SOAR Act Advances in U.S. Senate

The SOAR Act is reaching new heights! We’re a big step closer to fixing the recreational permitting process that creates barriers for people to experience the outdoors. Learn more about recent progress for the SOAR Act and other recreation and conservation priorities.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 05, 2022

We’re thrilled to share that legislation we’ve been working on for over seven years - the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act - passed out of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Next, the bill will head to the Senate floor for a vote. That means we’re one step closer to fixing the current inefficient, unpredictable recreational permitting system, which creates barriers for people to experience the outdoors through outdoor programs like The Mountaineers. 

The SOAR Act was included in a larger package of recreation bills called the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022 (S. 3266), which passed the Senate committee by voice vote on May 3. The Mountaineers actively worked with the bill sponsor and committee to improve the legislation as it moved through the process. The SOAR Act will improve the recreational permitting systems of federal land agencies so that more people can experience public lands through volunteer-based clubs (like The Mountaineers), outfitters, guides, nonprofit leadership organizations, or university outdoor programs.

The bill has already passed through the House 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. 

This work is important to us because of significant access issues our organization has experienced due to the permitting system on federal lands, and because, as a mission-driven organization, we believe in the importance of everyone having opportunities to get outside. For many people, their first experience outdoors is through some sort of facilitated access, like an outdoor education organization or another type of outfitter or guide.

In addition to the SOAR Act, America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022 includes some needed improvements to how outdoor recreation is managed on our public lands and waters. Outdoor recreation is increasing in popularity, and land managers need better tools to improve access so that we can have sustainable, high-quality experiences. You can learn more about the legislation in this section-by-section summary. We look forward to working with the committee to improve the legislation as it moves through the legislative process, as well as ensuring that land managers have enough resources to implement the requirements of the bill. 

The committee also advanced a number of landscape protections, including the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The bill would designate over 126,000 acres around the Olympic National Park as Wilderness, where outdoor enthusiasts, including Mountaineers, hike, camp, climb, and more. The Mountaineers has advocated in support of this legislation for over 10 years, and we’re hopeful that this bill will advance to the Senate floor for consideration. 

Look out for future opportunities to use your voice to help support the SOAR Act and other recreation and conservation priorities! 

Lead image of mountaineers youth programs.