This morning, Senator Wyden released the Recreation Not Red Tape (RNR) Act, which is an effort to recognize the importance of recreation on public lands and waters. The bill makes some meaningful improvements to trails and trail design, permitting, and introduces an organic act to protect places for their recreation and social value. We sat down with Senator Wyden to ask him a few questions about the bill, the importance of recreation in Oregon and the rest of the country, and his favorite places to get rad.
OA: What was the inspiration for this bill?
Wyden: When I was touring Oregon’s Seven Wonders last summer, I heard time and again from people who were downright frustrated with bureaucratic barriers to getting outdoors. After hearing from business owners, outfitters and guides, avid recreationists, land managers, and community leaders in Oregon, I took all of their concerns and ideas back to Washington and got to work. This bill takes straight from their experiences. It simplifies and streamlines the process for visitors and guides to get into the great outdoors, makes outdoor recreation a priority at federal agencies for the first time, and helps maintain America’s public lands.
OA: What are the two most important things you hope the bill will accomplish?
Wyden: First, the bill will cut red tape that trips up Americans trying to get outside to do the activities they love. Permits and fees are necessary to maintain public lands and make sure we can enjoy special places without wearing them out. But I heard on my Seven Wonders tour a big desire to cut a lot of that red tape and make the processes easier. So my bill makes recreation a priority for federal agencies that manage our public lands. Families want to get outdoors. Seniors want to get outdoors. And my bill helps them do that.
Second, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act will boost local economies. The more people visit and get outdoors, the more it helps our small businesses. Local outfitters, guides, restaurant owners and more all benefit from outdoor recreation – to the tune of about $10 billion in Oregon alone each year for recreation and tourism.
OA: We're really excited about the National Recreation Area Organic Legislation. What do you think about the potential of this designation to alleviate some of the polarization and red tape around public lands management?
Wyden: Congress has been designating National Recreation Areas since 1964 to recognize special places to enjoy the outdoors. Creating a National Recreation Area System sets clearer standards for recreation areas, so there’s less guesswork in the future, and hopefully more consensus. And it will help bring more consistent management to existing recreation areas, while preserving local input.
OA: Can you tell us a little more about the labor statistics study? Will better quantifying the economic value of recreation help us make better land management decisions?
Wyden: It’s widely known at this point that outdoor recreation contributes in a big way to America’s economy, especially in rural communities. But what isn’t known is just how much of an impact it really has and how far reaching those effects are. I believe that the agencies should be working together to measure those impacts. For example: How many jobs might be created with a brand-new recreation opportunity? Or, how much money do national park visitors spend on hotel stays, groceries and souvenirs in the gateway community outside that park? With this information, federal agencies, members of Congress and the public will know just how vital it is to protect recreation opportunities, and how to best create new opportunities in American communities.
OA: Last, and most important, what's your favorite place to get outside in Oregon?
The Oregon Coast – specifically Haystack Rock, where my wife Nancy and I got married. It’s an Oregon icon that puts a perfect point on the unmatched beauty of the Oregon Coast. Here’s a photo from the 7 Wonders of Oregon tour this summer.