House passes “EXPLORE” bipartisan recreation policy package!

April 16, 2024

Outdoor Alliance

Photo credit: Patrick Hendry

On April 9, the House passed the EXPLORE Act by voice vote! The EXPLORE Act is a first-of-its-kind recreation policy package that will improve outdoor recreation on public lands and waters. We expect that the Senate will take up the bill in the coming weeks, but it will be important for them to hear from outdoor recreationists. Click here to ask your Senators to pass this bill.

Millions of Americans get outside on public lands and waters each year. Outdoor recreation is growing in popularity, and there are many opportunities to improve how public lands and waters are managed to enhance outdoor experiences.

The EXPLORE Act is a bipartisan package of outdoor recreation policy introduced by Congressman Westerman (R-AR) and Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), the chair and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. A companion bill, America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) has passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, and we hope the Senate will act soon to pass the package.

The EXPLORE Act will improve outdoor recreation on America’s public lands and waters. It includes many key bills that Outdoor Alliance and our partners have helped develop. Among the highlights, the EXPLORE Act includes:

Biking on Long Distance Trails Act (BOLT)

The BOLT Act will help create more sustainable long-distance mountain biking trails. The bill directs land management agencies to identify existing and potential long-distance bike trails and then work with mountain bikers and other stakeholders to develop and promote these trails. A number of existing trails would benefit from recognition as a long-distance bike trail, including the Ouachita National Recreation Trail in Arkansas and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail that runs from the Canada to Mexico border. You can also read IMBA’s full testimony on the bill here.

Protecting America’s Rock Climbing Act (PARC)

Rock climbing in the U.S. has a long history, and climbers have ranked among the most well-known conservationists in the last century. Recent proposals to prohibit fixed anchors in Wilderness have highlighted the need for consistent, common-sense guidance around climbing, especially climbing in Wilderness. Some of the most storied rock climbs in the country are in Wilderness—including El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park—and are threatened by land management agencies’ new interpretation of the Wilderness Act. The PARC Act will help safeguard Wilderness climbing, a historic use, by reaffirming the appropriateness of climbing on public lands and directing national-level guidance on placing and maintaining fixed anchors in Wilderness. The PARC Act would solidify Congress’s intent to allow climbing in Wilderness and would support continued safe and sustainable access for climbers. You can also read Access Fund’s full testimony on the bill here.

Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR)

The SOAR Act has been a priority for Outdoor Alliance and its member groups for a decade now. The SOAR Act facilitates meaningful outdoor experiences by updating and streamlining recreational permitting for outfitters and guides, including Outdoor Alliance members like The Mountaineers. Special use permitting, the kind that allows guides to take people out to experience public lands for the first time, uses a dated and challenging system. The SOAR Act would simplify and modernize recreation permitting to make the outdoors more accessible.

Makes FICOR Permanent

The EXPLORE Act would make 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.

 Makes Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Permanent

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program 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. The EXPLORE Act would make ORLP permanent, expanding green space in communities that need it most.

The EXPLORE Act is the result of years of work from Outdoor Alliance and our partners, who have been working closely with lawmakers to develop thoughtful policy proposals that could improve outdoor recreation access. This began with Senator Wyden’s Recreation Not Red-Tape Act and included more than a decade of work to develop the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR).

Now that the House has passed EXPLORE, we can help get it across the finish line by sending a thank you to House members and asking Senators to take action in passing the package. The voices of outdoor recreationists matter tremendously to help move this package along.

Learn more here.

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