Bennet, Gardner Sponsor Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act To Improve Access to Public Lands

Washington, D.C. – Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) recently introduced the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act to improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access and enjoy our public lands.

“From hiking and biking, to hunting and fishing, recreation on our public lands helps drive Colorado’s economy,” Bennet said. “As the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, we must ensure that our land management agencies are able to keep up. Simplifying and streamlining the permitting process will remove unnecessary hurdles for outfitters and guides and improve access to our public lands for all Coloradans to enjoy.”

“Coloradans across all four corners of our state love our beautiful public lands and it’s important we make sure they are easily accessible,” Gardner said. “After permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we need to continue the fight to protect our public lands, and this bipartisan legislation will not only allow greater access to the outdoors, but also boost Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy. It’s a win-win for Colorado outdoor enthusiasts.” 

“America Outdoors represents outdoor adventure businesses that provide access, equipment, and skills that allow Americans to reach and experience public lands they would not otherwise be able to visit. SOAR is written to make common sense changes to the permitting processes and provides greater access to public lands in a way that increases economic benefits and continues environmental protections. SOAR simplifies permitting to allow outfitters across the United States to work with federal agencies, and more importantly, to get the American public outside to enjoy the wonders of nature,” Julie Kahlfeldt, Executive Director, America Outdoors Association said. “This legislation has been needed for many years and we are grateful to Senator Heinrich, Senator Capito, Senator Gardner, Senator King, Senator Wyden, Senator McSally, Senator Risch, Senator Rounds and Senator Bennet for realizing the incredible economic and quality of life impacts the outdoor recreation sector offers to the American public.” 

“Our association represents whitewater and float fishing outfitters throughout Colorado.  Most all Colorado outfitters operate under permit from one or more federal agencies. We are pleased to learn that Senator Heinrich, Senator Capito, Senator Gardner and others have sponsored a bill, the SOAR Act, which streamlines many of the particulars involved in the permitting process on Federal lands. The bill has wide support in the recreation and environmental communities and will serve the public and business communities well,” David Costlow, Executive Director, Colorado River Outfitters Association said. “If there is one thing business enjoys, it is predictability and consistency in decision making at all levels. This bill makes great strides in accomplishing this. Kudos to the Senators.” 

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies:

  • Improves the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, shorten processing times and simplify environmental review.
  • Increases 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.
  • Makes more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders.
  • Increases 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.
  • Simplifies 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.
  • Reduces 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.
  • Provides 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.).
  • Helps control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients.
  • Reduces 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 was introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and is cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), James Risch (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Steven Daines (R-MT).

The bill text is available HERE