Building Consensus Legislative Package
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today convened a full committee hearing to consider three recreation-related bills introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
In her opening remarks, Murkowski noted that recreation is a continued focus for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“This hearing is building off of one we held in March where we focused on improving access, facilitating infrastructure, and streamlining permitting to meet the increasing demand to provide high-quality recreation opportunities on our federal lands,” Murkowski said.
She went on to highlight recreation’s economic importance and how carefully crafted legislation can benefit all who live near or seek to enjoy our nation’s public lands.
“The measures we are considering today recognize the important role that recreation is playing in America’s economy,” Murkowski said. “According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2017, outdoor recreation accounted for 2.2 percent of current-dollar GDP, or about $427 billion. A majority of that comes from lodging and transportation, but also includes sectors like outfitting and guiding, which contributed $12.9 billion and grew by 11.4 percent year-over-year.”
Murkowski asked witnesses from the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) how they are processing the growing demand. She pointed to frustration in Alaska with the time it takes to process permits and the desire of many guides and outfitters to work with federal agencies to reduce existing restrictions and burdens.
“Heli-ski and backcountry ski guides want to go into new areas in the Chugach National Forest and BLM land near Haines, but are being delayed by lengthy and expensive environmental review processes and a lack of capacity at the agencies to process those permits,” Murkowski said. “We have to ensure that our federal land managers have the resources and flexibility needed to respond to increasing and changing demand.”
The bills heard by the committee today were:
- S. 1665, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, from Sen. Heinrich;
- S. 1723, the Ski Area Fee Retention Act, from Sen. Gardner; and
- S. 1967, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, from Sen. Wyden.
Murkowski thanked her colleagues for their work on these bills and noted that she intends to work with her Ranking Member, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to pull together a consensus package of recreation policies that the Committee can report to the full Senate.Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and is proud to represent a state with unbeatable opportunities for outdoor recreation. An archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here, here, and here to view Murkowski’s questions for the witnesses.