SOAR Act Seeks to Improve Access for Guides

The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) today praised Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) for introducing the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act) in the U.S. Senate. This bipartisan legislation makes changes to the outfitter and guide permitting systems of the federal land agencies to make permits easier for outfitters and guides to acquire and less complicated for land agencies to administer.

The AMGA has been involved in the creation of the SOAR Act in partnership with the Coalition for Outdoor Access, America Outdoors Association, and other stakeholders. An overview of the bill is provided below.

The SOAR Act does the following:

Makes it easier for the agencies to issue permits by eliminating duplicative processes, shortening processing times, and simplifying environmental review.
Increases opportunities for guided recreation by directing the agencies to allow outfitters and guides to share unused service days and to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activities specified in their permit.
Increases security for outfitters and guides and reduces paperwork by directing the USFS and BLM to extend the term of temporary permits to 2 years and allow those permits to convert to a longer term after 2 years of satisfactory performance.
Increases system transparency by directing the agencies to notify the public when new recreation permits are available and requiring the agencies to provide timely responses to permit applicants.
Simplifies the permitting process for trips involving more than one land management agency by authorizing the agencies to issue a single joint permit for trips that cross agency boundaries.
Improves procedures for fee collection and cost recovery by simplifying fee calculation methods and establishing a standard 50-hour cost recovery fee exemption for permit processing.
Provides new protections for Forest Service permit holders by waiving permit use reviews in extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the permit holder (wildfire, low snow year, etc.) and allowing expired permits to remain in effect when the agency has been unable to renew them.
Helps control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients.
Reduces barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts by waiving the permit indemnification requirement for entities that are prohibited from providing indemnification under state law.

The SOAR Act has broad support from outdoor industry groups. Supporters include America Outdoors Association, American Mountain Guides Association, American Alpine Club, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE), Association for Experiential Education, Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, Los Alamos Mountaineers, The Mazamas, Middle Fork Outfitters Association, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), New Mexico Council of Guides and Outfitters, Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Outdoor Research, REI, Rising Tide Associates, Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Transforming Youth Outdoors, The Mountaineers, Utah Guides and Outfitters Association, West Virginia Professional River Outfitters, The Wilderness Society, Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, and YMCA of the USA. Please see the bill summary below for the entire list of supporters.

View the full AMGA press release and the Coalition for Outdoor Access press release.

Additional Information:
SOAR Act bill text
SOAR Act bill summary
SOAR Act section-by-section

For questions, please contact Matt Wade, AMGA Advocacy and Policy Director, at 303-847-4482 or [email protected].