October 13, 2021

Congressman Neguse’s Bill to Streamline Outdoor Recreation Permitting Passes Committee

As guides lament an inability to get permits for activity on federal land, Neguse pushes important reforms

Washington, D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse’s bill, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill reforms many of the bureaucratic hoops that have made the special use permitting process for federal lands time intensive, costly, and overly complicated.

“The permitting process for federal lands was intended to help preserve our nations’ priceless natural resources, but it has become too great a bottleneck—preventing guides from securing enough permits despite acceptable volume,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “With this bill, our goal is to eliminate the barriers that currently keep outdoor guide services from securing permits and, in turn, support rural local business, expand outdoor recreation career opportunities, and provide more folks with access to the great outdoors.”

The SOAR Act would reform internal processes at multiple federal land management agencies, update fee structures to make the permitting process both simpler and faster, allow for more flexible permitting across agency boundaries and with reasonably similar activities, and allow exemptions to better provide permits to public institutions. 

“Permitting has previously been a very daunting, extensive, and costly process that we as a small company really struggle to manage and pursue due primarily to unclear expectations and information, complex application processes, and just a very out-dated system that makes it difficult for those that are either new to guiding or new to an area to apply for and acquire permits,” said Jordan Larson, Owner/Trail Guide of Cairn Outdoor Guides based in Boulder, Colorado. “It would be incredibly beneficial for our business, the environment, and our clients to be able to more easily apply for and acquire commercial use permits for the surrounding areas as it allows us to more readily meet the unique needs of our clients and offer more flexibility in what we can offer for clients and truly curate each outdoor experience just for them. We are working to offer a unique service that offers nature as both an outdoor recreation and healthcare service and being able to provide access to all walks of life would be huge.”

“Accessing America’s public lands will be a lot easier when this bill passes,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society. “Representative Neguse deserves a lot of credit for developing a bill that eliminates bureaucratic red tape making it easier for youth programs, university recreation programs, nonprofit organizations and outfitters and guides to obtain recreational permits for public lands. The Wilderness Society is committed to connecting more Americans with the outdoors and this bill will help do just that.”

“Outdated regulations in the permitting system have made it time consuming, unpredictable, and in many cases—impossible—for outdoor organizations and businesses to provide outdoor experiences on public lands,” said Alex Kosseff, Executive Director at the American Mountain Guides Association. “The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act removes old roadblocks to facilitate outdoor recreation and enables more Americans to get outside and enjoy public lands.”  

“The Colorado Mountain School applauds the introduction of the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act,” said Russell Hunter, CEO of Colorado Mountain School. “It will make long-overdue improvements to the outfitter-guide permitting system so the process is more efficient and less cumbersome. We look forward to the swift passage of this bill so we can focus on helping people enjoy our nation's treasured climbing and skiing opportunities.”

“As a small outfitting business my infrastructure is public lands,” reports David Leinweber, owner of Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs. “I view this bill as a positive development for my business. Any business needs predictability and the ability to grow and this bill will help my company predict the future in providing facilitated recreation services in demand on public lands.”

Read the bill text HERE. 

View a fact sheet on the bill HERE

24 national outdoor recreation business organizations, representing over 100,000 businesses in this sector, sent a letter of support advocating for the SOAR Act earlier this week. Read it here. 

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Diana DeGette, Debbie Dingell and Ruben Gallego in the House as well as Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), 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.) in the Senate. 

The bill is endorsed by the Outdoor Industry Association, America Outdoors, American Mountain Guides Association, the Wilderness Society, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Colorado Mountain School and Anglers Covey, a small business in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Earlier this year, Congressman Neguse introduced several other pieces of legislation to support the outdoor recreation industry. His bill, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation (CORE) Act, which would preserve 400,000 acres of wild space and expand access to those lands for outdoor recreation passed out of the House for a fourth time in September of this year. In August, Neguse introduced the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act to fill in gaps in the Continental Divide Trail that force hikers to pass through unsafe conditions and hike along major roadways. The CDT Completion Actwould make the trail more accessible to more people and would support the rural mountain towns that rely on outdoor recreation to power their economies.