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Bipartisan bill would improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), celebrated the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s passage of their bipartisan Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, legislation to improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access public land. The legislation was included in the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, sponsored by Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-W.Y.).

“With more than 12 million acres of public lands, Idahoans are truly blessed with a wealth of recreation opportunities, but bureaucratic red tape often gets in the way,” said Risch. “The SOAR Act will reduce permit fees, remove red tape, increase flexibility, and make it easier for outfitters, guides, and all people to enjoy our public lands.”

“Our access to the majesty of the Idaho outdoors should be preserved and promoted,” said Crapo. “The SOAR Act reduces the red tape that gets in the way of getting outside. This legislation will decrease paperwork burdens on our outfitters, guides, small businesses and outdoor enthusiasts while promoting economic development through recreation.”

 “I am pleased that the Committee is moving forward with our legislation to make it easier for families, schools, and community groups to get outside and enjoy our public lands,”  said Heinrich. “Our public lands are where we go to camp under the stars, chase bugling elk, or fish for trout in a mountain stream. As a former guide myself, I know from experience how paperwork and bureaucracy can get in the way of getting outside. This legislation will streamline that paperwork to help small businesses and outdoor enthusiasts better access and enjoy our public lands and continue to grow economic development through outdoor recreation.”

“Making it easier to explore and enjoy the incredible beauty of our public lands is a key priority, especially right here in West Virginia,”  Senator Capito said. “I’m proud to reintroduce the SOAR Act, which reduces bureaucratic red tape and makes commonsense changes to current permitting requirements that sometimes discourage outfitters from utilizing our public lands and, in turn, constrain economic development in these areas. These changes to federal public lands regulations would not only help support outdoor recreation, but also benefit the local communities and economies they support.”

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies:

  • Improves the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, and shorten processing times.
  • Increases flexibility for outfitters, guides and other outdoor leaders by allowing them to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activity specified in their permit.
  • Increases system transparency by directing agencies to notify the public when new recreation permits are available and requiring the agencies to provide timely responses to permit applicants.
  • Creates a pilot program for agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies for trips involving more than one land management agency.
  • Reduces permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations creating a de minimis exemption for cost recovery and requiring the proration of costs that apply to multiple permits.
  • Reduces barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts by waiving the permit indemnification requirement for entities that are prohibited from providing indemnification under state law. 

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Steven Daines (R-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act is supported by a wide range of organizations, including the Wilderness Society, American Mountain Guides Association, The Mountaineers, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

 Read the full bill text  here

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