SOAR Act to Help Groups Get Outside

We are thrilled to share that the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act has been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This bill will make it easier for more people to experience public lands through outdoor programs.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 23, 2019

We’re thrilled to announce the introduction of bipartisan legislation we’ve been working on for over half a decade: the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act. This bill will improve the recreational permitting systems of federal land agencies so more people can experience public lands through volunteer-based clubs (like The Mountaineers!), with an outfitter, guide, non-profit outdoor leadership organizations, or university outdoor programs. We are stoked to see a bill that will help fix the current inefficient, unpredictable recreational permitting system that create barriers for people to experience the outdoors through these types of outdoor programs. 

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The SOAR Act addresses an integral piece of  who we are as Mountaineers: our volunteer-led trips, courses, and youth programs allow us to introduce people to the wonders of outdoor places through facilitated outdoor experiences. 

We helped bring this wide-range of outdoor entities together to understand and solve the slew of permitting challenges when trying to take groups outside. The SOAR Act represents more than six years of work - by The Mountaineers and partners through the Coalition for Outdoor Access - to improve the recreational permitting systems of federal land agencies.

Introduced by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in the Senate, and Representatives Debra Haaland (D-NM) and John Curtis (R-UT) in the House, it has full support from a broad spectrum of stakeholders who take people outside on public lands, and represents significant collaboration and bipartisan support in Congress. 

We share a big  THANK YOU to Washington's Senator Patty Murray and Representatives Derek Kilmer and Susan DelBene for sponsoring this bill and supporting an issue that has impacted so many outdoor organizations in the Pacific Northwest!

WHY THE SOAR ACT

We have helped shape this bill because it will improve access to the outdoors, allowing people to experience the wonders of the natural world, which in turn supports the recreation economy and inspires people to care about the outdoor places they experience. The SOAR act is a critical piece in our ability to make good on our mission to get people outside safely and responsibly.

IMPROVING ACCESS AND EQUITY

Many people are first introduced to the outdoors through facilitated outdoor experiences. Our Mountain Workshops, which partners with local, youth-serving organizations, are examples of how better permitting processes will help get people outside who might otherwise not have the opportunity. The SOAR Act will improve systems to better allow programs like this to thrive.

INSPIRING FUTURE CONSERVATIONISTS

People protect what they love. At The Mountaineers, our courses and trips connect people to public lands, and we’ve seen time and time again that this is the first step to becoming an outdoor advocate. Better permitting processes will help more people experience the value of public lands so they can be a voice to protect these wild places.

SUPPORTING THE RECREATION ECONOMY

Gateway communities to public lands depend on recreation as a vital economic sector. Better permitting processes will help more people support local shops, gas stations, lodges, and restaurants near public lands.

WHAT THE SOAR ACT WILL DO

  • Increase flexibility for outdoor leaders by allowing them to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activity specified in their permit. 
  • Increase recreational access by directing the agencies to improve the process for issuing recreation permits (eliminating duplicative processes, reducing costs, shortening processing times).
  • Make more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders.
  • Improve permitting system transparency by directing agencies to notify the public when new recreation permits are available and requiring the agencies to provide timely responses to permit applicants.
  • Simplify the permitting process for trips involving more than one land management agency by authorizing the agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies.
  • Provide new protections for Forest Service permit holders by recognizing seasonal demand fluctuations and waiving permit use reviews in extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the permit holder (wildfire, etc.).
  • Help control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients. 
  • Reduce barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts by waiving the permit indemnification requirement for entities that are prohibited from providing indemnification under state law.
  • Reduce permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations by excluding certain revenue from permit fee calculations and establishing a simple 50-hour cost recovery fee exemption for permit processing.

  

For more information, take a look at the Coalition for Outdoor Access's press release here. Full bill text here.


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Mark Glidden
Mark Glidden says:
Tue, Jun 11, 2019 8:37 AM

Do you want us to contact our Senators to urge them to support this bill?

Katherine Hollis
Katherine Hollis says:
Tue, Jun 11, 2019 8:54 AM

Hi Mark! When the time is right we'll have an easy action link for folks to use on this. More soon!

Katherine Hollis
Katherine Hollis says:
Fri, Jul 26, 2019 9:16 AM

Encourage and thank your lawmakers to support the SOAR Act: https://secure.everyaction.com/BJA-2i43UUeXX2R5IhXexg2