Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) reintroduced America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA), a policy package that aims to improve outdoor recreation on U.S. public lands and waters. Public support for AORA will be crucial to its passage in Congress, according to Outdoor Alliance, a nonprofit that works on behalf of the human-powered outdoor recreation community to protect public lands and waters.
Outdoor Alliance urges the public to contact their lawmakers in favor of the legislation. It has made taking action easy through a personalizable letter-writing form on its website www.ouotdooralliance.org.
AORA is a bipartisan effort that includes recreation bills that Outdoor Alliance and its partners worked to develop over the last 10 years, including the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR). Though it came close to passing at the end of the last Congress, it did not make it across the finish line.
The bill offers thoughtful updates to enhance the outdoor recreation economy, expand recreation opportunities, protect the outdoors and ensure recreation remains sustainable. It will help land managers work to protect outdoor recreation, expand outdoor access and create new parks for neighborhoods that need them. It also will help mountaineering clubs like Washington state’s The Mountaineers get new people outside. The legislation encourages land managers to identify and designate bike trails, protect bolted climbing and upgrade how vital visitor data are collected, which shapes how public lands are protected.
With outdoor recreation participation growing, particularly since the pandemic, there are many opportunities to improve how public lands are managed to protect and enhance sustainable access to the outdoors.
Among others, the provisions in America’s Outdoor Recreation Act include:
- Biking on Long-Distance Trails Act (BOLT), which would help identify and designate long-distance mountain biking trails on public lands.
- Important steps to protect Wilderness climbing through land agency climbing guidance.
- Travel Management, which Outdoor Alliance’s partners at Winter Wildlands Alliance have worked on for years and which ensures that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management designate “zones” for human-powered use and for motorized use, especially during winter.
- The SOAR Act, which Outdoor Alliance’s partners at The Mountaineers have worked on for years, and which fixes the recreational permitting process. This would help recreational outfitters, including OA members like The Mountaineers, get permits from land managers to take people on facilitated trips. This is also critical for improving equitable access to the outdoors.
- Makes the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) permanent. FICOR is a council that helps land managers coordinate and focuses on improving access to nature and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities.
- Improvements to data and technology. The bill would require land management agencies to better collect and report on visitation data, which will help planning and conservation efforts.
- Creating a recreation inventory which will help agencies plan around protecting recreation. This was a key piece of the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act that OA worked on for years. Identifying where recreation happens on public lands will help protect important landscapes from potential development conflicts, and will be helpful as agencies do land planning.
- Codifies the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program, which provides grant funding for urban areas to develop green spaces and outdoor access, with priority given to economically disadvantaged areas and neighborhoods without existing outdoor recreation opportunities.
These policies would provide significant protections and enhancements for all the outdoor recreation experiences the public enjoys on public lands. To learn more, visit www.outdooralliance.org and take action by writing a letter via its action form here.
Photo by Arkansas Outside