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Certified Guides Cooperative - Providing Access - ©

About the Co-op

Mission Statement

The Certified Guides Co-op is a non-profit guide's cooperative supporting AMGA and IFMGA certified guides by providing access in the United States and abroad.


The Certified Guides Cooperative (CGC) is a guide-owned, not-for-profit co-op formed in the United States, based in Washington State. The CGC provides services to not only AMGA Certified Guides with current AMGA memberships, but current certified guides from all IFMGA/UIAGM member countries. The CGC provides permit access and requisite insurance for guides to work in specific permit-held climbing areas. Although a separate entity from the AMGA, the CGC was formed to help provide needed access and insurance components for AMGA Certified Guides and IFMGA credentialed guides, which the AMGA is not designed to provide. Whereas the AMGA provides the educational/instructional and examination/certifying components of guiding in the US (and as a member country organization of the IFMGA), the CGC addresses permit access and insurance for Certified Guides, thus completing the key areas of need for the guiding community.

Certified Guides can take advantage of the available permits and insurance by becoming member/owners in the co-op with a onetime investment in the purchase of a single ownership share, followed by subsequent annual activation (as needed) for access to the various permits held by the CGC. The organization also provides channels for insurance for AMGA guides working in other countries, on a case by case basis. You may have a favorite certified guide, and if your guide is a member of the CGC, your guide can take you climbing anywhere the CGC has permits.

Historical Perspective: The AMGA – CGF TIMELINE from June 2005 to June 2010

2005 – The Very Beginning

June: The AMGA President reports to the board of directors that creating a non-profit cooperation might be the most workable solution to provide reciprocal access for international guides. The Certified Guides Federation (CGF) is created as a Colorado Nonprofit Corporation, with the goal of providing international reciprocity.

May: AMGA releases $5,000 to Certified Guides Federation to support initial start up business costs.

2006 – The Reorganization Year

October: The Certified Guides Federation (CGF) board is restructured. CGF Board members are: Jeff Ward, John Kear, Dale Remsberg, Adrian Ballinger, Joe Vallone, Clint Cook, Amos Whiting, Peter Gould (Lawyer), and Keith Garvey as chair. The board decides that the CGF will stay a non-profit organization that will be a sister organization to the AMGA.

2007 – The First Year

January: The CGF requests financial assistance from the AMGA Board of Directors to cover half the initial start-up cost. The AMGA Board of Directors agrees to release $5,000 immediately and an additional $5,000 upon receipt and approval of CGF long-range business plan. The board delineates that the business plan is to show expected revenue and expenses for start up year and operational years.

September: AMGA releases the second phase of $5,000 to Certified Guides Federation.

October: CGF hires AMGA Assistant, Justin Yates, to begin work part time, acquiring permits and an insurance policy for CGF members. AMGA offers office resources (computer, phone, printer, internet service, email blasts and space on AMGA website) to support this initiative. Discussions at the October 2007 BOD meeting express the goal that the CGF is to be self-sustaining in the long term

2008 – The Year of Growth and Change

January: AMGA releases $5,000 to Certified Guides Federation after CGF raised $10K to match AMGA to-date contribution Discussion at the AMGA Board meeting centers around the point that in order to survive in the long term the CGF business model must be self-sustaining. CGF Hires Simon Fryer to build website and initiate insurance research to obtain a policy.

April: CGF obtains a liability insurance policy for its members and begins permit applications.

June: The CGF proposes the AMGA provide $10k in additional support. The $10K contribution served to provide continued startup funding to keep the CGF afloat while obtaining more permits and creating a solid business plan.

July: AMGA issues $10,000 to Certified Guides Federation (as voted by the AMGA Board in the June meeting).

August: Scott Schell hired to work as Executive Director (ED) of CGF.

October: AMGA hosts Regional Round Table Discussion in Bend, OR. The goal of the round table is to provide a forum for information exchange and discussion around access issues in the northwest. CGF Report the AMGA Board of Directors indicates they have obtained permits in 12 areas, and that the CGF membership costs are being restructured.

December: Cameron Banko joins as the CGF legal counsel.

2009 – The Year of Evolution

January: CGF brings a proposal to the AMGA board for funding of $10K in order to increase the part-time work of the CGF ED (Scott Schell). As a result of discussing the proposal, the AMGA BOD forms the AMGA-CGF Ad-Hoc Subcommittee. This subcommittee is directed by the board to explore options for the future relationship between the CGF and AMGA, and to advise the board of its findings at the June meeting. The options on the table were: 1. The AMGA absorbs the CGF and they become one entity 2. The CGF and the AMGA remain separate – in this case there would be two entities, with defined roles in the short and long term.

Committee members are: Margaret Wheeler, Betsy Novak, Scott Schell, Dale Remsberg, Keith Garvey, Jeff Ward, Cameron Banko, Peter Gould, Martin Volken

May: AMGA/CGF Ad-Hoc committee meets for 2-days in Boulder, CO to explore potential relationship options between the two organizations. The committees findings are as follows: 1. The AMGA needs to improve immediate access for individual guides and guide services. 2. The AMGA should not and can not absorb the CGF, for reasons of tax structure, permitting laws, liability, and the complex politics of guiding in the US. 3. The Subcommittee should continue work to investigate whether the CGF can/should retain its nonprofit status, or if it should become a for-profit entity instead.

June: The AMGA Board receives the report from the AMGA-CGF committee, and charges the committee to continue its work to determine the future structure of the CGF. The Board generally agrees that the AMGA should increase the priority of access, and charges the subcommittee to create a survey for the AMGA membership to gauge their opinions and understanding of the issues. Scott Schell is tasked with the creation of this survey, due out July – August 2009. Scott Soden, AMGA Board member and Treasurer, is added to the subcommittee for financial advising.

July: AMGA/CGF Ad-Hoc Committee holds conference call. Scott Soden creates a cost matrix for the existing CGF business plan; this matrix shows that the CGF cannot be self-sustaining under the current membership structure, and offers options for changes to membership costs for the CGF going forward. This matrix prompted the proposal that AMGA member dues should be increased to support the CGF. The findings of the subcommittee are as follows:
  1. The CGF cannot remain a non-profit, and should pursue transitioning into a for-profit entity in order to meet the requirements of land managers and to be tax compliant.
  2. The CGF should build a complete business plan for this structure, and include in the plan a proposal to use an increase in AMGA membership dues to support the CGF.
July: AMGA BOD holds a conference call to discuss topics from Ad-Hoc committee’s recommendations. The BOD suggests CGF work with the AMGA-CGF subcommittee and the legal and financial counsel of the AMGA to bring a viable business plan to October meeting for review.

September: AMGA issues $5,000 to Certified Guides Federation to help keep the business afloat during the transition and building of a new business plan (on the LLC model)

August- September: CGF/AMGA survey goes out to membership

October: AMGA Board of Directors holds a planning session with the CGF Board of Directors. Both groups review the survey results, which reveal that the AMGA membership varies widely in both understanding of the issues and in opinions for potential solutions. Together the two groups create the idea of short term and long term work for access – the short term being the CGF in some form, the long term being the position of an access director at the AMGA.

October: the National Round Table in Moab creates a forum for the full spectrum of issues and possibilities with regards to access. All present at the meeting agree that the AMGA should work to improve access. The three main ideas as to how this should occur are:
  1. Via the CGF
  2. Via guest guiding programs with existing guide services
  3. Via a formal position for access policy within the AMGA
October: The CGF proposal (for the CGF to transition into an LLC with AMGA financial support) at the Moab board meeting is discussed extensively, then sent back to the AMGA-CGF subcommittee for further revisions. The committee and the CGF are charged with:
  1. Filling in missing aspects of the LLC business plan.
  2. Researching a cooperative model to see if it would be a more successful model to meet the financial, regulatory, and political issues here in the US.
Reasons for this are several: the LLC business plan needed revision; the AMGA membership expressed a variety of opinions as to how the CGF should function; the LLC model would make it very difficult for foreign guides to have reciprocal access through the CGF.

November: AMGA/CGF Ad Hoc committee holds a conference call. During this call the committee decides to table the LLC business plan and focus on the possibility of forming a cooperative. The committee creates task list to gain information about the Cooperative model for the CGF. It is agreed that the CGF must be a stand-alone organization that is fundamentally supported by the AMGA.

November: the AMGA Board holds a conference call to review the task list presented by the CGF. In general the board charges the committee to continue its work, and to create a proposed business plan for the cooperative model. The board sets a timeline of March 1, 2010, for the completion of the business plan.

2010 – The Formulation of the Future Plan

January: AMGA Board approves funds for the creation of an Access Director in the AMGA office.

January: The AMGA-CGF committee reports to the AMGA board as follows: 1. The cooperative model is very promising as a solution for the CGF because it meets many of the needed criteria with land managers, insurance, potential members, tax status, and international reciprocity

January: CGF asks the AMGA for $6,000 to carry the organization thru until it can finalize the Certified Guides Cooperative plan. AMGA BOD agrees to issue $3,000, and another $3,000 after the CGF/CGC raises $6,000 to match the AMGA contribution.

February: AMGA issues $3,000 to Certified Guides Federation (as voted on by the AMGA Board at January 2010 meeting)

March: The Certified Guides Co-op files Articles of Incorporation in WA State and begins to the long process of building a functional co-op.

May: AMGA hires an Access Director to work on short and long-term access issues for the American Guide.

June – August: the ED of the CGF works to build a business plan for the operation of the Co-op.

...Keep checking our NEWS section for monthly updates!


amga                     bradley alpinist                     Kees Brenninkmeyer


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