Things are looking up for outdoor recreation businesses and enthusiasts as sales start to come back, more people are enjoying the outdoors and major pieces of legislation passed Congress.

The Great American Outdoors Act — which passed the Senate in June — passed the House last week with a bipartisan vote of 310-107. ORR and our members were at the forefront of this effort, leading the way on the inclusion of the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the deferred maintenance portion of the bill. ORR also brought together almost 130 outdoor recreation businesses on a letter urging Congress to pass the bill. ORR members thanked the members of Congress who helped pass this historic legislation in a special video message. This key ORR priority now moves to the President’s desk for signature and ORR is staying engaged in the implementation process over the coming months.

ORR Executive Director Jessica Turner was asked to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last Thursday on the impacts of COVID-19 on users of public lands, forests and national parks. Topics discussed included how businesses are coping with new restrictions at the same time outdoor participation is increasing, as well as current challenges faced by land management agencies and how future challenges could be addressed in a new recreation package. Full video of the hearing is available on the committee website.

More good news came this week when the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act — which included most provisions of the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act — moved out of the House Natural Resources Committee by unanimous consent. Key provisions include:

  • Modernizing and streamlining the outdoor recreation permitting process to remove barriers and increase outdoor recreation opportunities so more people can easily access the outdoors with safe and memorable experiences.
  • Supporting the creation of outdoor recreation sector leadership positions within state governments, as well as coordination with recreation and tourism organizations within the states to guide the growth of this sector.
  • Extending recreation shoulder seasons on public lands so more Americans can visit our iconic lands and waters in a more sustainable manner.
  • Modernizing fee collection, allowing outdoor recreation passes to be sold online and entrance and amenity fees to be paid digitally/online by park visitors.
  • Helping service members and veterans access the outdoors for health and wellness, and encouraging federal agencies to hire veterans in positions related to the management of federal recreational lands and waters.
  • Establishing an inter-agency trail management plan to manage and maintain in a uniform and consistent manner trails that cross jurisdictional boundaries between federal land management agencies.
  • Creating outdoor recreation performance metrics for federal land managers to ensure outdoor recreation is being prioritized and promoted on federal lands.

The bill now moves to the floor of the House, hopefully in the next few months.

The House also passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) yesterday, which authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement critical civilian water infrastructure projects. The bill addresses many top access, conservation and infrastructure priorities of the recreational boating and fishing community and opens the door for additional recreation focused objectives in future WRDA bills.

Other news

ORR is proud to recognize 2020’s Legends Award recipients in a weekly series. Since 1991, Legends Awards have honored federal land and water management agency employees for outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people. Legends Awards are the only awards nominated by agency peers and are given to individuals whose extraordinary efforts have made a concrete difference in enhancing outdoor recreation programs and resources. Be sure to check out each Tuesday for a new awardee and a special video message from agency leaders.