Outdoors Permit Bill Clears House Markup

A picture of a crowded state park entrance

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) passed markup by the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

Neguse said the bill reforms many bureaucratic hoops that have made the special-use permitting process for federal lands time-intensive, costly, and overly complicated.

“Our guides are asking for help: The outdoor permitting process is outdated and overly complex and a roadblock for their businesses,” Neguse said after the bill’s markup. “I am speaking on their behalf.”

The bill has RVIA’s backing along with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR).

“The SOAR Act, which includes several provisions from Recreation Not Red Tape Act, expands access to outdoor experiences by modernizing antiquated systems within the federal government that have created unnecessary barriers to accessing the outdoors for all Americans,” RVIA Director of Federal Affairs Chris Bornemann said. “This piece of legislation is a critical first step towards passing a vital outdoor recreation package, while also streamlining processes by cutting red tape and expanding the shoulder seasons, where appropriate, which will help with overcrowding and provide more opportunities for RVers to visit and camp at our nation’s iconic national parks, forests, and public lands.”

ORR Executive Director Jessica Turner said the markup was the critical first step to improving access and updating federal agencies’ tools to manage lands and waters.

“The industry knows there is an urgent need to quickly move this bill because it will help ensure the continued growth of this $788 billion sector, offer diverse communities access to outdoor recreation and help to manage overcrowding at some recreation locations,” Turner said. “All of this will provide some relief for businesses and communities hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and those struggling with the impacts of climate change.”

ORR sent a letter signed by nearly 30 members to the committee detailing the legislation’s importance to the outdoor recreation economy, the American public and rural communities.

“The permitting process for federal lands was intended to help preserve our nations’ priceless natural resources, but it has become too great a bottleneck—preventing guides from securing enough permits despite acceptable volume,” Neguse said. “With this bill, our goal is to eliminate the barriers that currently keep outdoor guide services from securing permits and, in turn, support rural local business, expand outdoor recreation career opportunities, and provide more folks with access to the great outdoors.”

The SOAR Act would reform internal processes at multiple federal land management agencies, update fee structures to make the permitting process both simpler and faster, allow for more flexible permitting across agency boundaries and with reasonably similar activities and allow exemptions to better provide permits to public institutions.

“We applaud Congressman Neguse and the entire committee for its swift and unanimous passage of this bill,” Turner said, “and look forward to a recreation package coming together by the end of the year that would truly be a legacy achievement for the committee and the national outdoor recreation economy.”

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