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Blog

Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.

 

Two Big Recreation Bills Get a Hearing!

Tania Lown-Hecht

Photo credit: Jeremiah Watt

Photo credit: Jeremiah Watt

This week, we’re fired up to share that two big recreation bills had a hearing in a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

The bills – the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act – will improve how the outdoors are protected and how people get outside. Outdoor Alliance and our partner organizations have invested a lot of time in both proposals.

The hearing generally went well, with strong bipartisan support for both bills, both from members of Congress and from witnesses testifying on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Other witnesses, including Matt Wade from the American Mountain Guides Association, Robin Chiles from the YMCA, and Matt Baker-White from Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, spoke about the importance of introducing new participants into the outdoors and the challenges and unnecessary hurdles involved with many aspects of the existing permitting system. The goals of both bills include reducing friction in the permitting process without compromising environmental considerations or the experience of non-commercial public lands visitors.

Both bills aim to make it easier for people to get outside, and RNR will also help to protect landscapes for their recreation value. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Deb Dingell (D-MI) will:

  • Enable Congress to protect places for their recreation value with a new organic designation for National Recreation Areas;

  • Direct land managers to inventory for areas where there is valuable recreation and help Congress move toward protecting it;

  • Make it easier to buy national and state recreation passes;

  • Extend seasonal recreation opportunities where appropriate;

  • Make recreation a bigger part of how land managers do their jobs by directing land management agencies to develop recreation performance metrics for evaluations;

  • Add recreation to the mission of some land management agencies that don’t already have it;

  • Helps land managers accept volunteers to conduct stewardship activities and facilitate trail maintenance across agency jurisdictions.

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act from Reps. Haaland (D-NM) and Curtis (R-UT) will improve the facilitated access permitting systems of federal land management agencies so more people can experience public lands through volunteer-based clubs or with an outfitter, guide, non-profit outdoor leadership organizations, or university outdoor program. It also reduces permitting fees and streamlines the permitting process for recreation. Our partners, including The Mountaineers, have worked on the SOAR Act for several years.

In addition to being introduced on its own, the permitting language in the SOAR Act is also now incorporated into RNR. Now is a great time for people who love the outdoors to speak up in support of these bills and give them momentum in Congress. Use the tool below to write a quick message to your elected officials telling them to prioritize these recreation bills.