Haaland, Curtis Lead SOAR Act in the House

July 23, 2019

Bipartisan Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act would streamline the recreational permitting process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Deb Haaland and John Curtis introduced the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, a bill that would make outdoor recreation more accessible to everyone by streamlining the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups. 

“Our country is full of beautiful places that everyone should have access to, but right now the permitting process is creating a barrier for folks who wish enjoy the outdoors with guidance. So, Representative Curtis and I are fixing that problem with a bill that will make it easier for groups to help people get outside and while supporting the jobs in New Mexico’s nearly $10 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Rep. Haaland.

“The SOAR Act will make it easier for Utahns, and those visiting our great state, to enjoy our public lands and the outdoors,” said Rep. Curtis. “I am proud to be the Republican leader of this bipartisan effort, along with Democratic Congresswoman Haaland and my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee. It is clear why this common-sense legislation has garnered support by outdoor recreation and conservation groups alike. A more efficient permitting system benefits everyone.”

The SOAR Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies by:

  • Improving the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, shorten processing times and simplify environmental review;
  • Increasing flexibility for outfitters, guides and other outdoor leaders by allowing them to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activity specified in their permit;
  • Making 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;
  • Increasing system transparency by directing agencies to notify the public when new recreation permits are available and requiring the agencies to provide timely responses to permit applicants;
  • Simplifying 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;
  • Reducing permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations by excluding certain revenue from permit fee calculations and establishing a simple 50-hour cost recovery fee exemption for permit processing;
  • Providing new protections for Forest Service permit holders by recognizing seasonal demand fluctuations and waiving permit use reviews in extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the permit holder (wildfire, etc.);
  • Helping control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients; and
  • Reducing barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts by waiving the permit indemnification requirement for entities that are prohibited from providing indemnification under state law.  

U.S. House cosponsors of the SOAR Act include Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Mike Simpson (R-Ind.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.).

The U.S. Senate companion to the SOAR Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and cosponsored by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Steven Daines (R-Mont.).

The full bill text is available HERE.

Support for the SOAR Act

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including for-profit outfitters and guides, non-profit outfitters and guides, university recreation programs, and volunteer-based clubs. 

Outdoor Industry Association

“Today only twenty percent of America’s children go outside on a weekly basis. To turn the tide on the future economic and health problems this trend will likely lead to, OIA fully supports the bipartisan SOAR Act,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs for Outdoor Industry Association. “The SOAR Act will ease children’s and families’ access to the outdoors by improving the bureaucratic processes for issuing recreation permits on our nation’s public lands. We want to thank Representatives Haaland (D-NM) and Curtis (R-UT) for their leadership on this issue essential to our children’s future.”

America Outdoors Association

Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act provides common sense strategies to improve the general public’s access to public lands. It reduces the costs associated with the permitting processes to enable individuals, families and youth groups the opportunity to enjoy America’s wilderness and backcountry under the supervision and care of outfitters and guides. Many Americans do not have the skills or knowledge to access these areas safely.  This legislation improves access to these areas.  America Outdoors applauds both Representatives Haaland (NM-01) and Curtis (UT-3) for sponsoring this legislation.

YMCA of the USA

“Outdoor recreation helps children build positive relationships and develop a sense of achievement and belonging. It is an essential part of the Y’s approach to youth development,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA. “The current process for recreational permitting is complicated and restrictive. This legislation will simplify the process, enabling the Y and others to share nature’s wonders with many more kids and families and instill in our youth a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors. We thank Representatives Haaland and Curtis for their passionate leadership in easing the recreational permitting process for our public lands.”

Angler’s Covey (fly fishing outfitter from Colorado Springs, CO)

“As a small outfitter, the complexity of the current permitting process has created barriers to business growth,” said David Leinweber, Owner-President of Angler’s Covey Inc. and Chairman of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance. “The SOAR act will provide needed relief and allow my business to expand.”

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education

“The Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education is thankful to Ms. Haaland and Mr. Curtis for introducing the SOAR Act,” said Jeannette Stawski, Executive Director. “This important legislation will better facilitate access to enable education institutions, military welfare and morale organizations, and municipalities to do the incredibly important work of introducing people to outdoor recreation on public lands.”


“This Legislation will provide significant relief to outfitters and organizations who lead people outside across the country,” said Rebecca Bear, Director, REI Outdoor Programs and Experiences. “REI applauds representatives Haaland, Curtis, DeGette, Stewart, Gallego and Gianforte for co-sponsoring this legislation.”

The Wilderness Society

“Americans need more opportunities to visit and enjoy our nation’s treasured public lands and waters,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society. “The SOAR Act will provide those opportunities. We applaud Representatives Haaland and Curtis for introducing legislation to help more people get outdoors and enjoy public lands.”

The Mountaineers

“The Mountaineers have been getting people outside responsibly for over a century, and we strongly believe in the importance of connecting people to place through outdoor recreation,” said Tom Vogl, CEO of the Mountaineers. “This bill will improve numerous permitting processes that currently act as barriers to people experiencing the outdoors. We fully support this work that will help more people recreation responsibly on public lands.”

American Mountain Guides Association

“Outdated regulations in the permitting system have made it time consuming, unpredictable, and in many cases— impossible—for outdoor organizations and businesses to provide outdoor experiences on public lands,” said Alex Kosseff, Executive Director at the American Mountain Guides Association. “The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act removes old roadblocks to facilitated outdoor recreation and enables more Americans to get outside and enjoy public lands.”

National Outdoor Leadership School

“Creating more opportunities for people from all walks of life to have educational and recreational experiences outdoors is what NOLS is about,” said John Gans, NOLS President.” We are proud to be a part of this broad effort to reduce barriers to our shared public lands. In an increasingly urban society, it is essential that our citizens have opportunities to visit and come to know their public lands.”

Utah Guides and Outfitters

Utah Guides and Outfitters is excited to endorse the introduction of the “Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act,” and we thank Representatives Debra Haaland (D-NM) and John Curtis (R-UT) for their co-sponsorship of this bill and their efforts to protect small businesses and public lands.  We are a group of small businesses that provide access to the backcountry and wild places of Utah. The SOAR Act provides a certain and streamlined process for obtaining the permits we need to operate our businesses.  It is a common sense approach to permitting that will help us in our efforts to protect these precious resources while we also provide access and educate our guests about Utah’s unique and beautiful public lands.

Western River Expeditions

“I would like to personally thank Representative Haaland and Representative Curtis for their Sponsorship of the SOAR Act.  It represents an unprecedented consensus among key stakeholder groups and provides necessary and overdue reform to the permitting process for guides, outfitters and educational groups.  The SOAR Act will provide stability for small businesses that are primarily located in rural communities, and that are critical to those local economies,” said Brian Merrill, President & CEO.

Members of the outdoor industry and the conservation community supporting the bill include:

Aerie Backcountry Medicine

Alaska Alpine Adventures

Alaska Guide Collective

America Outdoors Association

America Walks

American Alpine Club

American Alpine Institute

American Fly Fishing Trade Association

American Hiking Society

American Horse Council

American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education

American Mountain Guides Association

American Sportfishing Association

Angler’s Covey

Appalachian Mountain Guides

Archery Trade Association

Association for Experiential Education

Association of Marina Industries

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE)

Avid4 Adventure

Big City Mountaineers

Chicks Climbing and Skiing

Choose Outdoors

Colorado Mountain School

Colorado River Outfitters Association

Colorado Wilderness Corporate and Teams

Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides

Dude Ranchers Association

Estes Park Rock Climbing

Exum Mountain Guides

Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association

Holiday River Expeditions

Idaho Mountain Guides

Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association

International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

Kent Mountain Adventure Center

Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce

Los Alamos Mountaineers


Middle Fork Outfitters Association

Moab Desert Adventures

Montana Alpine Guides

Montana Mountaineering Association

Montana Outfitters and Guides Association

Montana Wilderness School

Mountain Skills Rock Guides

Nantahala Outdoor Center National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds

National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds

National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs

National Marine Manufacturers Association

National Outdoor Leadership School

National Shooting Sports Foundation

New Mexico Council of Guides and Outfitters

New Mexico Wild

New River Mountain Guides

North Carolina Outward Bound School

Open Lands Consulting LLC

Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association

Outdoor Alliance

Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

Outdoor Research

Outward Bound USA

Red River Adventures

Red Rock Climbing Guides


Rising Tide Associates

RV Dealers Association

RV industry Association

Sawtooth Mountain Guides

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors

Santa Fe Climbing Center

Seneca Rocks Climbing School

Sierra Mountain Center

Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance

Specialty Equipment Marketing Association

Suntoucher Mountain Guides

The Mountaineers

The Mountain Guides

The Wilderness Society

Transforming Youth Outdoors

Utah Guides and Outfitters Association

Washington Trails Association

Washington Trails Association

West Virginia Professional River Outfitters

Western River Expeditions

Western Spirit Cycling

Wilderness Education Association

Worldwide Outfitters and Guides Association

Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association

YMCA of Greater Seattle

YMCA of Los Angeles

YMCA of the USA