A new bipartisan Senate bill aims to streamline the permit process for the outdoor recreation industry to boost access to public lands.
The "Public Land Recreational Opportunities Improvement Act" would help for-profit commercial outfitters, mountain guides and nonprofit youth groups by eliminating some of the federal red tape associated with enjoying and doing business on public lands and directing agencies to issue permits faster.
New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito are sponsoring the legislation.
"The outdoor provider community has consistently struggled with the complexity of the federal recreational permit system," said Rebecca Bear, director of REI outdoor programs and experiences.
For instance, the bill would allow permit holders to engage in substantially similar activities, avoiding the need for multiple permits and applications.
It also would require federal agencies to clarify permit administration, so applicants know which permits they need for various public land units.
And it would update authorization fees for special recreation permits under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
"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," said Kevin Washington, president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA.
Several organizations from the outdoor industry and conservation community support the bill, including the American Mountain Guides Association, the Wilderness Society, the Outdoor Industry Association and West Virginia University.