June 25, 2019

Wyden, Ernst, Bishop, Dingell Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Access to Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., today reintroduced legislation in the Senate and House to remove barriers to outdoor recreation and boost rural economies across the country.

Their bipartisan Recreation Not Red Tape (RNR) Act would promote access to outdoor recreation opportunities and allow more visitors to get outdoors. The RNR Act would streamline the permitting process for guides and recreation enthusiasts, hold federal agencies accountable for making outdoor recreation a priority for the first time and increase volunteerism to address the maintenance backlog on America’s public lands. The RNR Act also includes the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., which would improve outdoor recreation permitting processes.

“Appreciation of the outdoors is in Oregon’s DNA. Right now, there’s too much bureaucratic red tape getting in the way of nature enthusiasts and the small businesses that help them take advantage of the endless recreation experiences our public lands offer,” Wyden said. “This bill is about breaking cumbersome and unnecessary barriers to outdoor recreation in the spirit of local job creation and access to our treasured public lands.”

“Regardless of party, we can agree that outdoor recreation is important to the health and wellness of all Americans. In my home state of Utah and in many other places, the recreation industry is inextricably linked to the lives and livelihoods of the region,” Bishop said. “This bipartisan bill will encourage the federal and state governments to collaborate on ways to enhance and increase access to public lands. Americans should be able enjoy the outdoors without the burden of bureaucracy standing in their way.”

“Our nation's public lands and National Parks are some of our greatest treasures, providing Iowans with the opportunity to hunt, fish, hike, or simply observe wildlife. But as we see all too often, bureaucratic red-tape and burdensome processes can get in the way,” Ernst said. “This bipartisan bill will help streamline the permitting process for our small businesses and address the maintenance backlogs to ensure outdoor recreational opportunities for folks across the country.”

“Hunters and fishers are the stewards of our land and responsible for much of the conservation efforts,” Dingell said. “This bipartisan bill supports sportsman and reduces barriers to access the outdoors, while maintaining strong support for conservation. We must work together to protect the environment, endangered species, and our traditions.”

Wyden and Bishop introduced the RNR Act in 2017 after gathering input from outdoor enthusiasts from across the country about how to improve overly complicated and outdated agency processes that make it more difficult for local recreation businesses to thrive. Wyden also introduced a previous version of the RNR Act in 2016—several pieces of which have since become law, including a piece of the bill that called for a study to discover the real-world economic impacts of outdoor recreation.

The bill text is available here.

A one-page summary of the bill is available here.

What They are Saying about the Recreation Not Red Tape Act

The Wilderness Society National Director of Recreation Policy Paul Sanford: “The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act will make it easier for Americans to access public lands and will make outdoor recreation a management priority. The Wilderness Society thanks Senator Wyden for introducing this important legislation.” 

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Executive Director Jessica Wahl: “Outdoor recreation is a major force in the nation’s economy, contributing $734 billion in output and supporting 4.5 million jobs. As our industry grows in popularity and economic impact, federal agencies need updated tools to provide sustainable and improved access to, and infrastructure on, America’s public lands and waters. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act offers sensible, 21st century proposals for identifying and appropriately managing our unparalleled outdoor recreation assets now and into the future.”

Outdoor Alliance Policy Director Louis Geltman: “The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act makes invaluable contributions toward creating and protecting quality outdoor recreation experiences for everyone. From ensuring that priority landscapes for outdoor recreation are protected, to reducing hurdles for permitting and making land managers accountable for recreation objectives, RNR will help to ensure recreation and conservation are prioritized by federal land managers. The outdoor recreation community greatly appreciates the efforts of Sen. Wyden and Rep. Bishop to lead this bipartisan charge.”

Outdoor Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Patricia Rojas-Ungar: “Americans are busy and the barriers to getting outside to relax, recharge and recreate seem to pile up on a daily basis – and when we fail to get outdoors our mental and physical health suffers. OIA is proud to support Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Ernst’s (R-IA) Recreation Not Red Tape Act which encourages outdoor participation by streamlining government processes and funding — including online permitting and recreation pass applications, prioritizing outdoor programs for our veterans and enhancing the use of volunteers for maintenance and stewardship. The bill would also allow Congress to help identify and protect important areas through a system of National Recreation Areas managed specifically for their recreation, health and economic benefits. This smart legislation will not only help get more people outdoors but it will bolster the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy and help create good American jobs.”

Oregon State University Executive Director Lee Davis: “It’s exciting to see this bipartisan Bill being reintroduced and moving forward. This bill will make simple, modern, and online access to permits and passes a reality, and will help our agencies find ways to prioritize outdoor recreation at both the local and national level. We know without a doubt that growing the outdoor recreation economy means increasing the number of shared experiences in the outdoors for all people, it’s about access and inclusivity. And we know that when people spend time outside learning and growing with others that it improves their mental & physical health, their interest in lifelong learning, and it helps us build a bond of care with our nation’s public lands and waters. Altogether, this bill brings together decades of thinking and work around how we can improve access and get the next generation outside, to spur economic growth in this new and exciting industry, and to help to revitalize our rural economies.”

America Outdoors Executive Director Julie Kahlfeldt: “America Outdoors appreciates the inclusion of SOAR in Recreation Not Red Tape and the bipartisan support that Senator Wyden and Representative Bishop have given to improving recreation access and the efficiency of recreation permitting programs on public lands.  America Outdoors is proud to be a principal in the broad coalition of recreation groups supporting this much-needed legislation.”  

The Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling: “With the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, Senator Wyden and Congressman Bishop further prove our public lands unite American’s from both sides of the political aisle. This bipartisan legislation elevates the importance of public lands at a critical time by both ensuring priority landscapes are protected for their outdoor recreation values, and reducing hurdles for American’s to access them. The more people that have opportunities to responsibly enjoy our public lands, the more people are inspired to preserve and protect them. We view the Recreation Not Red Tape Act as an important conservation tool.”

Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson: “We applaud Senator Wyden's vision to ease access to the outdoors and to help enhance economies throughout the country. Outdoor recreation is not only good for our health, it's also a vital part of a healthy tourism economy. Senator Wyden recognizes the important role outdoor recreation plays in the nation’s economy and job creation in largely rural areas. Nationally, travel and tourism  generates $2.5 trillion in economic output and supports 15.7 million jobs, with $12.3 billion and more than 115,000 jobs in Oregon alone.”

American Whitewater Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director Thomas O’Keefe: “The Recreation Not Red Tape Act will provide significant benefits to those who love to get out and enjoy America’s public lands and waters. Agencies like the Forest Service will conduct more comprehensive inventories of recreation during planning efforts. Those managers who take steps to improve the quality and sustainability of recreational opportunities on public lands and waters will be recognized and encouraged for their efforts.”

Mazamas Acting Executive Director Sarah Bradham: “The Mazamas has a 125-year history of outdoor recreation and conservation of our treasured landscapes. We are thrilled that Recreation Not Red Tape will make it easier to access our public lands by improving the permitting process, and will create more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors by directing agencies to emphasize recreation. We appreciate that Senator Wyden recognizes the growing interest in outdoor activities, and the resultant need to facilitate and expand access on our public lands, particularly in places like Oregon where 53% of the land is in Federal ownership.”

RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers: “Twenty-five million Americans go RVing each year and many of their adventures lead them to our public lands and waters. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act will improve the experiences of these RVers by making recreation a priority on federal lands, improving recreational access and removing unnecessary barriers so all Americans can enjoy outdoor recreation experiences. Of particular importance to RVers, this bill tasks federal land agencies to develop management plans for extending the recreation season or increasing recreation use in a sustainable manner during the offseason. This provision will help address federal campground overcrowding threatening the growth of the $114 billion RV industry, which drives economic growth in the surrounding local communities and economies."

Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) President Tim Buche: “The Recreation Not Red Tape Act will ensure that land managers prioritize recreational access so motorcyclists can continue to enjoy our federal lands. According to recent government studies, outdoor recreation accounts for more than two percent of GDP and supports jobs in every state across the country. This legislation will ensure that our members’ recreational access is a priority.”

Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) President Erik Pritchard: “We know how important outdoor recreation is to our economy and we also know how important access to public lands is to millions of Americans. If enacted, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act would remove barriers for volunteer participation and make it easier for managers to provide all sorts of recreational opportunities while benefiting off-highway enthusiasts and our nation’s economy.”

Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Schloegel: “The Recreation Not Red Tape Act is critical for our outdoor enthusiasts in the powersports industry and it will ensure that ATV riders will continue to have access to federal lands for responsible riding activities. We welcome the bill’s introduction and look forward to working on its passage.”

International Mountain Biking Association Executive Director Dave Wiens: “Forward-thinking policy like the RNR Act has the ability to protect our public lands and mountain biking opportunities. This bill recognizes the transformative value of flexible land protection designations like National Recreation Areas, the benefits of including ‘recreation’ in the missions of more land management agencies, and how expanding seasonal recreation can strengthen local economies. These initiatives will lead to more protection for our cherished public lands as well as opportunities for great trails, from close-to-home rides to iconic, backcountry experiences.”

National Marine Manufacturers Association Senior Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs Nicole Vasilaros: “Led by boating and fishing, outdoor recreation is one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy, and the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act will ensure this significant economic force continues to thrive. We thank Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for teaming up on commonsense legislation that would slash barriers to outdoor recreation access of all types and call on every member of Congress to support this bipartisan legislation.”

Specialty Equipment Market Association Managing Director of Government & Legal Affairs Daniel Ingber: “The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) welcomes the reintroduction of the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act.  This legislation will give lawmakers and land management agencies valuable tools to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.  Access to outdoor recreation will be enhanced, which will in turn produce significant economic benefits.”

American Sportfishing Association Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Leonard: “Working to expand access to fishing opportunities on public lands is a top priority of the American Sportfishing Association, which is why we support the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act. Recreational fishing is enjoyed by nearly 50 million Americans each year, and much of this activity takes place on federal lands. This bipartisan legislation makes a wide range of improvements to federal land policy that will ultimately help encourage more folks to enjoy the great American tradition of recreational fishing.”

PeopleForBikes Vice President – Business Network Jenn Dice: “We want people to know how easy and enjoyable it is to explore our public lands by bike, and the RNR Act accomplishes that by unifying the management and promotion of national recreation areas. When access for biking and outdoor recreation improves, everyone wins.”

Association of Northwest Steelheaders Executive Director Bob Rees: “Senator Wyden’s Recreation Not Red-Tape Act recognizes the need to modernize the Federal permitting process that stifles public access to our lands. Prioritizing recreation on public lands promotes sustainable use of our country’s greatest assets, and protects these lands for future generations of hunters and anglers.”

Northwest Rafting Company Owner Zachary Collier: “Senator Wyden listened to challenges outfitters and guides face on public lands in Oregon and drafted this important legislation that prioritizes recreation. There are many things in this act that help us grow Oregon’s booming recreation economy. The RNR Act creates a system of National Recreation Areas that conserving lands important for recreation. This new tool will help protect lands currently used for recreation and help create new recreation opportunities for both Oregonians and visitors to Oregon.”

Access Fund Policy Director Erik Murdock: “The Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act improves access to our public lands and strengthens partnerships that help get Americans outside. This bipartisan bill is an important step toward making sure that outdoor recreation is always considered a primary use of our public lands.”

KEEN Footwear General Manager for Outdoor, Lifestyle, and Kids Erik Burbank: “KEEN is based in Portland, Oregon and is proud to be a part of the strong outdoor industry in our state, and we are fortunate to have Senator Wyden as a champion for our industry. The Recreation Not Red Tape Act highlights the importance of outdoor recreation not just for our business but, more importantly, for the health of our communities. KEEN employees and fans spend countless hours outdoors biking, fishing, hiking, and paddling, and the Recreation Not Red Tape Act will give them even more opportunities to live their lives in a monumental way.”