Outdoor recreation advocates are introducing a series of bills designed to enhance commercial and recreational access to federal lands.
The proposals being considered by the Senate will streamline the permitting process, extend recreational seasons, and would even reduce costs for photographers and filmmakers who use public lands, according to a report.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing on nine legislations. The bills have received approval from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as Democratic and GOP members of the panel.
“It’s a divisive Congress,” acknowledged Outdoor Recreation Roundtable President Jessica Turner. “That’s where recreation comes in.”
Turner, who called for the swift passage of the nine bills, said that the recreation bills could garner bipartisan support, particularly as the pandemic persists and the enthusiasm for outdoor recreation and public lands is on the rise.
She said that Congress has shown its ability to pass public lands legislation with bipartisan support, pointing to the passage of a permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2019, followed by the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, which guaranteed that the fund would continue to support the conservation program and included funds to deal with a maintenance backlog within the National Park Service and other land management agencies.
According to Turner, improving the opportunities for outdoor recreation on federal lands is what follows.
“We’re looking at policy and management tweaks,” Turner said. “A lot of these things are things that we just have outdated, antiquated agency policies for how to manage recreation. It wasn’t the No. 1 use of the land, and it wasn’t the No. 1 economic generator back 20, 30, maybe even 100 years ago when these policies were created.”
One bill that could be included is Sen. Ron Wyden’s S. 1874, the “Recreation Not Red Tape Act.”
The bill would require federal land administrators to assess areas for the possible extension of recreational seasons where a mandate would allow for increased recreation “in a sustainable manner during the offseason.”
He said that due to this pandemic “ranging on,” that for many, “enjoying the outdoors is safer and great for mental health.”
In addition, is S. 1229, the “Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act,” co-sponsored by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
This measure will eliminate permit requirements that are deemed redundant and get rid of certain processing fees.
“If recreation is managed and thought about in a way that wilderness is or wild and scenic rivers, or oil and gas leasing, we’re going to actually have better places for people to recreate, and that might support better land management across the board,” Turner said.