Action Alert! Keep Up the Momentum for the EXPLORE Act

We’re excited to share that the EXPLORE Act - a package of bills that would improve sustainable and equitable access to outdoor recreation - passed the House of Representatives this week. Learn more about this latest legislative milestone for recreation on federal public lands, and use our action form to thank your Representative and urge your Senators to pass the package this year.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
April 10, 2024
Action Alert! Keep Up the Momentum for the EXPLORE Act

As Mountaineers know well, land managers need new tools and resources to sustainably manage growing recreation on public lands in Washington State and across the country. For several years, The Mountaineers and our partners at Outdoor Alliance have been advocating for federal legislation that improves sustainable and equitable access to outdoor recreation, and we’re now one step closer to achieving a big win for the outdoors. 

House Passes the EXPLORE Act

Earlier this week, the EXPLORE Act - a package of federal recreation bills - passed the full House of Representatives by a voice vote. Legislation included in the EXPLORE Act will streamline the federal recreational permitting process to enable more people to experience the outdoors through organized group experiences facilitated by outdoor leaders and educators. “We’re thrilled to see the House pass the EXPLORE Act, and are grateful to members of the House Natural Resources Committee for their leadership on efforts to connect more people with their public lands and waters,” shared Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl.

Ongoing advocacy from outdoor enthusiasts like you has been instrumental in the recreation package's success to date. We’re optimistic that the EXPLORE Act could pass the full Congress and become law this year, but we need your help again. We encourage you to use our action tool to thank your Representative and ask your Senators to pass the EXPLORE Act as well.


Last year, the Senate unanimously passed America's Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) out of committee and the House introduced their version of a bipartisan recreation policy package: the EXPLORE Act. Both the Senate and House packages contain two of our top priorities: legislation to improve the unpredictable federal recreational permitting system that creates barriers to people who want to experience the outdoors through groups like The Mountaineers, and legislation to protect access to wilderness climbing and canyoning.

Unpacking the EXPLORE Act

The EXPLORE Act, like AORA, strives to improve outdoor recreation on America’s public lands and waters. It includes many key Mountaineers recreation policy priorities that Outdoor Alliance and our partners have helped develop, and we are continuing to work with lawmakers to refine these proposals. You can dive into the details of the EXPLORE Act in Outdoor Alliance’s letter to House lawmakers on the bill. Here are the pieces we’re most excited about.

Improvements to the Federal Recreational Permitting Process

The Simplifying Outdoor Access to Recreation (SOAR) Act would improve the unpredictable recreational permitting system that creates barriers for people who want to experience the outdoors through Mountaineers courses and youth programs. Not only is the permit process complex and labor-intensive to navigate, but it actively limits our ability to expand our programs and introduce more people to the wonders of the outdoors. This is fundamentally an issue of equity, as many people feel more comfortable experiencing the outdoors with a group like The Mountaineers. You can learn more about this issue in our spring 2021 Conservation Currents article in Mountaineer magazine. We’re thrilled that the SOAR Act is included in both AORA and the EXPLORE Act. 

Protections for Wilderness Climbing and Canyoning

The ability to safely climb peaks and descend canyons in Wilderness Areas is increasingly under threat. In November, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Forest Service (USFS) released draft policies that would classify fixed anchors – critical tools for navigating technical terrain in wilderness – as “installations” under the Wilderness Act of 1964. That means that both new and existing bolts, slings, and pitons in Wilderness areas would be prohibited until each anchor can be individually reviewed by land managers. How the agencies decide to move forward will impact backcountry climbing and canyoning management in places like the North Cascades. Read more about this issue in our  blog about the draft NPS and USFS plans.

Through the Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act (PARC Act), AORA would clarify that climbing and the use, placement, and replacement of climbing anchors are an “allowable activity” within Wilderness areas, subject to reasonable rules and regulations to protect wilderness character. The bill would protect the status quo: it would not expand bolted climbing in Wilderness areas, since these areas deserve special levels of protection. The language protects climbers’ ability to sparingly place and replace bolts with a hand drill only, and does not limit land managers’ current ability to restrict climbing when necessary to protect natural or cultural resources.

Improvements to Sustainable and Equitable Recreation Management

The EXPLORE Act and AORA also include several provisions to give land managers new tools to sustainably manage recreation on federal public lands and waters, including:

  • The Biking on Long-Distance Trails Act (BOLT Act), which would help identify and designate long-distance mountain biking trails on public lands.
  • Making 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.
  • Codifying 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.

Take Action

House passage of the EXPLORE Act is a win in itself, but it’s not the end of the story for a federal recreation package. For these important policies to become law, they must pass the full Senate as well. We see an opportunity to capitalize on support for a recreation package in the Senate and pass the EXPLORE Act through the upper chamber by the end of this Congress, but we need your help once again. 

Whether you’re a Mountaineers leader, avid wilderness climber, or an outdoor enthusiast who wants to improve recreation management on federal lands, you have a story to tell that can translate into compelling advocacy for public lands and the outdoor experience. Before your next outdoor adventure in Washington’s great outdoors, take a few minutes to urge your Senators to pass the EXPLORE Act, ensuring sustainable, transformative outdoor opportunities for future generations of Mountaineers.


Stay tuned for future updates as we get closer to full passage of a recreation package. We appreciate working with our partners at Outdoor Alliance and Access Fund on this important advocacy.