WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) today introduced the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, bipartisan legislation to improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access public lands.

“Making it easier for folks to explore and enjoy the incredible beauty of our public lands is a key priority, especially right here in West Virginia,” Senator Capito said. “The SOAR Act reduces bureaucratic red tape and makes commonsense changes to current permitting requirements that sometimes discourages outfitters from utilizing our public lands and in turn, constrains economic development in these areas. These changes to federal public lands regulations would not only help support outdoor recreation, but also benefit the local communities and economies they support.”

"Our public lands are where locals and visitors alike go to camp under the stars, chase bugling elk, or wet a fly in a mountain stream," Senator Heinrich said. "The SOAR Act streamlines the permitting process so that more outfitters and outdoor enthusiasts can access public lands. This will be a key component to ensuring that the outdoor recreation industry continues to play a vital role in supporting a strong economic recovery."

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act would streamline and improve 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, and shorten processing times.
  • 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.
  • 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 regulations issued by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.
  • 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.).
  • 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.  

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The SOAR Act is supported by a wide range of organizations, including the Wilderness Society, American Mountain Guides Association, The Mountaineers, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and the Outdoor Industry Association. 

Read the full text of the bill here.

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