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SOAR Act Among Bills Likely to Receive Congressional Action this Fall

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act)—the permitting reform legislation that could bring much needed updates to the federal process for the permitting of guides, outfitters and educational institutions on public lands—is potentially headed for the home stretch this fall. As part of the package of recreation bills known as America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA), the SOAR Act would provide long overdue reforms for guide and outfitter permitting such as standardizing the types of permits that can be issued, and fees that can be charged by federal land managers. SOAR Act also creates two new types of permits that federal agencies can issue, creates an incentive program for unused service days to be made available to others, provides for multijurisdictional permits, and directs the agencies to take steps that make the permitting process easier, faster and more efficient.

Congress nearly enacted the SOAR Act last year after it was integrated into AORA and passed out of the SENR Committee with unanimous consent. Senators Manchin and Barrasso reintroduced AORA this Congress—including the SOAR Act provisions—and the bill again sailed through committee last June. A companion SOAR Act in the US House of Representatives has also enjoyed unanimous support and is expected to be included in a House version of the AORA package. Depending on what happens with the government shutdown, enactment could come as early as October but it may take Congress the rest of the year to find time and take action. While AORA remains widely supported with very little opposition, the Coalition for Outdoor Access continues to aggressively advocate for getting AORA and the SOAR Act across the finish line. Stay tuned for updates as things progress.