Action Alert! Protect the Wild Olympics and Secure Recreational Permitting Reform

As the 117th Congress winds down, we share the latest updates on the SOAR Act and the Wild Olympics bill. Hear more about all the progress we made on these important protections for public lands and recreation in Washington, and take action to build further support to pass them in the future.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
December 07, 2022
Action Alert! Protect the Wild Olympics and Secure Recreational Permitting Reform
Dungeness River Valley, Olympic National Forest. Photo by U.S. Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region. The Wild Olympics bill would protect the Dungeness River and portions of the valley.

December 20 Update: Many of you took action recently to urge Congress to pass the Wild Olympics bill and secure outdoor recreation permitting reform in an end-of-year public lands and recreation package. Despite our best opportunity yet to secure these important wins for the outdoors, they failed to pass Congress by the end of the year. We'll continue to urge Congress to pass Wild Olympics and recreational permitting reform in the next session of Congress. 

Two of our longtime policy priorities - the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act) and the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - gained significant momentum in Congress this year.

The Wild Olympics bill would protect more than 126,000 acres of the Olympic National Forest as Wilderness and designate 19 Wild and Scenic Rivers throughout the Forest and Olympic National Park. The SOAR Act would help solve issues with the permitting system of federal land managers, increasing access to the outdoors.

If you haven’t already, consider taking action to keep these issues top of mind in Congress moving forward.

Take Action

Simplifying Access for Outdoor Recreation

If passed, the SOAR Act will improve the current inefficient and unpredictable recreational permitting system that creates barriers for people hoping to experience the outdoors through outdoor programs like The Mountaineers. We helped shape this bill and have been advocating for it for seven years because these systems directly impact our volunteer-led trips, courses, and youth programs.

Earlier this year, the act was included in a larger package of recreation bills called the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022 (AORA), which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee by voice vote on May 3. The Mountaineers actively worked with the bill sponsors and committee to improve the bill as it moved through the legislative process.

In the House, the SOAR Act has already passed through the Natural Resources Committee. During House consideration of the bill, The Mountaineers was invited to testify before the committee to share our longstanding challenges with the permitting process and our ideas for how it could be improved. You can read more about our testimony in this blog post, and get more background on this issue in our spring 2021 Conservation Currents article in Mountaineer magazine.

AORA, a first-of-its-kind package of recreation policy that would improve outdoor recreation on public lands, address increased participation in the outdoors, and ensure sustainable and accessible outdoor experiences. In addition to the SOAR Act, AORA includes some needed improvements to how outdoor recreation is managed on our public lands and waters. Of particular interest to Mountaineers, AORA will help safeguard Wilderness climbing with national guidance for fixed anchors in Wilderness areas. Thanks to AORA’s progress, we’re poised to finally fix the inefficient, unpredictable permitting systems for federal public lands and improve outdoor recreation for future generations.

Protecting the Wild Olympics

The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - first introduced by Senators Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer in 2012 - would designate the first Wilderness areas on Olympic National Forest in more than 30 years and the first ever Wild and Scenic Rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. Specifically, the legislation would protect over 126,000 acres of federal land managed by the Olympic National Forest. It would also protect clean water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities by designating 19 new Wild and Scenic Rivers in Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. The bill enjoys broad and strong local support on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Hood Canal region.

This summer the Wild Olympics bill passed the House as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation also completed the committee process in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has passed the House several times in recent years.

Over the past decade, we have worked with a diverse group of partners and coalition members to support Congress in creating more protections for wildlands and scenic rivers surrounding the Olympic National Park where we hike, camp, and explore. Here’s our latest coalition letter to congressional leadership urging passing of the Wild Olympics bill by the end of this Congress.

Our Mountaineers community leads many trips to the Olympics, including hiking, backpacking, and stewardship activities, and we believe that protecting these beloved areas will ensure visitors can enjoy the lush natural beauty of the Olympic Peninsula for generations to come. Outdoor enthusiasts like you took action many times to help build support for these important protections.


Conserving Western Landscapes

In addition to Wild Olympics, the following bills to protect and manage recreation on iconic western landscapes have also made substantial progress this Congress, and are poised for inclusion in a potential year-end lands package.

-The Colorado Wilderness Act (Colorado)
-The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (California)
-The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (California)
-The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (California)
-The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act (California)
-The CORE Act (Colorado)
-The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act (Arizona)
-The Smith River National Recreation Area Expansion Act (California, Oregon)
-The Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (Oregon)
-The River Democracy Act (Oregon)
-The Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act (Utah)
-The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (Minnesota)
-The Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act (Oregon, Washington)

Take Action

This week, our Conservation and Advocacy Director Betsy Robblee is in Washington, D.C. with our Outdoor Alliance partners to meet with members of Washington’s congressional delegation. They’re underscoring with lawmakers and their staff the importance of passing the SOAR Act and the Wild Olympics by the end of the year. While we’re pushing a larger passage of bills, there might also be opportunities to pass the SOAR Act and Wild Olympics bill on must-pass legislation like the FY 2023 appropriations bill or the National Defense Authorization Act.

Advocating with the strength of more than 15,000 Mountaineers behind us allows us to make a compelling case for why these protections are important to recreationists in Washington. But there’s no substitute for a constituent letter. It’s important that lawmakers hear directly from you on why we must protect public lands and outdoor recreation in Washington.

Use our action tool below to urge your senators and representative to pass the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, along with Wild Olympics and other public lands protections, by the end of this Congress.

Take Action

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