March 17, 2016

Wyden, Blumenauer Introduce Bill to Open Access to Outdoor Recreation

Bill Supported by more than 50 Outdoor Industry Groups, Implements Ideas from Oregonians to Remove Barriers to Recreation

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer today introduced legislation to increase outdoor recreation access for visitors and boost rural economies in Oregon and nationwide.

Based on input from Oregonians about how to remove bureaucratic roadblocks to public lands, the Recreation Not Red-Tape (RNR) Act expands outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans, especially underserved communities such as veterans, seniors and young people, for the first time holds federal agencies accountable for making outdoor recreation a priority and helps maintain America’s public lands.

The bill is based on draft legislation Wyden released last fall and on concerns Wyden and Blumenauer heard during a series of listening sessions they held on a statewide tour of Oregon’s Seven Wonders last summer to gather ideas about how to open access to outdoor recreation.

“It’s time for fresh recreation policies that cut through the bureaucratic red tape that chokes off opportunities for recreation in Oregon and across the country and clears the path for first-time visitors, fresh economic opportunity and new jobs in rural communities,” Wyden said. “The RNR Act puts to work the creative ideas I heard from Oregonians about how to streamline the process when it comes to opening up access to our great outdoor places.”

“Oregonians love the outdoors – it’s who we are; it’s in our DNA. From the magnificent Columbia River Gorge to lesser known trails and creeks throughout our forests, canyons, and deserts, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by places for hiking, nature-watching, biking, and other activities,” Blumenauer said. “Unfortunately, they’re not always easily accessible. Our legislation changes that, removing burdensome barriers and helping support recreation programs so that people in Oregon and across America can more easily get out to enjoy the great outdoors.”

The “RNR” Act expedites the permitting process for recreation guides and makes it easier for visitors to get recreation use permits by making all park passes available online. The bill also focuses on getting more veterans, seniors and young people outdoors by encouraging all military branches to provide servicemembers and veterans with information about outdoor recreation, encouraging more outdoor recreation and volunteer opportunities for people 55 and older and by making a certain number of free park passes available to low-income schools.

The bill requires the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to promote recreation when making land and water management decisions. It also directs the federal land management agencies to find new ways to extend recreation seasons in a sustainable way.

The bill helps maintain public lands by encouraging more volunteers to assist with trail maintenance projects and by requiring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to choose up to 15 trails for prioritized maintenance.

The bill is supported by more than 50 outdoor industry groups, including the Outdoor Industry Association, American Whitewater and the National Ski Area Association, as well as Oregon-based companies like KEEN and Columbia Sportswear.

Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon, called the bill a huge win for outdoor enthusiasts and tourism.

“Outdoor recreation is a vital component of the travel and tourism sector, which generates $2.1 trillion in economic output and supports 15 million jobs nationally, with $10.3 billion and more than 101,000 jobs in Oregon alone,” Davidson said. “Senator Wyden and Representative Blumenauer have recognized the important role outdoor recreation plays in the nation’s economy and job creation in largely rural areas, and have worked to enhance its impact through the introduction of this bill.”

The bill would also direct the federal land management agencies to study the full impacts of outdoor recreation on the economy, including how recreation creates job growth, tourism opportunities and boosts local economies.

Read a summary of the bill here.

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