Tester Bill to Cut Red Tape, Improve Outdoor Recreation Access Clears Key Senate Hurdle

Senator’s Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act Passes Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

As Montana’s champion for improving access to public lands and bolstering the state’s $7.1 billion outdoor economy, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced that his bipartisan Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act to improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access public land passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, setting up the legislation for a full vote on the Senate floor. 

“Countless small businesses and communities in Montana rely on access to our public lands to make a living, and cutting out needless bureaucracy will help to grow our $7.1 billion outdoor economy while ensuring that everyone in the Treasure State has the opportunity to experience the great outdoors,” said Tester. “I’ll always lead with the science when it comes to managing our public lands, and after talking with folks on the ground in Montana, it’s clear that we can simplify our federal permitting processes while being outstanding stewards of the land. Montana’s great outdoors are central to our state’s identity, and I look forward to passing this bipartisan bill so that everyone has the opportunity to experience the Last Best Place.”

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies:

  • Improves the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, and shorten processing times.
  • Increases 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.
  • Increases 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.
  • Creates a pilot program for agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies for trips involving more than one land management agency.
  • Reduces permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations creating a de minimis exemption for cost recovery and requiring the proration of costs that apply to multiple permits.
  • Reduces 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 Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act is supported by a wide range of organizations, including the Wilderness Society, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, American Mountain Guides Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

A longtime public lands advocate, Tester has long fought to secure funding to improve access, make infrastructure improvements, and preserve Montana’s outdoor heritage. He championed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), legislation that secures permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and allocates $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands across the United States.


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