May 2023

America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) Passes Out of Committee

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed S. 873, America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA), by unanimous consent. The landmark legislation introduced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, had solid bi-partisan support throughout the committee process.


“For years, many Senators have been working on outdoor recreation legislation, and just on our committee, alongside myself and Ranking Member Barrasso, Senators Wyden, Heinrich, Risch, Cortez Masto, King, Hickenlooper, Daines, Cantwell, and Murkowski all have introduced bills focused on increasing opportunities related to outdoor recreation,” said Senator Joe Manchin. “The last time outdoor recreation legislation of this size and scale was enacted was in 1963. I am very proud of this package and the good that I believe it is going to do. To keep up with the record-breaking levels of demand, innovative approaches are needed to make our public lands more accessible, improve our recreation infrastructure, and make it easier for businesses to locate in rural areas and thrive.”


As previously noted, there are two specific sections in AORA that are of interest to ARRA members. Section 135 and Section 203 as they address motorized and nonmotorized access:


  • Section 135—The Secretaries shall seek to create additional opportunities, as appropriate, for motorized and nonmotorized access and opportunities on Federal recreational lands and waters administered by the Chief of the Forest Service or the Director of the Bureau of Land Management.
  • Section 203—With regard to special recreation permits—at the discretion of the Secretary, a single organized group recreation activity or event (including an activity or event in which motorized recreational vehicles are used or in which outfitting and guiding services are used)  that—is a structured or scheduled event or activity, not competitive and is for fewer than 75 participants, may charge an entry or participation fee, and involves fewer than 200 visitor-use days.

The focus now shifts to the House as advocates from the outdoor recreation community will be meeting with House members to maintain the momentum and encourage them to expeditiously advance outdoor recreation legislation.


The Departments of Agriculture and Interior Propose $2.8 Billion in Funding for FY24.

The Departments of Agriculture and Interior proposed $2.8 billion in funding for fiscal year 2024 – already authorized by the Great American Outdoors Act – to improve infrastructure, recreation facilities, federal lands access, and land and water conservation.

For next year, the Department of Interior has proposed 56 Legacy Restoration Fund projects, and the USDA Forest Service has identified 83 deferred maintenance bundled projects aimed at improving recreation facilities, buildings, water and utility infrastructure, and overall enhancements to roads, trails, bridges, and parking areas. The budget allocates $900 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund projects and programs managed by the Department of Interior and the Forest Service. This includes $430 million for federal land acquisition programs and projects and $470 million for state and local grants.


Federal and State Specialists Participate in OHV Workshop

As part of their commitment to facilitating off-highway vehicle (OHV) educational opportunities, Quiet Warrior Racing (QWR) restarted its popular on-site OHV workshop program by hosting the 2023 Interagency Ranger Ride at the Bureau of Land Management’s Chappie Shasta OHV Area near Redding, CA on May 1-4.

The OHV workshop featured top-tier federal and state OHV specialists from the Klamath, Shasta Trinity, Mendocino, Eldorado, Tahoe National Forests, and the Ukiah, Eagle Lake, and Redding Field offices.  Sky Zaffarano kicked off the workshop, while the OHV Program Manager for the BLM’s Chappie Shasta OHV Area talked about the agency’s efforts to manage the route network for all sizes of OHVs with a recent focus to provide trails for side-by-side use while increasing single-track companion routes that often parallel the wider trails used by larger vehicles. Doing so enhances the OHV recreation experience for both vehicle types and increases vehicle safety.  The workshop featured Jon Brandt, a certified DirtBike School coach and State Park Peace Officer, who taught a one-day hands-on training session to agency students who needed lessons on how to ride an off-road motorcycle safely and obtain their Dirt Bike certification.  Also, Josh Liebscher, from CA State Parks OHV Grants Administrator, gave the participants an overview of the Grants Program and their commitment to helping support their federal agency partners in providing environmentally responsible OHV recreation on public lands. Finally, Chris Real from DPS Technical provided agency staff training on administering the SAEJ1287 Sound Test for OHVs and performing the inspection for spark arrestors.

The OHV Ranger Rides had been sidelined since 2017 due to a series of wildfires and COVID, so the group of dedicated OHV trail leads, crews, instructors, and partners were glad to return to an in-person field workshop.  “We had a dynamic mix of new OHV trail personal, private sector professionals, and agency OHV Master Performers that fostered a rich educational experience for new agency hires and seasoned staff alike,” said Don Amador, QWR President and founder of the 27-year-old Ranger Ride Program.


Recent Bureau of Land Management Activity

  • Idaho – There is a statewide order which prohibits specific fire-related activities on public land from May 10th to October 20th. The Fire Prevention Order makes it illegal to use fireworks, exploding targets, steel component ammunition, tracer ammunition, shooting at steel or ferrous material targets or burn explosive materials on BLM-managed lands in Idaho.
  • Maries, Idaho – The BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office has temporarily paused taking reservations through for overnight camping at the Huckleberry Recreation Site due to site improvement work. A construction contract to modernize and upgrade the electrical system began on May 16, 2023. Construction at the site is expected to last through late summer, impacting the overnight camping season.
  • Ukiah, California – The BLM Ukiah Field Office is taking measures to protect habitat for the imperilled Clear Lake hitch by temporarily limiting vehicle access to the South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area in Lake County. The temporary closure of the Scott’s Creek gate entrance near Lakeport was effective on Friday, May 12 and ended Thursday, June 1.
  • Kemmerer, Wyoming – The BLM Kemmerer Field Office and Pinedale Field Office have opened the Fontenelle Creek and Warren Bridge Campgrounds for the 2023 summer season. Drinking water is available and fees are being charged at both campgrounds. The Fontenelle Creek Recreation area is approximately 35 miles north of Kemmerer, Wyoming and 10 miles south of La Barge, Wyoming. The area’s facilities include 55 campsites, paved access roads, three vault toilets, three flush toilets, and a boat ramp. Designated campsite fees are $7 per night. A dump station is available for a $3 fee.
  • Arcata, California — The BLM has closed the Wailaki and Nadelos campgrounds in the King Range National Conservation Area due to multiple hazard trees that pose threats to human health and safety. A reopening date for both campgrounds will be determined once the area is safe again for public recreation. The closure affects 13 campsites at Wailaki and nine sites at Nadelos. The nearby Tolkan Campground, offering nine campsites, remains open and provides convenient access to the Paradise Royale Mountain Bike Trail and Terrain Park. At the north end of the King Range, the Mattole Campground offers 14 tent/trailer campsite near the beach.