River and mountains

Recreation For The Masses: America’s Outdoor Recreation Act

In March, America’s Outdoor Recreation Act was reintroduced to Congress. The act will streamline outdoor recreation permitting, update critical infrastructure and support rural communities that benefit from outdoor recreation. If it passes, this act (along with the Great American Outdoor Act of 2020) will become the most consequential set of outdoor recreation packages to become law in over fifty years.

A Brief Summary Of The Act

The act will earmark $862 billion for the advancement of the outdoor recreation economy. According to the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, that economy generates over $454 billion a year for the country. Here are some of the issues it will aim to address:

  • Streamline permitting processes for outdoor excursions
  • Identify long bike trails (similar to long hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail)
  • Publicize area closures online
  • Identify and support recreational climbing sites in wilderness areas
  • Support rural communities by helping build sustainable economies
  • Update critical infrastructure
  • Increase internet access at many frontcountry sites

What Will Change, And Why It’s Important

The act is important because it addresses issues on public lands while aiming to increase visitation and appreciation of America’s outdoor assets. 

There are several changes the act proposes, but the most eye-catching is building and monitoring shooting ranges. Recreational shooting is very popular in the U.S., and shooting ranges will help draw more interest in using and, over time, defending public lands.

The act will also reduce red tape. In the past, all guiding companies and outfitters had to get a permit to access areas on public land. Now, if the outfitter has less than 40 clients and the general public can access a site without a permit, outfitters can as well. This will make it easier for small businesses to operate on public lands.

Grants will also help increase the monitoring of watercraft. Boats recreating on different bodies of water can transport invasive species. Once those species are carried to a new area, they quickly populate and decimate local flora and fauna. Increased monitoring will reduce that likelihood.


The act also directs the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to collaborate with local gateway towns to identify community needs. This includes the ability to send money to fund an expansion of lodging and restaurants. The idea is that, with more to offer, visitors will be tempted to stay longer in gateway towns, thereby adding to the local economy.

Mountain bikers and rock climbers get benefits as well. The act will take a look at rock climbing sites in wilderness areas and consider the placement of anchors for safety. It will also identify long-distance biking trails, build them, and add appropriate signage to help users locate and ride these trails.

Internet For The Outdoors?

There are millions of acres of public land, and most of them are far from cell services. However, sometimes that lack of infrastructure makes its way to campgrounds, visitor centers, and other popular recreation sites. The act will create partnerships with local utility services to provide broadband internet to those places.

Now, if you’re a backcountry explorer, don’t fear. The Internet expansion will only occur at popular recreation sites and facilities in the frontcountry. There are still plenty of places to appreciate the solitude of nature without the barrage of the internet.

Will It Pass?

This is the second time the act has been introduced. It has decent bipartisan support and would complement the Great American Outdoor Act of 2020. The chances are good that it’ll pass the 118th Congress, which is in session until January 2025.

For a great summary of what the act would and wouldn't do, check out the Outdoor Recreation Roundtables assessment here

Is Anyone Against The Bill?

While larger outdoor organizations are in support of the expanded rock climbing, biking, internet, and outfitter proposals, not everyone's on board with the shooting range expansion. National Park coalitions are concerned about the location of the proposed shooting ranges. A lot of them may be adjacent to National Parks, which could easily impact what kind of experience people have.

Additionally, the Forest Service has been cash-strapped for decades. So, how they are going to implement all these changes while maintaining what they already have is a question no one has been able to answer yet.

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*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.