U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the Outdoor Recreation Act on Thursday. Conservation groups and outdoorsmen from around the country are supportive of the bipartisan legislation, which would boost outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide. According to the Senate’s summary of the bill: “The public demand to access and enjoy Federal Lands requires innovative and collaborative approaches to improve recreation infrastructure and access to meet the diverse recreation needs of America.”
Here’s what some of those “innovative and collaborative approaches” would look like:
- Establishing a pilot program to modernize campgrounds on Federal land, and financing projects that would help make communities located near National Forest Service lands more popular recreation destinations.
- Clarifying that recreational climbing is appropriate in wilderness areas, and directing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to designate new shooting ranges on National Forests and BLM land.
- Providing technical and financial assistance to local businesses that support visitation of public lands.
- Extending the period of time that recreation areas on Federal land are open to the public during shoulder seasons.
- Identifying broadband connectivity needs at Federal recreation sites, and working with the Rural Utilities Service to construct broadband internet infrastructure at those sites.
- Protecting against aquatic invasive species by establishing a competitive grant program within the BLM to help non-federal partners conduct inspections and decontaminate watercraft at reservoirs administrated by the Department of the Interior.
- Increasing the amount of non-motorized and motorized access to federal lands.
Some of the groups that have already announced their support of the Outdoor Recreation Act include: the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Outdoor Alliance, the American Sportfishing Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, American Whitewater, and REI.
Senator Manchin, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a statement on Thursday, saying, “My bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Act will support our state’s strong and growing outdoor recreation economy while providing an economic boost to our local communities. It will also ensure our public land management agencies can continue their legacy of protecting and preserving our state’s treasured public lands so that future generations can enjoy them as we have.”
Senator Barrasso, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, added that the legislation “will help modernize public campgrounds, establish shooting ranges on national forests, and ensure increased access to America’s public lands. The bill will also leverage private funding to create new recreational opportunities on our public lands.”
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