Protecting the Roadless Rule: Alaska’s Tongass National Forest Under Pressure

Just getting started on the Roadless Rule? Learn the basics about what the Roadless Rule is here.

The Roadless Rule protects roughly 58.8 million acres of roadless areas on different National Forests across the country. Around 9 million acres of those protected lands reside in the Tongass National Forest, America’s largest forest, and in combination with the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, the Tongass is the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.

Photo: Sam Ortiz

Homeland of the Tlingit and Haida people, this unique landscape is described by the Audubon Society as being filled with “glacial fjords, streams, lush valleys, mountains, and some of the oldest, most valuable, trees in the world.”

It is home to “an abundance” of fish and wildlife including “including all five species of Pacific salmon, brown (grizzly) bears, wolves, Bald Eagles, Northern Goshawks,” and many more valuable species. Throughout the last century, economic growth in Alaska came about from the logging industry which is evident when considering how logging has altered the Tongass. 9% of productive old-growth forests have been clearcut, and about half of the “big-tree old growth” have been cut. 

Map of Tongass National Forest Roadless + Recreation Areas (Outdoor Alliance)

In collaboration with the powerful timber lobby, the current administration threatens to continue the devastation of the Tongass’ old-growth forests by allowing the Forest to undermine the Roadless Rule and exempt the Tongass from its protections in order to allow more freedoms to logging. Currently, the Tongass still allows large scale clear cut logging of old-growth forests in certain areas of the forest. According to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), in 2015, 6,000 acres of forest were logged in a timber sale. Not only is this practice outdated and harmful to the ecosystem, but the logging is also done at a loss to American taxpayers. The SEACC states that it is estimated that taxpayers subsidize the Tongass timber program “to the tune of $20 million per year” and is contributing to “less than 1%” of the local Alaskan economy. Recreation, on the other hand, generates $7.3 billion and sustains more than four times the number of jobs in Alaska than oil and gas production, mining, and logging combined, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Where are we now and how can I take action?

Currently, the proposal from the US Forest Service is undergoing the NEPA process. Thanks to that process, the Forest Service is required to hear comments from the public regarding what they think about the project. This comment period is open until December 17, 2019, and the Outdoor Alliance recommends asking the Forest Service to support the “no action alternative” in order to keep the Roadless Rule alive on the Tongass National Forest.

Use Outdoor Alliances’s letter writing tool–it only takes 30 seconds to make your voice heard.

Sign up for a virtual roadless rule public comment workshop with Last Stands on 12/15.

Resources: 

Watch:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Roadless Rule?

The Roadless Rule has worked in favor of conservationists since 2001. According to the US Forest Service definition of the rule, it was intended to “provide lasting protection for inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System.”

Image: Sam Ortiz

The rule protects roughly 58.5 million acres of roadless areas, ensuring that wild and undeveloped forests are safe from future development. There are many benefits to having large expanses of land that are undisturbed or unfragmented by human development. One benefit is that this undeveloped land can be utilized for various forms of human-powered recreation. In addition to the outdoor recreation perks, these lands protect many valuable ecosystem services like animal and plant biodiversity, clean air, fresh water, and even aid in climate stability through carbon capture and storage. 

Here’s a great infographic on the roadless rule and how it affects recreation via Outdoor Alliance– head to their website for an interactive map of Roadless areas in the US:


Where are we now and how can I take action?

Both Alaska and Utah are attempting to change or roll back roadless protections of National Forest Lands in their states. As soon as one state decides it is a good idea to create a state-specific Roadless Rule, it can be expected that many other states will follow suit. This is a slippery slope when it comes to conservation and protecting recreation spaces nationwide. Let’s look a bit further into what Utah and Alaska are proposing:

Utah: 

  • Utah is a fierce proponent of local control over public lands, so it was no surprise that the state petitioned the Forest Service to create a “Utah-specific Roadless Rule” in order to roll back protections on forests under the Roadless Rule.
  • Approximately 50% of Utah’s Forests are designated as “Roadless”
  • According to Outdoor Alliance: 9% of Inventoried Roadless Areas would be released from protections entirely, 79% would have protections from logging drastically reduced, and only 12% of existing areas would retain current protection, 0% would be given heightened protections.
  • The petition is vague, unspecific, and there is no site-specific analysis.
  • In response to a report published by Defenders of Wildlife, the organization’s Director of Federal Lands said it showed “how shortsighted it would be to accept the state’s proposal to sacrifice millions of acres of intact habitat and healthy watersheds for more logging and roadbuilding. Utah’s national forest roadless areas, like roadless areas across the National Forest System, are sanctuaries for fish and wildlife as well as magnets for human recreation.”

Sign the petition to protect Utah’s backcountry forests through Outdoor Alliance’s easy-to-use letter writing tool.

Alaska:

Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Photo: Sam Ortiz
  • Alaska is home to one of the largest coastal temperate rainforests, some of the world’s oldest trees, and a long history of logging
  • More than half of the Tongass’ 17 million acres of land are protected by the Roadless Rule
  • With the support of a powerful timber lobby, Alaska is hoping to release 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest for logging through an exemption of the Roadless Rule

Defend the Roadless Rule and the Tongass National Forest through the Outdoor Alliance easy-to-use letter writing tool: Comment by December 17, 2019.


Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act?

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

According to Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is a “locally driven, consensus-based bill” that has been worked on over the past four years by a wide range of local government agencies, businesses, transportation officials, nonprofit and environmental groups, recreation interest groups, and residents. The act has several goals: 

  • “protecting water sources
  • preserving recreational opportunities for the future, 
  • and ensuring enjoyment of the Central Wasatch Mountains in the face of pressures from a growing population”.

Nestled between Salt Lake City and Park City, the Central Wasatch Mountains are a haven for recreationalists of all kinds, and the area is becoming increasingly more populated. Home to four world-class ski resorts, skiers, trail runners, hikers, and rock climbers, will travel to the Wasatch Front from all over the country in order to recreate on these lands. Not only is this area high trafficked by tourists, but hundreds of local recreationalists come into these mountains from Utah’s metropolitan hub to spend time on public lands on any given day. According to the CWC, “The Central Wasatch Mountains are more heavily used than all five of Utah’s National Parks combined.” If you have ever visited Zion National Park or Arches National Park during peak season, you can imagine how crowded that must make the canyons during the middle of the ski season. 


At this point, the act is still a working draft, but in its current state, it intends to preserve approximately “80,000 acres of US Forest Service land including watershed, scenic ridgelines, treasured landscapes, and recreation areas” while also helping ski resorts to better utilize and own more land in their established base areas. Some specific points made in the bill are outlined on the CWC’s website:

  • “All existing recreational uses and permits will continue;
  • Natural resources and watersheds will be protected;
  • Existing Wilderness Area boundaries will be adjusted for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail alignment and for transportation improvements.
  • Approximately 8,000 acres of wilderness will be added;
  • The U.S. Forest Service will maintain ownership and management of the lands;
  • Land exchanges between the U.S. Forest Service and the four Cottonwood Canyons ski resorts are authorized;
  • Ski resort permit boundaries on U.S. Forest Service land will be fixed permanently after some adjustments through the existing permitting process;
  • New roads for automobiles will be prohibited on U.S. Forest Service land;
  • No restrictions will be placed on U.S. Forest Service management for fire suppression, vegetation maintenance, avalanche control or other emergency measures;
  • Private land within the area or adjacent to the area being designated will not be affected;
  • Future transportation improvements are anticipated. The legislation enables transportation improvements to meet growing demand”

What’s happening now and how to take action:

While the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is still in the drafting phase, state representatives John Curtis and Ben McAdams have been weighing in to tweak the language and help prepare the draft to be taken to Washington and shared with Congress. While the Act is on its way to being solidified and taken to Washington, there is still reason to act in support of the legislation. As a Utah resident living near the Wasatch, it is especially important to make yourself heard throughout this process. The easiest way to stay up to date on meetings that are accepting public comments is by following the CWC website as well as checking the Utah Public Notice Website. Keep an eye out for when this important public lands bill hits the floor of the House in the coming year. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

What is Forest Planning?

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) requires that every national forest develop and follow a Land Management Plan, or a Forest Plan. Forest Planning is the process that dictates where particular uses may occur and how the different zones of the forest will be managed. For example, a forest plan will reserve certain areas for extractive activities like logging, while other areas will be zoned for “sustainable recreation” described by the Outdoor Alliance as being “a range of recreational settings, opportunities, and access that can be sustained over time.” The implications of this process are very important to the outdoor recreation and conservation communities. It has a huge impact on the future of access for recreation and is the first step in the development of new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic rivers, or even National Recreation Areas.

Stages of Forest Planning

The process of forest planning is broken up into three stages: assessment, plan development, and implementation and monitoring. The Forest Service starts the process in the assessment phase by examining how the forest is currently being used and how that use impacts wildlife, air quality, economic benefits, and other important factors. Based on the data collected in the assessment phase, they decide what needs to change. They revise the old plan or develop a completely new plan that is then entered into a NEPA process to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed changes. Once the plan is approved, the Forest Service enters into the final stage and will make changes dictated by their new forest plan and begin to monitor whether or not these changes are positive for the forest as a whole.

How can you take action and impact forest planning?

There are so many ways citizens can be involved in the planning process. Outdoor Alliance does a good job summarizing the planning process while also noting how you as a forest user can be involved in the process during each stage in this graphic below:

click to download this graphic

Currently, forest planning is happening in five different National Forests and the Outdoor Alliance has set up a website to keep the public in the know of where each process stands and when they need the outdoor community to engage. Check out this Forest Planning site to see if your National Forest is in the midst of its planning process and how you can be involved.

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

If you remember only three things about LWCF, let it be this:

  • LWCF funds have been invested in every county in the United States
  • For every $1 spent on LWCF, communities receive $4 in economic benefit
  • LWCF DOESN’T USE ANY TAXPAYER DOLLARS

History

Established in 1964, the National Park Service states that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), “was established to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans”. In a thoughtful move by congress, the LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but instead is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing. This method makes sense as the program intends to repurpose funds from a destructive activity that is harming the environment in order to support the conservation of lands and waters elsewhere. Specifically, the money raised from this fund can either be used to support smaller-scale state or local community proposed projects or larger scale federal projects that focus on land acquisition. 

LWCF State and Local Grants Program

“Provides matching Grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites

  • Grants have funded projects in every county in the country
  • 40,000+ projects since 1965
  • Funding provided $3.9 billion
  • Grants have supported purchase and protection of 3 million acres of recreation lands 
  • 75% total funds obligated have gone to locally sponsored projects to provide recreation opportunities that are readily accessible to all people”

LWCF Federal Land Acquisition

“Supports the protection of federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and voluntary conservation on private land”

Forest Legacy Program:

“Provides grants through state partners to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands while maintaining private ownership and working forests”

  • Total acres protected = 2.37 million.
  • Funding provided =$1.4 billion.

Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund:

“Grants provide funds to states and territories to work with private landowners, conservation organizations, and other partners to protect and conserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species.”

  • Number of grants = 246 
  • Funding provided = $394 million.

Where are we now?

The goal of this program is to “strengthen communities, preserve history, and protect our national endowments of lands and waters.” $900 million is put into the LWCF annually, but rarely does this money end up protecting public lands, waters, and offering grant funding for communities. Instead, Congress breaks its promise of allocating funds to projects rooted in conservation and recreation, and instead diverts it to other uses. In fact, since the creation of LWCF, $22 billion has been diverted. This is especially frustrating as there is more than $11 billion of backlogged work to be done in National Parks alone due to budget cuts, and it is increasingly obvious that public land maintenance, preservation, and upkeep is not being prioritized by the current administration. In March of 2019, legislation was passed that permanently reauthorizes LWCF. While this was a big win for fans of LWCF, there is still an uphill battle at hand. Many organizations like LWCF Coalition, Outdoor Alliance, and Outdoor Industry Association, have demanded that Congress fully fund LWCF, meaning pass legislation dictating that the full $900 million will be allocated to LWCF annually. 

Related Legislation

  • S.47 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act: The public lands package that included the permanent reauthorization of LWCF, passed on March 12, 2019
  • HR 3195 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act: 
  • S. 1081 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act

How to take action:

  • On November 19, 2019, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S. 1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act. If voted into law, the $900 million will be required to fund conservation and recreation projects and will not be allowed to be reallocated. Send your lawmakers a note telling them why it is imperative they support S. 1081 when it comes to senate vote using the easy-to-use letter writing tool below. 
  • Stay up to date on the latest LWCF news and action alerts by checking out LWCF Coalition

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What is NEPA?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash



NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, is the most important tool we have to hold accountability on the decisions made on public lands. It gives us, as citizens, a voice and allows environmental justice to be held as a top priority. With NEPA, Americans can advocate for, and protect their neighborhoods. Due to longstanding systemic environmental racism, development, and infrastructure projects harm Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at a disproportionate rate to predominately white communities. NEPA is a check and balance that allows communities and their allies to speak up on behalf of their own backyard, and work to combat environmental racism.

Throughout this year, attempts to stifle public comment is SILENCING citizens while giving a megaphone to corporations who profit from the destruction of public lands and pollute neighborhoods across the country.

NEPA utilizes data and scientific evidence to consider the environmental impact of development projects and requires developers to consider climate change as an effect. The Trump administration is yet again silencing science, and continuing to prioritize profit over people.

History

Prior to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), there was a clear separation of the federal government, the public, and the environment. Decisions were made based on convenience and financial gain, the public had no say, and impacts on the environment could go unmentioned. Thankfully, that decision process changed when NEPA was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires the federal government to “use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony”. It holds the government accountable to this by requiring federal agencies to “incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach.” The policy offers a comprehensive framework that agencies can utilize in order to “prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of, and alternatives to, major federal actions significantly affecting the environment.” Essentially, the NEPA process forces the government to do the following things prior to making decisions on whether or not to complete a project:

  • Identify potential issues within the proposed project
  • Determine viable project alternatives that would alleviate issues 
  • Complete in-depth studies through a scientific process that look into the cumulative impact of a project and its environmental issues (ex: climate change impact)
  • Comply with environmental regulations 
  • Involve the public in all decision making

EA vs EIS

There are two different NEPA statements, Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An EA is far less complicated and takes less time than the EIS. This documentation process is only followed if it is unclear that the anticipated impacts will be significant. Occasionally while going through the EA process it becomes obvious that there will be a large impact on the environment and an EIS process will be born out of the EA process. If from the start it is clear that the project is going to cause significant negative impacts on the environment, or if there is a lot of public controversy over the project, the EIS process is required. 

Public Engagement

NEPA ensures that the public gets to have a say in decision-making processes. Both the EA and the EIS provide multiple touchpoints for the public to participate. Depending on which government agency is going through the NEPA process, the public involvement process will vary a bit, but many agencies will offer an initial 30 day comment period for both an EA or EIS process. Some projects, especially those that are highly controversial, will even hold public forums to hear from stakeholders. Regardless of the severity of the project, the review process for both offers the ability to make your voice heard by offering thoughts on how the agency went about its study, which alternative you think is best, or even by proposing your own alternative. Many nonprofit advocacy organizations like Outdoor Alliance, American Alpine Club, the Wilderness Society, and more utilize the NEPA process to give a voice to the issues that they, alongside their supporters, are fighting for when it comes to public lands protections.    

Proposed changes to NEPA:

Having the chance to weigh in on important land management decisions or various project proposals to the federal government is part of what makes the NEPA process great. It allows people to have a say when it comes to local issues such as forest management plans, or national issues like fighting off drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, there are interest groups who would like to see NEPA rolled back in order to make it easier to develop on public lands, and the Forest Service is considering making changes to how it implements NEPA. One of the first things under attack: public engagement. According to Outdoor Alliance, the proposed changes would limit public engagement on Forest Service Projects up to 93%, “and in some cases, eliminate public notice all together”. If these changes are made, they would create loopholes to allow speedier and larger-scale resource extraction projects on public lands. 

How to take action:

During the summer of 2019, the Forest Service accepted public comment regarding the proposed changes. Many organizations and individuals alike took the time to reach out to lawmakers and the Forest Service in order to voice concerns about the attack on the public process. At this point, the Forest Service is compiling data and considering the received comments and hopes to release proposed directives in January 2020. After they release their proposed plan, they will be offering an additional public comment period. Please check back as January draws near to learn more about how you can offer comments opposing these changes to its application of NEPA.

Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Antiquities Act?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

History

The Antiquities Act, enacted in 1906, gives the President the ability to proclaim National Monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Originally created to prevent looting of Indigenous artifacts from archaeological sites, this powerful tool allows the President to bypass the slow-moving legislative process in order to protect large swaths of land that are under critical threat. The White House typically spends time collaborating with local stakeholders to decide what the protected area should look like and how it will function prior to designation giving local communities a strong voice in the process. Additionally, the designation can be used to protect public lands from impending oil and gas extraction and commercial development and instead aid in generating “economic growth through tourism, recreation, and improved property values” in the towns surrounding the National Monuments. 

National Park vs National Monument

A National Monument differs from a National Park in a few ways. Several critical differences according to Outside Online are:

Why the land is being protected:

  • “National Parks protect land that offers “scenic, inspirational, educational, and recreation opportunities.” 
  • National Monuments protect land that is “historic, cultural, or scientific nature” 

Management Structure

  • “National Parks are managed by the National Park Service 
  • National Monuments can be managed by a myriad of agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or US Fish and Wildlife Service” 

Designation Power

  • “National Parks must be voted on, approved, and designated by Congress
  • National Monuments can be established by the President through a proclamation”

Attack on the Antiquities Act

According to the Center for Western Priorities, “For over 100 years, presidents of both political parties have used the Antiquities Act to protect national monuments. Since 1906, 16 presidents have protected 157 monuments under the law.” However, in the recent political era, many designations have been highly contentious between political parties. During the Obama administration, 29 new National Monuments were established in 17 different states protecting a total of 553 million acres of federal lands and waters. One Monument designated during the Obama era is Bears Ears National Monument. This Monument is considered highly controversial as the Trump administration proclaimed a reckless reduction of the area in 2017. Many organizations such as the Natural Resources Defence Council, Access Fund, Patagonia, Utah Dine Bikeyah, and others have banned together to sue Donald Trump claiming that this reduction is a direct attack on the Antiquities Act. The organizations claim the Antiquities Act gives the president the ability to create National Monuments, but only Congress has the authority to revoke or revise the protected area. 

How to take action

It seems the battle for the protection of the Antiquities Act is just beginning. It is more important than ever to tell your representatives that you support the Antiquities Act and hope to see it upheld in perpetuity. Click on the National Parks Conservation Association’s easy-to-use letter-writing tool to support the Antiquities Act. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the CORE Act?

Photo by Thomas Morse on Unsplash

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or “CORE Act”, was designed to “protect approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establish new wilderness areas and safeguard existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations”. In an impressive case of collaborative legislation building, various counties in Colorado came together with local businesses, outdoor recreation groups, and conservationists to work together and find creative solutions, compromise, and build this bill over the last decade. 

Who are the sponsors/co-sponsors/who introduced it?

  • HR 823: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), check out the 3 cosponsors here.
  • S. 241: Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO)

Read the full legislative text here:

S. 241, HR 823 

What does this bill do for the outdoors?

According to a summary of the bill from Michael Bennett’s website, the CORE Act: 

  • Offers a balance between conservation and recreational interests 
  • Places a high value on recreation and conservation by supporting the $28.0 Billion outdoor recreation economy in Colorado as well as the 229,000 jobs associated with it
  • Unifies and improves upon four previously introduced bills: Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act, San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, and Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act
  • Protects 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado and of that newly protected land, 70,000 acres will be designated new Wilderness areas and 80,000 acres will be new recreation and conservation management areas which preserve existing outdoor uses
  • Introduces a first of its kind National Historic Landscape designation to honor and protect Colorado’s military legacy at Camp Hale
  • Prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to outdoor recreationalists 

What’s happening now and how to take action:

Update 2021: The CORE Act has passed through the House three times, but now needs to get through the Senate. It has a hearing in the Senate in June, but what we really need right now is a Senator to champion this bill and become a sponsor.

Update 2019: The CORE Act passed largely along party lines in the House of Representatives on October 31st. While this is a big win for the Coloradoans who have been working on this bill for over a decade, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. It is time to write your senators and tell them that you want them to vote “YEA” in support of the CORE Act. You can find easy to use letter writing tools below:

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the SOAR Act?

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

According to the official bill summary, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act) clarifies and “revises provisions regarding special recreation permits for use by individuals and groups to engage in recreational activities on federal recreation lands and waters”. This bill will benefit the outdoor recreation industry, and more specifically, it will greatly benefit the guides and outfitters who operate on public lands. Making it easier for outfitters and guides to obtain permits will ultimately break down barriers for people interested in getting outside by offering more affordable and wider access to guiding services, therefore, enhancing and diversifying access as a whole.

Who are the sponsors/co-sponsors/who introduced it?

  • S. 1665: Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Check out the 15 cosponsors here
  • HR 3895: Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) Check out the 15 cosponsors here

Read the full legislative text here:

S. 1665, HR 3879

What does this bill do for the outdoors? 

According to this article published by Outside Magazine, “the SOAR Act promises to:

  • Reduce permit fees, especially for small businesses and organizations
  • Improve and streamline the permitting process by eliminating redundant processes and shortening processing timelines.
  • Increase transparency by notifying the public as soon as new recreation permits are available 
  • Make more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer short-term permits and create a unique program for sharing unused permit days between different permit holders
  • Increase flexibility for outdoor leaders allowing them to engage in activities that are similar to the activity specified in their permit 
  • Make more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders;
  • Simplify 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.
  • Reduce barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts” 

What’s happening now and how to take action:

In the Senate:

Key takeaway from hearing: There is strong bipartisan support for this bill from Senators.

In the House:

Key takeaway from hearing: There is strong bipartisan support for this bill from both members of Congress and witnesses who testified on behalf of land management agencies. 

How can you take action?

Now that hearings are complete and there is strong bipartisan support, it is important to keep up momentum by affirming elected officials that voting “YEAH” for this bill is the right thing to do in the minds of their constituents. Utilize the easy-to-use letter writing tool created by the Outdoor Alliance below to tell your lawmakers that you support the SOAR Act. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What are Offices of Outdoor Recreation?

Photo by Jack Sloop on Unsplash

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) works with states across the country in order to grow and maintain the outdoor recreation economy. In doing so, OIA has been a leading player in efforts to create outdoor recreation offices across the United States. These states have created these offices or task forces in order to:

  • “Bolster Economic Development” and the outdoor recreation economy
  • Promote health and wellness
  • Ensure conservation and stewardship of public lands and waters
  • Educate and engage children in the outdoors
  • Serve as a point of contact to the businesses, stakeholders and different levels of government that care about the outdoor recreation industry”

OIA keeps an updated list of states that have offices of outdoor recreation, read more for a summary of each individual program:

Offices of Outdoor Recreation

COLORADO

  • Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office: seeks to “inspire industries and communities to thrive in Colorado’s great outdoors through our focus on four impact areas: economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce, and health and wellness.”
  • Nathan Fey serves as the Director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry

MAINE

  • Maine’s Office of Outdoor Recreation: aims to “leverage Maine’s assets and outdoor recreation heritage to grow the outdoor recreation economy and build Maine’s outdoor recreation brand as part of a coordinated effort with partners from the public and private sectors.”
  • Carolann Ouellette serves as the Director of Outdoor Recreation 

MICHIGAN

  • Michigan’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry:  “works with industry partners from many sectors to anticipate emerging trends, create effective policy and elevate outdoor recreation opportunities and resources across Michigan.”
  • Brad Garmon serves as Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry
    • Contact the office here

MONTANA

NEVADA

  • Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation: “tasked with promoting the growth of Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy, advocating on behalf of Nevada for federal funding, coordinate recreation policy among local, state and federal government entities, promote the health and social benefits of outdoor recreation, and promote engagement in the outdoors among diverse communities.”
  • Heidi Swank serves as the Administrator for the new Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation. There will be one more administrator appointed in the coming months. 
    • No Contact Info Yet 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development: will work to “grow our state’s industry and economy, promote the social and health benefits of outdoor recreation, and inspire new generations to access the many benefits of going outside.”
  • No appointed director at this time.

NEW MEXICO

  • New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division: was created during the 2019 legislative session and will be “tasked with increasing outdoor-recreation-based economic development, tourism, and ecotourism, recruiting new outdoor businesses to relocate to New Mexico, and promoting education about outdoor recreation’s benefits to enhance public health.”
  • Axie Navas serves as New Mexico’s Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation 
    • No Contact Yet

NORTH CAROLINA

  • The role of Outdoor Recreation and Recruitment Director lives within the state’s commerce department to “promote North Carolina’s outdoor recreation economy and to assist in the recruitment of new businesses to the state.”
  • David Knight serves as the Outdoor Recreation and Recruitment Director
    • No Contact Info Yet

OREGON

  • Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation: coordinates the state’s outdoor recreation policy across agencies, between public and private sectors, and in cooperation with organizations that have an interest in seeing outdoor recreation thrive throughout the state. 
  • Cailin O’Brien-Feeney serves as Oregon’s Director of Outdoor Recreation

UTAH

  • Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation: the first program in the country created in 2013. Its mission is to “establish a nationwide recreation management standard, and ensure that the state’s natural assets can sustain economic growth for years to come.”
  • Tom Adams serves as Director of the UT Office of Outdoor Recreation 

VIRGINIA

WASHINGTON

  • Washington’s program is housed within the office of the governor. The Policy Advisor for Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development “is charged with serving as the state lead on economic development issues relating to the outdoor recreation sector in Washington”
  • Jon Snyder services as Senior Policy Advisor for Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development 

WISCONSIN

  • Wisconsin’s Office of Outdoor Recreation: “will work to amplify the efforts of the Department of Natural Resources and Travel Wisconsin, protect natural resources in the state while supporting and growing the state’s $17.9 billion recreation economy.”
  • No appointed director at this time.

WYOMING

  • Wyoming’s Office of Outdoor Recreation: “strives to enhance and expand the outdoor recreation industry and improve outdoor recreation infrastructure/access within the beautiful state of Wyoming.”
  • David Glenn serves as the Deputy Director of Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office and State Parks

Task Forces

MARYLAND

  • Maryland’s Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission: “responsible for developing strategies and making recommendations to the governor to strengthen the state’s outdoor recreation industry and help ensure increased investment in our state’s outdoor recreation resources.”
  • See a list of appointed commission members here.

VERMONT

  • Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative (VOREC):  “Leveraging Vermont’s Outdoor Recreation Assets to Stimulate and Improve Economic Outcomes” This entity serves as an advisor to the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 
  • Michael Snyder serves as commissioner and chair of VOREC

How can you take action?

Check out this comprehensive resource from the Outdoor Industry Association to learn more about how you can get involved with your state’s office or task force. 

If your state does not have an office or task force, OIA encourages constituents to do the following:

  • Find peers and colleagues in the industry who also see the need for an office or task force in your state and build relationships and coalitions with these industry leaders
  • Start communicating and building relationships with your state representatives
  • Reach out to OIA for assistance

Resources


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.