and charging an annual membership fee for users of the Meetup.com group, which would allow the member to join as many hikes led by Johnson for the year as the member wished. Johnson advertised that hikers could pay the fee by check, by Paypal or in person on the morning of their first hike.
An investigation showed that Johnson had never applied for nor received a permit to operate a business within the park.
On Dec. 6, 2022, Johnson was convicted on one count of engaging in or soliciting business inside a national park without a permit and one count of soliciting money inside a national park without a permit. Providing services or operating a business for compensation of any kind inside the park boundary is prohibited without a permit.
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