Congress Closes In On Historic, Bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Package
The Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act passed the House Natural Resources Committee today by unanimous consent. This action underscores the momentum the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) and industry partners have built over the past few years to advance bipartisan policies that improve access and transform outdoor recreation opportunities. The outdoor recreation industry—recently valued at $1 trillion—was instrumental in passing the Great American Outdoors Act in 2022, which was one of the greatest public lands and waters packages to become law in the history of our nation.
The EXPLORE Act is historically significant as it is the first-ever outdoor recreation specific bill package and does not cost taxpayer dollars. The bipartisan legislation will boost local and national economies, give more Americans—especially those in underserved areas—greater access to green spaces and public lands and waters, while also modernizing policies and procedures to support the recreation businesses that connect people to outdoor experiences. The EXPLORE Act is a companion to a similar package passed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA).
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s President, Jessica Wahl Turner lauded today’s action saying, "Today marks a major advancement for the future of outdoor recreation in the United States. With the House Natural Resources Committee's markup of the EXPLORE Act, we are moving closer to enacting legislation that will revitalize our approach to recreation management and access. This bipartisan effort, led by Chairman Bruce Westerman and Ranking Member Raul Grijalva, is a testament to the ongoing dedication to not only preserving, but also enhancing the outdoor experiences available to every American. The EXPLORE Act brings modern solutions to the forefront, ensuring that our green spaces and outdoor places are more accessible and enjoyable for all. It's a forward-thinking move that aligns with the ever-growing enthusiasm for outdoor activities and addresses the need for our policies to reflect current and future outdoor engagement.”
ORR and its members celebrate this milestone and urge swift passage of the EXPLORE Act through the full House and Senate, for the benefit of our public lands, waters, and the communities that thrive because of them.
The EXPLORE Act would:
- Enable permit streamlining to ease burdens on outfitters and guides and improve access to outdoor experiences;
- Improve access to recreation on public lands and waters;
- Ensure access to green spaces in underserved communities;
- Develop, improve, and complete long range trails; and
- Invest in rural economic development.
For more information on the bill and its progress through the House, visit https://recreationroundtable.org/priorities/recreation-package/. To see a list of quotes from supporting organizations when the Explore Act was introduced last year, visit https://recreationroundtable.org/explore-act-supporters-and-quotes/.
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Member Quotes:
“The EXPLORE Act will benefit facilitated recreation providers, public lands agencies, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts alike,” said Aaron Bannon, Executive Director of America Outdoors. “For the outfitters of America Outdoors, who prioritize the consistent delivery to their visitors of authentic, transformational experiences in the iconic lands and waters of the U.S., Chairman Westerman’s leadership on this bill is greatly appreciated.”
“AHC supports the EXPLORE Act because it protects access for horses and packers on public lands,” said Julie Broadway, President of the American Horse Council. “Maintaining and expanding trail access on public lands ensures the next generation of horseback riders can explore and recreate safely alongside other users. The inclusion of language to identify and adopt policies to promote conflict avoidance on multiple use trails is extremely important for the welfare of all users, and especially those who are riding or packing. AHC also commends the inclusion of the MVP Act (Military and Veterans in Parks Act) which holds the potential to expand access for Veterans and Active-Duty military as there are proven therapeutic benefits associated with outdoor recreation and Equine assisted service/therapy.”
"Recreation in our great natural spaces is invaluable to our physical and mental health and spiritual well-being," National Wild Turkey Federation Co-CEO Jason Burckhalter said. "Like our members and me, millions venture into national forests, grasslands and public waterways for ethically harvested, organic protein through hunting and fishing. The EXPLORE Act opens opportunities and provides infrastructure to support these and other recreational users and is vital to ensuring access to people of all walks of life who want to enjoy what nature has to offer."
"Bicycling is a growing part of the outdoor recreation experience and the EXPLORE Act will make accessing the outdoors easier for bicycling and other outdoor recreation activities,” said Jenn Dice, CEO of PeopleForBikes. “This package proves that bike policy brings both sides of the aisle together to grow infrastructure and access. We look forward to working with Congress on advancing this first-of-its-kind bipartisan investment in the future of recreation.”
“We are thrilled to see Congress taking action to ensure each American has the opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces in their own community, bolster economic growth, and advance mental and physical health benefits for all,” said Kent Ebersole, president of Outdoor Industry Association. “The outdoor recreation economy continues to soar to new levels, accounting for over $1 trillion in consumer spending and demonstrating participant growth for the eighth consecutive year. This is an important inflection point. We must modernize, preserve, and increase access to the public lands and waterways – regardless of where someone lives or works – and support more than five million employees who help drive our industry forward.”
“The Archery Trade Association is thankful for the many champions in Congress serving to reintroduce and support this important legislation” said Dan Forster, Vice President & Chief Conservation Officer of the Archery Trade Association. “The EXPLORE Act will help ensure that our federal public lands are accessible, well managed, and continue to provide a critically important foundation for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
“The recreational boating industry would like to thank Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member Grijalva for introducing this incredibly important legislation which will ultimately improve outdoor recreation opportunities on our federal lands while simultaneously supporting the outfitters and Federal employees that make these opportunities possible,” said Matt Gruhn, President of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “It is no secret the power of outdoor recreation in America, from benefits to mental health to providing much needed economic stimulus for rural communities, the MRAA lauds the Committee’s commitment to improving and growing outdoor recreation experiences on our Nation’s public lands and waters.”
“At REI Co-op, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived. We applaud Chairman Westerman, Ranking Member Grijalva, and the Committee members for coming together to make the outdoors more accessible, for everyone. The EXPLORE Act will both strengthen our public lands and increase opportunities for all people to enjoy time outside. Through increased resources for expansive outdoor recreation pursuits, including long-distance trails and urban parks in historically disinvested communities, and permit streamlining, this bill centers bipartisan solutions that increase equitable access to the outdoors,” said Taldi Harrison, Director of Community & Government Affairs, REI Co-op.
"Thank you to Chair Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for spearheading the EXPLORE Act, which will help safeguard our natural resources and ensure our bodies of water are properly preserved and protected,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “This legislation not only increases outdoor recreation access for millions of Americans but also mandates vital enhancements to detect and manage aquatic invasive species. On behalf of the recreational boating industry, NMMA is proud to support this important legislation that helps keep our lakes and inland waterways healthy and strengthens boaters’ access to these natural resources.”
“Congress has a tremendous opportunity to bolster the nation’s $1.1 trillion outdoor recreation economy through passage of the EXPLORE Act,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association. “Well managed and accessible federal lands are vital to recreational fishing and boating, which is the largest contributor to the outdoor recreation economy. The sportfishing industry thanks Chair Westerman, Ranking Member Grijalva, Chair Tiffany and Ranking Member Neguse for championing this important effort.”
“The EXPLORE Act is bipartisan legislation that will help ensure that Americans continue to enjoy the benefits of recreating outdoors for generations to come,” said National RV Dealers Association President Phil Ingrassia. “The act will improve and modernize recreation infrastructure on public lands to support everyone who enjoys the great outdoors, including the growing number of RV travelers.”
“The EXPLORE Act is crucial to the RV industry and the wider outdoor recreation industry. It remains a significant factor in making sustainable improvements to our nation’s campgrounds and improving the experiences of current and future RVers,” said Craig Kirby, President & CEO of the RV Industry Association. “In addition, the Act provides greater access to the health benefits offered by the great outdoors and offers an economic boost to both the local and national economies. We would also like to thank Congressmen Westerman and Grijalva for their steadfast leadership. Our government affairs team will be continuing to advocate in support of EXPLORE Act, and we call on Congress for its swift passage.”
"Outdoor recreation boosts the health of Americans, and access to public lands and trails is crucial for the millions of ATV, dirt bike, and side-by-side riders and drivers to enjoy the outdoors," said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. "The nearly $50 billion powersports industry applauds the introduction of the EXPLORE Act, which would help create additional opportunities for motorized access to federal recreational lands, improve recreation infrastructure, support local communities, and bolster our nation's economy. We thank Representatives Bruce Westerman and Raul Grijalva for their leadership with this legislation and urge swift bipartisan action to pass this act."
"Here in Montana outdoor recreation generates over 4% of our GDP, second in the nation only to Hawaii. We support the bill's funding for rural economic development in gateway communities and enhanced public access to public land,” said Mike Quist Kautz, Director of Public Access at American Prairie.
“SEMA thanks Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member Grijalva for introducing the EXPLORE Act. This bipartisan bill would streamline the process and expenses associated with obtaining special recreation permits, require federal land management agencies to increase opportunities for motorized and non-motorized access on public lands, and direct the BLM and Forest Service to make maps available to the public depicting where vehicles are allowed to recreate,” said Mike Spagnola, president & CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
“Outdated regulations in the outfitter-guide permitting system have made it time consuming, unpredictable, and unnecessarily difficult for people to experience outdoor recreation with an organized group, educational organization, or guide service,” said Matt Wade, Executive Director at the American Mountain Guides Association. “The EXPLORE Act includes provisions that will remove old roadblocks to access and enable more Americans to experience the joys of rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing on America’s public lands. The American Mountain Guides Association applauds Congressmen Westerman and Grijalva for introducing the EXPLORE Act.”
“America’s public lands – and the vast economy powered by outdoor recreation – represent a vital part of our cultural heritage for future generations,” said Dan West, Director of Public Policy at Rivian. “But keeping that promise requires that we modernize how we manage these resources, respond to new and evolving challenges, and facilitate a wide variety of recreation pursuits – from hiking to off-roading to bringing the kids on their first camping trip, all of which sustain good jobs and support local communities. We built Rivian to pursue an optimistic bet on our future and expand equitable and sustainable access to the outdoors. As part of that goal, we strongly support passage of the bipartisan EXPLORE Act to strengthen the outdoor economy for the benefit of every American.”
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