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May 04, 2021

Collins, King Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Public Lands

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, legislation that would improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access public lands.

“National parks and other public lands in Maine and across the country are natural treasures.  From Acadia to Denali, and everywhere in between, outdoor recreational organizations guide Americans through the beauty of their own backyards and foster an appreciation for our pristine environment and diverse wildlife,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement.  “By streamlining the permit process for these groups and reducing red tape, our bipartisan bill will help more Americans to access and enjoy the outdoors.”

The SOAR Act would streamline the recreational permitting process for federal agencies by:

·         Improving the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, and shorten processing times.

·         Increasing flexibility for outfitters, guides and other outdoor leaders by allowing them to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activity specified in their permit.

·         Increasing 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.

·         Simplifying 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.

·         Reducing 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 regulations issued by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.

·         Providing 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.).

·         Reducing 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. 

The SOAR Act is supported by a wide range of organizations, including the Wilderness Society, American Mountain Guides Association, The Mountaineers, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

In addition to Senators Collins and King, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), James Risch (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.

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