RRFW Riverwire Halloween Senate Hearing Is Ghoulish On DIY Federal Lands Access

RRFW Riverwire Halloween Senate Hearing Is Ghoulish On DIY Federal Lands Access

November 21, 2019

On Halloween, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on legislation championed by the outfitter and guiding industry trade association America Outdoors streamlining outfitter and guide permitting.

The Recreation Not Red Tape Act, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, introduced by New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, were both part of the Halloween hearing. This Senate legislation has companion legislation in the House that Riverwire has previously reported on, H.R 3458 and H.R. 3879.

You can read the text for the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, S.1967 here:


and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR), S.1665 here:


These legislative initiatives would allow unlimited special use permits for outfitting, guiding, recreational and competitive events, including guided fishing and hunting, both motorized and nonmotorized, and include areas that are already allocated with previously established ceilings of use.

Both bills do absolutely nothing to assure access for do-it-yourself recreational users. Once access ceilings are reached by the outfitted groups, there will be no access remaining for the do-it-yourself public. The bills both state “If additional use capacity is available, the Secretary may, at any time, assign the remaining use to 1 or more qualified recreation service providers.”

Like the companion bills in the House, H.R 3458 and H.R. 3879, this legislation would bypass the National Environmental Policy Act by allowing a categorical exclusion for outfitter permits, and bypass carry capacity studies for outfitted and guided permits. The bill removes the do-it-yourself public’s voice when it comes to reviewing the need for new commercial permits. Both bills state that “the Secretary concerned shall not conduct a needs assessment as a condition of issuing a special recreation permit for a public land unit under this Act.” In fact, the bills require that once an application is received, the permit will need to be issued within 60 days.

Speakers at the hearing included agency representatives from the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service, as well as the largest outfitter in Oregon, a representative from the National Outdoor Leadership School the day before he changed jobs to head the trade association America Outdoors, and a representative for the ski industry.

Senator Lisa Murkowski chaired the hearing, and other Senators at the hearing included Angus King of Maine, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. These bills will head for markup and then to the full Senate for a vote.

It is important that you take the time to contact your Senators across the country and let them know that the Recreation without Red Tape Act and the SOAR Act are a takings of access from the public who does not use guided services. This includes church groups, scouting groups, veterans, teachers and families that do not use commercial services to access Federal Lands.

What you might want to say:

Include that you recreate on federal lands and that you are aware getting do-it-yourself permits is harder and harder.

Mention you are aware of S. 1665 and S. 1967 and that you do not support these bills that give away your federal land access to for-profit companies.

Mention that S. 1665 and S. 1967 do not include safeguards to protect do-it-yourself recreational access.

Mention that outfitting and guiding on federal land should not have categorical exclusion protection from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Demand that these bills require a NEPA Needs Assessment for every new Special Use Permit. State that removing this tool removes your voice from the management of your federal lands.

Mention that any legislation for new Special Use Permits must be for underserved populations and at-risk youth only.

Mention that language in S. 1665 and S. 1967 must not give away actual use plus 25%. That is your access these bills propose to give away.

Be polite but stand up for your access to your federal lands.

You can find your Senators here:


It’s up to you. You can sit quietly and do nothing, or you can speak up to preserve your access to Federal lands now and in the future.

Please share!


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