RNR includes Permit Reform Provisions found in the SOAR Act. How do the two bills compare?
On June 25, 2019 Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ranking Minority Member of the House Natural Resources Committee: Rob Bishop (R-UT, 1st) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced Recreation Not Red Tape in the Senate and a companion bill in the House. The goal of RNR is to remove barriers to outdoor recreation and boost rural economies nationwide. RNR was introduced in the last session of Congress but died after it was not included in the large omnibus lands bill that pass in December 2019. America Outdoors supported RNR last year, and we continue to support it in the current 116th session although we believe that the SOAR Act, which reforms and streamlines permitting has a better chance of passing.
Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR), was introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on May 23, 2019. SOAR’s sole focus is to remove barriers to outdoor recreation permitting. A companion bill is expected to be introduced soon in the House of Representatives. A broad coalition of over 75 groups are backing SOAR. America Outdoors and the Coalition for Outdoor were instrumental in working out the details of SOAR with Senator Heinrich’s office. SOAR is a successor to the Public Lands Recreation Opportunity Improvement Act (PLROIA) and the Guides and Outfitters Act (GO Act) from the 115th session.
Perhaps the biggest news derived from the introduction of these bills is the rising status and appreciation for outdoor recreation and permitting issues in Congress. The clamor to support SOAR by influential members of Congress from both parties bodes well for its potential for passage in this Congress. SOAR and RNR reflect a new, dramatic improvement in the level of appreciation and support for outdoor recreation on Capitol Hill. Outdoor recreation has finally emerged as an important issue that Democrats and Republicans can work together on to advance in a positive, collegial manner.
RNR includes the SOAR act. 36 pages of RNR is SOAR. However, the difference in the two lay in the additional 26 pages of RNR.
Both SOAR and RNR have sections with similar permitting language:
- Special Recreation Permit and Fee
- Permitting Process Improvements
- Permit Flexibility
- Permit Administration
- Permits for Multijurisdictional Trips
- Forest Service Permit Use Reviews
- Cost Recovery Reform
- Extension of Special Recreation Permits
What is in RNR that is not in SOAR:
Availability of federal and State Recreation Passes
- RNR will establish a program to allow a purchaser to buy a federal recreation pass and a state recreation pass in the same transaction.
- Allow secretaries to make agreements with state to coordinate these passes and ensures funds are transferred appropriately.
Online Purchases of America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The section authorizes on-line purchases of this pass.
Access for Servicemembers and Veterans
- Ensures servicemembers and veterans have access to outdoor recreation and to outdoor related volunteer and wellness programs.
- Encourages each branch of the Armed Forces to include information and resources regarding outdoor recreation and outdoors-based careers for transitioning out of the military.
- Introduces an Outdoor Recreation Program Attendance where active duty military can use up 7 days to participate in environmental stewardship or guided outdoor recreation following deployment.
- Encourages secretaries to hire veterans for Federal recreational lands and waters.
Extension of seasonal recreation opportunities
- Allows relevant unit managers to extend the recreation season or increase recreation uses during off season.
Recreation Performance Metrics
- The Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of the BLM shall evaluate land managers based on achievement of recreation and tourism metrics. Enhanced visitor experience, positive economic impacts, visitation by families, school and youth groups, number of recreational opportunities, visitor satisfaction, number of recreational and environmental educational programs offered, and maintenance and expansion of infrastructure. AO successfully advocated for the addition of “visitation by families”, “recreational opportunities” and “positive economic impacts” to the list.
- Includes federal agencies (Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Transportation) to consider how to make land and water management decisions that enhance outdoor recreation and the recreation economy.
National Recreation Area System
A major component of RNR is the creation of the National Recreation Area System (NRAS) in National Forests and on BLM Lands, composed of current and future congressionally designated National Recreation Areas (NRA). RNR sets management priorities that emphasize outdoor recreation benefits and the conservation of recreation resources for units within the new System.
- System Units will prioritize the sustainable enjoyment and enhancement of the remarkable recreational attributes and natural features.
- System Units protect a variety of recreational uses (including outfitting and guiding, motorized recreation, hunting and fishing, horseback riding, and biking).
Private-sector volunteer enhancement program
- Promotes private-sector volunteer programs within the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.
- Allows the secretary concerned to enter into cooperative agreements with private agencies, organizations, institutions, corporations, individuals or other entities to carry out 1 or more projects in accordance with this program.
- Authorized projects and programs should promote stewardship of resources of Federal land by volunteers, supports sustainable resources, increase awareness of Federal land through distribution of educational materials and promotes the use of Federal land as outdoor classrooms.
Interagency Trail Management
- Establish an interagency trail management plan to maintain in a uniform manner trails that cross jurisdictional boundaries between Federal land management agencies.
America Outdoors supports Recreation Not Red Tape. We appreciate all the work Senator Wyden and Congressman Bishop have done to champion permit streamlining and improving access to outdoor recreation opportunities. RNR is not without controversy. Some non-recreation interests oppose the creation of the National Recreation Area System because they feel like their uses will be de-emphasized or eliminated. At this point SOAR probably has a better chance of passage.
For any questions about America Outdoors Government Affairs program contact Heidi Prior at firstname.lastname@example.org.