A groundbreaking outdoor recreation bill is one step closer to being signed into law. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR), which Outdoor Alliance has been working on for several years, passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee.
RNR (H.R. 3400) is a piece of legislation designed to help protect and improve outdoor recreation on our public lands. RNR is probably the most important piece of positive legislation we'll see this Congress for protecting outdoor recreation opportunities on public land. Among other things, the bill helps improve permitting for outfitters and guides; adds a recreation mission to land management agencies currently lacking one; directs land managers to be evaluated in part on how they meet recreation objectives; and helps facilitate stewardship by creating new volunteer opportunities and improving cross-jurisdictional trail maintenance.
The most important section, however, directs land managers to create an inventory of places on our public lands that could be protected as new National Recreation Areas. National Recreation Areas would protect landscapes with outstanding outdoor recreation, including mountain biking, climbing, hiking, mountaineering, paddling, and skiing.
This matters for two big reasons:
1. When agencies like the Forest Service are thinking about how to manage your public lands, especially through processes like Forest Planning, RNR will require them to look for landscapes that have outstanding recreation. With an inventory of potential National Recreation Areas, Congress can act to permanently protect these places. And in the short term, the places you ride or camp or hike will be protected because they have important outdoor recreation value.
2. This is a big shift in thinking about how we protect places – a place doesn’t have to be National Park-worthy or deep in the backcountry to deserve protection. Right now, Congress has a few tools it can use to protect public lands (for example, the Wilderness Act). But it does not have a lot of tools to protect frontcountry areas, and those areas often have steallar recreation. RNR offers a template for how Congress can use National Recreation Areas to create new, recreation-focused protections on public lands.
RNR is a groundbreaking piece of policy that could improve outdoor recreation experiences on our public lands for years to come. The bill has already been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Wyden, where it is co-sponsored by Sen. Tester and Sen. Ernst. We are expecting the Senate to hold a hearing on RNR soon, along with a number of other recreation-related projects. We hope a recreation policy package could pass into law sometime before the end of the year.