In Oregon, recreation and the outdoors are as synonymous as partridges and pear trees.
Our state's natural treasures are a year-round gift deeply rooted in our DNA as Oregonians. Oregon's coast, rivers, forests and mountains provide us with the good fortune to marvel at their splendor in the winter, spring, summer and fall.
And Oregon's total package of unmatched outdoors opportunities also ensures the state can offer residents and visitors alike an unmatched mix of chances to fish, hunt, ski, hike, bike, climb, clam, wind-surf and more.
All those opportunities combine to generate more than $16 billion a year in economic activity statewide and an estimated 224,000-plus jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
That's a foundation as solid as Smith Rock to build upon, which is why I'm all in with my bipartisan bill empowering small rural Oregon communities to redouble the rebuilds of their economies around access to the outdoors — generating jobs for outfitters and guides, breweries, hotels, manufacturers of outdoor gear and more.
The Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act recognizes that outdated rules and regulations often unnecessarily complicate and confuse what should be an easier and modern process for outdoors enthusiasts to get permits, parking passes and camping fees. Simply put, the bill will streamline rules for permitting and passes so more value can be created out of opportunities to be outdoors and help our small businesses.
The legislation would accomplish that goal by:
• Requiring the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to review their permitting processes for guides and recreation enthusiasts and improving efficiency.
• Encouraging military branches to inform service members and veterans of outdoor recreation and job opportunities.
• Holding federal agencies accountable for prioritizing outdoor recreation and increasing volunteerism to address the maintenance backlog of America's public lands.
•Establishing a National Recreation Area System to create more recreation opportunities on public lands.
• Complementing a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) that would improve outdoor recreation permitting processes.
This isn't a partisan issue. After all, nobody checks your party registration before you lace up your hiking boots, buy bait or pitch a tent. I'm gratified that my bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, and co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Don Young, R-Alaska.
I'm equally pleased that the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable praised the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act at a recent U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the bill, as a real tool for agencies during their planning process to seek recreation quality landscapes. That, in turn, will motivate businesses when they see these areas will be managed in the long-term for sustainable recreation, attracting other businesses that want to offer their employees opportunities to live, work and play near these great recreation assets.
The Recreation-Not-Red-Tape Act takes on a special importance during this public health crisis as Oregonians and all Americans rediscover the mental and physical health benefits of the outdoors.
As Oregonians celebrate the holidays and prepare for the new year, I'm encouraged that 2022 will be the year this essential recreation bill crosses the finish line, sparking even more good-paying jobs across our state and making it easier for everybody to enjoy all that our state has to offer in the outdoors.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Portland Democrat, has represented Oregon in the Senate since 1996. Wyden represented Oregon's 3rd Congressional District from 1981 to 1996.
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