7 Ways the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act Will Help Outdoorists

Hailed as one of the most bipartisan and pragmatic recreation bills in recent memory, it stands to improve and streamline outdoor access for all users.

By Jessica Wahl October 18, 2017

First there was the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Contributions Act of 2016. Passed with unanimous bipartisan support, it mandates the Bureau of Economic Analysis to annually measure the impact of outdoor recreation, and it was a huge step in acknowledging the importance of this crucial sector to our national economy.

Now, another bill—that has similarly strong support on both sides of the aisle—called Recreation Not Red-Tape (RNR) Act aims to improve and enhance outdoor recreation on our public lands and to update the recreation experience provided by the land management agencies. It will do that by:

1. Improving the special-use recreation permitting process;

2. Facilitating and prioritizing outdoor programs for veterans;

3. Creating a system of National Recreation Areas (NRAs) managed specifically for recreation and its health and economic benefits;

4. Enhancing the use of volunteers for maintenance and stewardship;

5. Allowing the Forest Service to retain fees paid by ski areas operating on public lands (currently those fees go to the general treasury of the United States);

6. Introducing new recreation-based metrics for land-manager performance evaluations; and

7. Creating an online system for obtaining federal recreation passes.

Currently, Congress has the authority to designate national parks, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness and the President can designate national monuments—designations that bring with them management plans and protections. However, there are many valuable landscapes that don’t meet the criteria for such designations but that are important areas for people to recreate and to support local economies. These places still need to be protected and managed for sustainable recreation into the future.

The RNR Act—introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D, OR) and Representative Bishop (R, UT)—would give Congress a new and flexible tool—national recreation area (NRA) designation—to protect landscapes for their recreational value. In a joint op-ed in The Hill the leaders of OIA, The Outdoor Alliance and the National Marine Manufacturers Association state that “NRAs take the best parts of Wilderness—planning, inventory, transparent public process, and the ability for Congress to vote—and couple it with a more flexible frame that makes room for different forms of outdoor recreation and a potential to grandfather in other uses of the land.”

So far the bill has received bipartisan and bicameral support in Congress, but we need to keep it moving forward to passage.