July 25, 2019

Washington, DC— Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Deb Haaland (D-NM), members of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, legislation that would make outdoor recreation more accessible to everyone by streamlining the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups. 

“The SOAR Act will make it easier for Utahns, and those visiting our great state, to enjoy our public lands and the outdoors,” said Curtis. “I am proud to be the Republican leader of this bipartisan effort, along with Democratic Congresswoman Haaland and my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee. It is clear why this common-sense legislation has garnered support by outdoor recreation and conservation groups alike. A more efficient permitting system benefits everyone.”

“Our country is full of beautiful places that everyone should have access to, but right now the permitting process is creating a barrier for folks who wish to enjoy the outdoors with guidance,” said Haaland. “So, Representative Curtis and I are fixing that problem with a bill that will make it easier for groups to help people get outside and while supporting the jobs in New Mexico’s nearly $10 billion outdoor recreation economy.”

Statements of Support:

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including for-profit outfitters and guides, non-profit outfitters and guides, university recreation programs, and volunteer-based clubs.

Utah Guides and Outfitters

“Utah Guides and Outfitters is excited to endorse the introduction of the “Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act,” and we thank Representatives Debra Haaland (D-NM) and John Curtis (R-UT) for their co-sponsorship of this bill and their efforts to protect small businesses and public lands.  We are a group of small businesses that provide access to the backcountry and wild places of Utah. The SOAR Act provides a certain and streamlined process for obtaining the permits we need to operate our businesses.  It is a common-sense approach to permitting that will help us in our efforts to protect these precious resources while we also provide access and educate our guests about Utah’s unique and beautiful public lands.”

Western River Expeditions

“I would like to personally thank Representative Haaland and Representative Curtis for their Sponsorship of the SOAR Act.  It represents an unprecedented consensus among key stakeholder groups and provides necessary and overdue reform to the permitting process for guides, outfitters and educational groups.  The SOAR Act will provide stability for small businesses that are primarily located in rural communities, and that are critical to those local economies,” said Brian Merrill, President & CEO.

America Outdoors Association

“Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act provides common-sense strategies to improve the general public’s access to public lands. It reduces the costs associated with the permitting processes to enable individuals, families and youth groups the opportunity to enjoy America’s wilderness and backcountry under the supervision and care of outfitters and guides. Many Americans do not have the skills or knowledge to access these areas safely.  This legislation improves access to these areas.  America Outdoors applauds both Representatives Haaland (NM-01) and Curtis (UT-3) for sponsoring this legislation.”

REI

“This Legislation will provide significant relief to outfitters and organizations who lead people outside across the country,” said Rebecca Bear, Director, REI Outdoor Programs and Experiences. “REI applauds representatives Haaland, Curtis, DeGette, Stewart, Gallego and Gianforte for co-sponsoring this legislation.”

Outdoor Industry Association

“Today only twenty percent of America’s children go outside on a weekly basis. To turn the tide on the future economic and health problems this trend will likely lead to, OIA fully supports the bipartisan SOAR Act,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs for Outdoor Industry Association. “The SOAR Act will ease children’s and families’ access to the outdoors by improving the bureaucratic processes for issuing recreation permits on our nation’s public lands. We want to thank Representatives Haaland (D-NM) and Curtis (R-UT) for their leadership on this issue essential to our children’s future.”

The Wilderness Society

“Americans need more opportunities to visit and enjoy our nation’s treasured public lands and waters,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society. “The SOAR Act will provide those opportunities. We applaud Representatives Haaland and Curtis for introducing legislation to help more people get outdoors and enjoy public lands.”

YMCA of the USA

“Outdoor recreation helps children build positive relationships and develop a sense of achievement and belonging. It is an essential part of the Y’s approach to youth development,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA. “The current process for recreational permitting is complicated and restrictive. This legislation will simplify the process, enabling the Y and others to share nature’s wonders with many more kids and families and instill in our youth a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors. We thank Representatives Haaland and Curtis for their passionate leadership in easing the recreational permitting process for our public lands.”

Angler’s Covey (fly fishing outfitter from Colorado Springs, CO)

“As a small outfitter, the complexity of the current permitting process has created barriers to business growth,” said David Leinweber, Owner-President of Angler’s Covey Inc. and Chairman of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance. “The SOAR act will provide needed relief and allow my business to expand.”

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education

“The Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education is thankful to Ms. Haaland and Mr. Curtis for introducing the SOAR Act,” said Jeannette Stawski, Executive Director. “This important legislation will better facilitate access to enable educational institutions, military welfare and morale organizations, and municipalities to do the incredibly important work of introducing people to outdoor recreation on public lands.”

The Mountaineers

“The Mountaineers have been getting people outside responsibly for over a century, and we strongly believe in the importance of connecting people to place through outdoor recreation,” said Tom Vogl, CEO of the Mountaineers. “This bill will improve numerous permitting processes that currently act as barriers to people experiencing the outdoors. We fully support this work that will help more people recreation responsibly on public lands.”

American Mountain Guides Association

“Outdated regulations in the permitting system have made it time-consuming, unpredictable, and in many cases— impossible—for outdoor organizations and businesses to provide outdoor experiences on public lands,” said Alex Kosseff, Executive Director at the American Mountain Guides Association. “The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act removes old roadblocks to facilitated outdoor recreation and enables more Americans to get outside and enjoy public lands.”

National Outdoor Leadership School

“Creating more opportunities for people from all walks of life to have educational and recreational experiences outdoors is what NOLS is about,” said John Gans, NOLS President.” We are proud to be a part of this broad effort to reduce barriers to our shared public lands. In an increasingly urban society, it is essential that our citizens have opportunities to visit and come to know their public lands.”

Members of the outdoor industry and the conservation community supporting the bill include:

Aerie Backcountry Medicine; Alaska Alpine Adventures; Alaska Guide Collective; America Outdoors Association; America Walks; American Alpine Club; American Alpine Institute; American Fly Fishing Trade Association; American Hiking Society; American Horse Council; American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education; American Mountain Guides Association; American Sportfishing Association; Angler’s Covey; Appalachian Mountain Guides; Archery Trade Association; Association for Experiential Education; Association of Marina Industries; Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE); Avid4 Adventure; Big City Mountaineers; Chicks Climbing and Skiing; Choose Outdoors; Colorado Mountain School; Colorado River Outfitters Association; Colorado Wilderness Corporate and Teams; Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides; Dude Ranchers Association; Estes Park Rock Climbing; Exum Mountain Guides; Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association; Holiday River Expeditions; Idaho Mountain Guides; Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association; International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association; Kent Mountain Adventure Center; Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce; Los Alamos Mountaineers; Mazamas; Middle Fork Outfitters Association; Moab Desert Adventures; Montana Alpine Guides; Montana Mountaineering Association; Montana Outfitters and Guides Association; Montana Wilderness School; Mountain Skills Rock Guides; Nantahala Outdoor Center; National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds; National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds; National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs; National Marine Manufacturers Association; National Outdoor Leadership School; National Shooting Sports Foundation; New Mexico Council of Guides and Outfitters; New Mexico Wild; New River Mountain Guides; North Carolina Outward Bound School; Open Lands Consulting LLC; Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association; Outdoor Alliance; Outdoor Industry Association; Outdoor Recreation Roundtable; Outdoor Research; Outward Bound USA; Red River Adventures; Red Rock Climbing Guides; REI; Rising Tide Associates; RV Dealers Association; RV industry Association; Sawtooth Mountain Guides; San Luis Valley Great Outdoors; Santa Fe Climbing Center; Seneca Rocks Climbing School; Sierra Mountain Center; Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance; Specialty Equipment Marketing Association; Suntoucher Mountain Guides; The Mountaineers; The Mountain Guides; The Wilderness Society; Transforming Youth Outdoors; Utah Guides and Outfitters Association; Washington Trails Association; Washington Trails Association; West Virginia Professional River Outfitters; Western River Expeditions; Western Spirit Cycling; Wilderness Education Association; Worldwide Outfitters and Guides Association; Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association; YMCA of Greater Seattle; YMCA of Los Angeles; YMCA of the USA.

Background

The SOAR Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies by:

  • Improving the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, shorten processing times and simplify environmental review;
  • Increasing 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;
  • Making more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders;
  • Increasing 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;
  • Simplifying the permitting process for trips involving more than one land management agency by authorizing the agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies;
  • Reducing permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations by excluding certain revenue from permit fee calculations and establishing a simple 50-hour cost recovery fee exemption for permit processing;
  • Providing new protections for Forest Service permit holders by recognizing seasonal demand fluctuations and waiving permit use reviews in extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the permit holder (wildfire, etc.);
  • Helping control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients; and
  • Reducing 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.  

US House cosponsors of the SOAR Act include Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ.), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Simpson (R-IN.), Joe Neguse (D-CO.), Greg Gianforte (R-MT.), Debbie Dingell (D-MI.), and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA.). 

The US Senate companion to the SOAR Act was introduced by US Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and cosponsored by US Senators Angus King (I-ME), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), James Risch (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Steven Daines (R-MT).

The full bill text is available HERE.

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