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Senator Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Barrasso (R-WY) reintroduced America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA), a package of policy that aims to improve outdoor recreation on America’s public lands and waters.
Outdoor recreation is one of the main ways Americans come to know their public lands and waters and develop a stewardship ethic. 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.
AORA is a bipartisan effort that includes a number of recreation bills that Outdoor Alliance and our partners worked to develop over the last ten years, including components of 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, and we are pleased to see the Senate picking it up again early in this session.
While the coalition will continue to work with lawmakers to refine the bill text, the package offers thoughtful updates to enhance the outdoor recreation economy, expand recreation opportunities, protect the outdoors and ensure recreation remains sustainable. The provisions we are most jazzed about 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.
- Requirement for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to conduct Travel Management, to designate routes and areas for motorized use. Our partners at Winter Wildlands Alliance have worked on this for years, to ensure important areas for human-powered recreation are protected and not designated for motorized use.
- The SOAR Act, which our partners at The Mountaineers have worked on for years, and which fixes the recreational permitting process. This would help recreational outfitters, including our 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 we worked on for years. Ensuring that we identify where recreation happens on public lands will help us 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.
While a lot of this stuff sounds deep in the weeds, these policies would provide significant enhancements for the outdoor recreation experiences we enjoy on public lands. They will help land managers to work together to protect outdoor recreation, expand outdoor access and create new parks for neighborhoods that need them most, help guides like The Mountaineers get new people outside, designate new bike trails, protect bolted climbing, and help land managers collect vital visitor data that shapes how public lands are protected for years to come. Outdoor Alliance and our partners will continue to work with lawmakers to refine the package in the coming months.
The voices of outdoor recreationists matter tremendously to move this package along. We’ve made it easy to send a message:
Ask Your Lawmakers to Pass America’s Outdoor Recreation Act
America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) is a first-of-its-kind package to improve outdoor recreation on America’s public lands and waters. The bill offers thoughtful updates to enhance the outdoor recreation economy, expand recreation opportunities, protect the outdoors, and ensure recreation remains sustainable.
These policies would provide significant protections and enhancements for all the outdoor recreation experiences we enjoy on public lands. They will help land managers to work together to protect outdoor recreation, expand outdoor access and create new parks for neighborhoods that need them most, help guides like The Mountaineers get new people outside, designate new bike trails, protect bolted climbing, and help land managers collect vital visitor data that shapes how public lands are protected for years to come.
For those deep in the weeds, these include the SOAR Act, making FICOR permanent, making the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership permanent, as well as the BOLT Act and guidance for climbing in Wilderness.
If you care about recreation on public lands and waters and want to see it protected, enhanced, and expanded, your voice is extremely valuable. Please personalize your letter for the greatest effect.
Main image: Leslie Kehmeier, Bureau of Land Management lands