Recreators could soon have an easier time accessing federal public lands under a new bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.
The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act would simplify the process of obtaining permits for federal lands. In addition, the act would make recreation a priority for federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers whose traditional role is in major public works.
"In the middle of this pointless partisan fight (over the Affordable Care Act), I wanted to take a minute just to highlight the right way to move forward in congress in a bipartisan fashion," Wyden told reporters on July 27. "Over the last year I have worked with the house chairman of the Natural Resource Committee — Rob Bishop of Utah, a Republican — to update my original version of what's called the RNR Bill."
Washington County includes scattered Bureau of Land Management lands. National Forest and wilderness areas cover much of the Cascade Mountains, and BLM runs large sections of southeastern Oregon.
While Wyden said the bill would help more people get outdoors, he also considers the effect on businesses. Wyden referenced the value of the outdoor recreation industry in Oregon: some 170,000 jobs supported by outdoor recreation, and around $16 billion in consumer spending.
The act would require the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to work together to cut down on the number of permits needed when trips cross from one jurisdiction to another. It would also encourage federal agencies to work with states to allow visitors to buy federal and state permits at the same location or online.
Wyden referenced a kayak guide needing permits from multiple agencies for a single trip, or a family camping trip held up by permits the family didn't know were necessary.
The bill has received endorsements from Travel Oregon, the Wilderness Society, the YMCA and others, and Wyden said he was confident he could make progress on the bill.