(Photo credit: NOHVCC)
The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act Reintroduced
On June 1, Rep. Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, introduced H.R. 3670, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, legislation which would simplify the permitting process for outdoor guides, outfitters, education organizations, and college and university programs. The SOAR Act will direct agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, and simplify environmental reviews to issue recreation permits. The bill will increase the flexibility for outfitters and guides by allowing land management agencies to issue a single joint permit to alleviate the administrative burden and reduce permit processing time. In addition, more recreation opportunities will be available through the implementation of short-term permits, and unused service days can be transferable between permit holders.
“The SOAR Act simplifies the permitting process for outdoor guides who require Forest Service permits to operate to help expand access to the outdoors and allow more people to enjoy the lands we love. This bill is a no-brainer for Colorado, it supports small businesses at the heart of our communities and continues our efforts to make outdoor recreation more accessible to everyone,” said Rep. Neguse.
The Senate companion, S. 1229, was introduced by Sen. Heinrich (D-NM) in April.
Randy Moore is New Forest Service Chief
Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that Randy Moore would serve as the 20th Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service. Mr. Moore replaces Vicki Christiansen, who announced her retirement on June 8, after a 40-year career as a professional forester, wildland firefighter, and land manager, including 11 years of service at the Forest Service. Christiansen will step down from her role on July 26 and collaborate with Moore on the leadership transition.
Mr. Moore has been serving as Regional Forester in the Pacific Southwest Region in California since 2007. He is responsible for 18 national forests, covering one-fifth of the state on 20 million acres of land. Additionally, he oversees State and Private Forestry programs in Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. Previously, Moore served as the Regional Forester for the Eastern Region headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, for five years. “As core-team lead for FireScape Mendocino, a forest health collaborative, it has also been a privilege to work with Randy in his role as Regional Forester, where he helped guide the agency through a number of severe and precedent-setting wildfire seasons,” said Don Amador, President of QWR and Government Affairs lead for AMA District 36. “I believe he is the right person at the right time to fill this critically important position.”
Visits Soared Across National Forests in 2020
The United States Forest Service released new data that shows more people than ever visited national forests and grasslands last year. National forests and grasslands received 168 million visits in 2020 – an increase of 18 million compared to 2019. Visitors contributed $13.5 billion to the Nation’s gross domestic product spending that helped sustain an estimated 161,000 full- and part-time jobs – more than any other industry. The Forest Service continues to work closely with partners, enabling them to keep more than 80% of recreation sites open to visitors during the pandemic. These statistics are valuable and highlight the strength the outdoor recreation community provides to local and national economies.
“We’re honored to have helped so many people safely find respite and relief during the pandemic,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen in a press release announcing the 2020 data. “Our national forests and grasslands offer some of the most readily available and valuable outdoor recreation settings in the country. As we enter the summer months this year, we look forward to providing positive experiences on our national forests and grasslands, and working with partners to support safe and equitable access to the outdoors,” she concluded.
Recent BLM Activity
- Marina, Calif. — The BLM Central Coast Field Office is seeking the public’s help with designing an off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail network and other potential recreation improvements, including staging areas and campgrounds, at the Williams Hill recreation area in southern Monterey County. The 30-day scoping period ends on July 6. Williams Hill encompasses approximately 8,500 acres of BLM-managed public lands ranging from gentle hills to mountainous terrain at more than 2,700 feet in elevation. In addition to OHV recreational opportunities, the lands are also popular for hunting, hiking, wildlife watching, and camping.
- Casper, Wyo. – The Bureau of Land Management Casper Field Office personnel reopened Muddy Mountain on May 26th. Muddy Mountain Road is the primary access route to the Muddy Mountain Environmental Education Area, which includes the Rim and Lodge pole campgrounds and numerous recreation trails.
- Arizona – Due to extreme drought, record low precipitation levels, higher than usual visitor numbers and high fire danger, Color Country Interagency Fire Managers are implementing fire restrictions beginning Wednesday, May 26 on the Arizona Strip and all unincorporated county, state, and federally administered public lands in the following Utah counties: Washington, Kane, Garfield, Iron, and Beaver (excluding Fishlake National Forest, Beaver Ranger District). Firefighters are responding to increasing numbers of human caused wildfires across the region and weather forecasting models continue to predict drier conditions with increasing fire danger and above normal potential for large fires for the next few months. One of those is the Mescal Fire that covers over 25K acres. The fire is only 2% contained.
- Las Vegas, Nev. – Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s developed campground – Red Rock Campground – is scheduled to temporarily close from 11 a.m. on June 1 to 2 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2021, during this low-usage period. Red Rock Campground is located within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area approximately two miles east of the visitor center on State Route 159 (West Charleston Boulevard) and is the only developed campground within the conservation area.
- Idaho Falls, Idaho – The BLM Upper Snake Field Office is seeking public input on the development of a Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) and associated environmental assessment for the St. Anthony Sand Dunes Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA). The St. Anthony Sand Dunes SRMA has 48,607 acres and is a popular Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) destination that receives over 250,000 visitors each year. This SRMA also includes the Egin Lakes Campground/Day Use Area and the Red Road Dispersed Area. Potential management objectives for the plan include: provide high quality recreation opportunities and experiences in the SRMA at developed and undeveloped recreation sites by maintaining existing amenities and by providing new recreation facilities as appropriate for recreation use and resource protection; management of access and route designations; manage/administer Special Recreation Permits within the SRMA; and meet the needs of visitors to St. Anthony Sand Dunes.
- Phoenix, Ariz. – Due to dry and hot conditions, fire restrictions were increased on June 11 from Stage 1 to Stage 2 on Bureau of Land Management lands in the Phoenix District—BLM managed lands in central Arizona; in the Colorado River District—BLM managed lands in western Arizona, and on Gila District-managed lands in Navajo and Apache counties. The remainder of the Gila District in southern and eastern Arizona is already in Stage 2 restrictions, and the Arizona Strip District – BLM managed lands north of the Grand Canyon, remain in Stage 1.
- Salt Lake City, Utah— On June 16, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implemented fire restrictions to prevent losses from human-caused wildfires brought on by extreme drought, high fire danger conditions, and the increased use of public lands in Juab, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Wayne, and Piute counties. On June 18, all remaining BLM Utah managed lands entered restrictions. These fire restrictions include multiple measures to help keep public lands safe and accessible as the risk of human-caused wildfires increases. Restrictions will also continue for BLM-managed public lands within Washington, Kane, Garfield, Iron, and Beaver counties.
- Buffalo, Wyo. – Due to dry conditions and high fire danger, the BLM Wyoming High Plains District has implemented fire restrictions for all BLM administered lands within Johnson and Campbell Counties on June 15th, 2021. Under Stage 1 fire restrictions the following acts are prohibited: building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire except within agency-provided fire grates at developed recreation sites, or within fully enclosed stoves with a ¼” spark arrester type screen, or within fully enclosed grills, or in stoves using pressurized liquid or gas, smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials; operating a chainsaw without a USDA or SAE approved spark arrester properly installed and working; a chemical fire extinguisher of not less than 8 ounces capacity by weight; and one round point shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches, using a welder, either arc or gas, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame, except in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter with a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than 8 ounces capacity.
- Craig, Colo. – Stage 1 fire restrictions began on June 16 for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered lands in Grand, Jackson, Eagle, Summit, Larimer, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties along with the lands in Kremmling, White River, and Little Snake Field Offices.
- Grand Junction, Colo. – The Mesa County Sheriff, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fire Chiefs representing municipalities and fire protection districts of Mesa County implemented Stage 1 Fire Restrictions on June 18th, 2021. Recent hot and windy conditions across Northwest Colorado have dried out fuels, while thunderstorms have delivered lightning with little or no moisture.
- Butte, Mont. – With record-breaking heat and dry fuels conditions keeping firefighters nervously eyeing the horizon for smoke plumes, the North Hills near Helena are particularly vulnerable to the smallest spark. The area is still reeling from the 2019 fire which ripped through 5,000 acres—a fire that was caused by an individual illegally shooting exploding targets. With that in mind, the Bureau of Land Management is putting fire restrictions in place on BLM-administered lands within the North Hills. The restrictions began on June 17.