Senate Passes Landmark Recreation Package Out of Committee
On May 3, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022. In addition to this vital legislation, introduced by committee chairman Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and ranking member Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the landmark package also included several ground-breaking recreation bills, including the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, the Simplifying Access to Outdoor Recreation Act (SOAR), the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR), the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act, the Federal Interior Lands Media Act, and the Biking on Long Distance Trails Act.
“The overwhelming support for these bills shows us the enthusiasm surrounding our public lands and outdoor recreation is strong and growing,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Chairman, Senate Energy, and Natural Resources Committee. “This bipartisan package will make it easier for members of the public to access and enjoy our public lands, as well as our rural businesses, focused on outdoor recreation to thrive. The last time outdoor recreation legislation of this size and scale was enacted was 1963.”
America’s Outdoor Recreation Act contains dozens of separate but related provisions to expand and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities on federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation and the USDA Forest Service. These provisions range from streamlining the permitting processes for guides operating on federal lands, to expanding broadband internet connectivity at recreation sites, to supporting public-private partnerships, and expanding parking facilities. Additionally, the legislation seeks to promote collaboration between federal agencies while working with gateway communities grappling with an unprecedented surge in visitation. Nearly 300 million people visited national parks in 2021, which was an increase of 60 million compared to the year prior.
“Today is truly a historic day for America’s outdoor recreation economy,” said Senator John Barrasso, Ranking Member, Senate Energy, and Natural Resources Committee. “A first of its kind, this legislation is a monumental achievement for all who enjoy our public lands and our shared natural resources.”
U.S. Forest Service Announces Pause of Prescribed Fire Operations
Chief Randy Moore announced a pause on prescribed fire operations on National Forest System lands. At the same time, the U.S. Forest Service is conducting a 90-day review of protocols, decision support tools, and practices ahead of planned operations this fall. The pause will task representatives from across the wildland fire and research community to conduct the national review and evaluate the prescribed fire program, from the best available science to on-the-ground implementation. Before resuming prescribed burning, lessons learned, and any resulting program improvements will be in place.
The Forest Service oversees the nation’s most extensive prescribed fire program and safely conducts an average of 4,500 prescribed fire projects annually, treating more than 1,400,000 acres of National Forest lands. As identified in the 10-year Confronting the Wildfire Crisis strategy, the Forest Service and partners must work together to increase fuel treatments by up to four times current levels in the West, including using prescribed burning and mechanical and other treatments.
Recent BLM Activity
- Boise, Idaho – May is Wildfire Awareness Month and the month focuses on wildfire awareness and what outdoor enthusiasts can do to help prevent human-caused fires. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) urges Idahoans to take measures in advance to protect their homes and property and take steps to avoid starting a wildfire on public lands. To minimize the potential for human-caused fires, BLM Idaho State Director Karen Kelleher recently issued the 2022 Fire Prevention Order prohibiting specific fire-related activities that commonly lead to wildfires. The Fire Prevention Order, in effect from May 10 through October 20.
- Roswell, New Mexico – Due to high fire danger and prolonged drought, the BLM has implemented fire restrictions on public lands in Chaves, DeBaca, Eddy, Lea, Lincoln, Guadalupe, Quay and Roosevelt counties in southeast NM. The restrictions went into effect on April 28, 2022, at 8 a.m. and will remain in effect until further notice. Prohibited acts include: building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove. The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices providing such devices meet the fire underwriter’s specifications for safety is allowed. Smoking, except within 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 material. Possessing, discharging, or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic or incendiary device.
- Montrose, Colorado – The BLM Southwest District lifts annual seasonal closures of certain public lands in the Tres Rios and Uncompahgre Field Offices April 30, 2022. The closures are necessary to protect critical wildlife habitat, minimize stress to wintering mule deer, elk and nesting raptors while also preventing road damage.
- Redding, California – The BLM is seeking public comment on issues and planning considerations to help guide development of the Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for public lands managed by the Redding and Arcata field offices. The plan will guide the BLM’s management of approximately 382,000 acres of public land and approximately 307,000 acres of additional subsurface minerals in Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, Tehama, and Butte counties for the next 15 to 20 years. The planning area includes a great diversity of lands ranging from north coast beaches and dunes to the Central Valley and Sacramento River, to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. These public lands provide a wide array of recreational opportunities, including wilderness trails, hunting areas, off-highway riding areas, mountain bike trails and scenic vistas. Comments must be in writing and will be accepted until Tuesday, June 28.
- Challis, Idaho – The Challis Bridge Recreation Site and boat launch, managed by the BLM, reopened May 1. The recreation site was temporarily closed in January due to flooding conditions and ice jams along the Salmon River which caused damage to the access road. BLM staff have completed basic repairs to the roadway, restoring access to the site and the boat launch.
- Fairbanks, Alaska – Due to extremely saturated trails, the BLM Eastern Interior Field Office (EIFO) temporarily closed the Wickersham Creek, Trail Creek, and Quartz Creek trails to all motorized vehicles including off-highway vehicles (OHVs). “The record amounts of snowfall this winter have caused the trails to become very saturated,” said Field Manager Tim Hammond. “To continue use of these trails during this time would further damage the resource and potentially cause long term effects to the surrounding areas. The closure began May 10 and will last until the trails are sufficiently dry to allow OHV and other motorized vehicle use that will not cause damage to the trails, as is indicated in the Eastern Interior White Mountains Record of Decision and approved Resource Management Plan.
- Teller County, Colorado – The fire burning on Teller County grew to approximately 1,000 acres through a combination of burnout operations and wind-driven fire. Crews have achieved 10% containment. The fire is being managed under unified command between the Teller County Sheriff’s Office and the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office.
- Las Vegas, Nevada – On May 16, 2022, the BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Clark County Fire Department, Mt. Charleston Fire Protection District, National Park Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Forest Service implemented fire restrictions in Southern Nevada.
- El Dorado Hills, California — The BLM issued seasonal fire restrictions for public lands managed by the Bakersfield Field Office (effective May 23), and the Central Coast Field Office (effective May 25). Seasonal restrictions are in addition to the year-round statewide fire prevention order, and will remain in effect until further notice.
- Tucson, Arizona – On May 25, 2022, Stage 2 campfire and smoking restrictions went into effect on state and federal lands throughout Southern and Southeastern Arizona.
- Lakeview, Oregon — The BLM Lakeview District asks the public to recreate responsibly and be mindful of the potential for wildfires. Over the last ten years, wildfire activity has been some of the most catastrophic in U.S. history: In 2021, more than 7.1 million acres burned throughout the country. On May 27, the BLM Oregon State Director will sign a Fire Prevention Order, which can be found on the BLM Oregon/Washington Fire and Aviation webpage: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire/state-info/oregon-washington.