Manchin, Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Bill

November 18, 2021

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Committee, introduced the Outdoor Recreation Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase and improve outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation while improving infrastructure and driving economic growth in rural communities.

“West Virginia is home to stunning public lands that bring tourists from around the nation to enjoy the beauty our state has to offer. My bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Act will support our state’s strong and growing outdoor recreation economy while providing an economic boost to our local communities. It will also ensure our public land management agencies can continue their legacy of protecting and preserving our state’s treasured public lands so that future generations can enjoy them as we have. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation becomes law,” said Chairman Manchin.

“Wyoming is home to some of the most incredible national parks and public lands in the country. The Outdoor Recreation Act will help Americans better enjoy everything Wyoming has to offer,” said Ranking Member Barrasso. “Our bipartisan legislation will help modernize public campgrounds, establish shooting ranges on national forests, and ensure increased access to America’s public lands. The bill will also leverage private funding to create new recreational opportunities on our public lands. I am thankful to Chairman Manchin for his partnership on this important bill.”

The Outdoor Recreation Act would:

  • Direct the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to establish a pilot program for public-private partnership agreements to modernize campgrounds on Federal land.
  • Ensure that outdoor recreation is considered by land managers alongside other uses of Federal land by directing the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to consider ways to improve recreation when developing and revising land management plans.
  • Support rural communities adjacent to recreations areas by providing technical and financial assistance to local businesses, including hotels, campgrounds, and restaurants, to support visitation.
  • Direct the Forest Service to issue guidance for recreational climbing in designated Wilderness Areas and requires the Forest Service and BLM to designate many new shooting ranges on National Forests and BLM land.
  • Aim to modernize recreation sites by directing agencies to work with the Rural Utilities Service to construct broadband internet infrastructure at certain recreation sites.
  • Direct the Federal land management agencies to identify opportunities to extend the period of time recreation areas on Federal land are open to the public during shoulder seasons.

You can access full text of the bill here, a one-page summary here, and a section- by-section summary here.

The Outdoor Recreation Act is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the Access Fund, American Motorcyclist Association, American Sportfishing Association, American Whitewater, Hatfield-McCoy Trails, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Forest Recreation Association, National Marine Manufacturing Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, REI, RV Industry Association, Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails, Vista Outdoors, Water Stone Outdoors, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.

“Chairman Manchin’s and Ranking Member Barrasso’s Outdoor Recreation Act is incredibly timely and a great first step toward solidifying and supporting West Virginia’s reputation as the premier outdoor destination east of the Mississippi. The redesignation of our park combined with the huge increase in recreational visitation created by the pandemic has lit up the economy here at the New River Gorge. Creating additional infrastructure is critical to maintaining this momentum and providing a top-notch visitor experience. West Virginia and the outdoor economy are akin to peanut butter and jelly: a perfect match. We salute and support this bill,” said Maura and Gene Kistler, Co-Founders, Water Stone Outdoors.

"I am encouraged by the objectives established in the Outdoor Recreation Act. If passed, it will not only support Wyoming’s efforts to protect our world-class waters and lands, but provide residents and visitors with improved infrastructure and increased recreational opportunities on Wyoming’s Federal lands,” said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.

“The Hatfield McCoy Trail system has been an engine for entrepreneurship in Southern West Virginia and with the introduction and hopeful passage of the Outdoor Recreation Act by Senator Manchin these entrepreneurs will get a much-needed boost from the establishment of new entrepreneur and vocational training programs, technical assistance programs, low-interest business loan programs, and loan guarantee programs. The bill recognizes the challenges faced by rural entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs primarily serving tourist destinations.  Senator Manchin, with the introduction of this legislation, is again showing his commitment to help entrepreneurs, businesses and communities reach their full potential,” said Jeffrey Lusk, Executive Director, Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

"We are very supportive of this bill. Protecting Wyoming's quality waters and the associated infrastructure from destructive AIS is a top priority for our state. This additional assistance from the federal agencies is welcome, and this bill would bring further support to our proven methods that effectively prevent the spread of AIS,” said Brian Nesvik, Director, Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

"We support this legislation because it meets the needs of the public with a modernized approach to the management and growth of outdoor recreation by prioritizing access and collaboration.  This comprehensive bill makes outdoor recreation a priority on federal lands by addressing several long-standing challenges while also opening the door to new opportunities for enhanced use and connectivity.  The way people recreate on public lands is growing and changing, particularly in light of the pandemic, and this timely legislation provides some authority and guidance to help land managers and local communities adapt to this new reality,” said Darin J. Westby, P.E., Director, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.

"The National Shooting Sports Foundation commends Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin and Ranking Member Sen. John Barrasso for introducing this vitally important outdoor recreation package. In particular, NSSF appreciates the bipartisan measures included in this legislation that would require the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to ensure that both agencies have at least one qualifying recreational shooting range in each National Forest and BLM district. Recreational shooting is tied to approximately 85 percent of the Pittman-Robertson excises taxes currently being paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers, making it a major driving contributor to wildlife conservation. This legislation would ensure that recreational marksmanship can be practiced in accessible and safe environments while also benefiting conservation,” said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“At REI, we believe all people should benefit from time outside. For this reason, we strongly support bipartisan policy solutions that help bring people together and strengthen the outdoor experience for everyone. The Outdoor Recreation Act will do just that. It will both strengthen our public lands and increase opportunities for all people to enjoy time in nature. We look forward to working with the Senate to include additional priorities such as the SOAR act, which is aimed at increasing equitable access to the outdoors. We appreciate the work that has gone into this important bill and join the Senate in being #UnitedOutside,” said Taldi Harrison, Senior Government Affairs Manager, REI.

“The RV Industry Association applauds efforts to modernize campgrounds, grow jobs, and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of living an active outdoor lifestyle. This legislation comes at a critical time as RVing is growing more and more popular, particularly with younger and more diverse Americans and will lead to more camping opportunities while creating good paying jobs in the outdoor recreation sector, many of which are found in rural communities. The bill’s gateway community assistance for outdoor recreation businesses and campgrounds, responsibly extending shoulder seasons, and bringing much needed broadband to front country campgrounds is a priority for the $114 billion American-made RV industry and will be critical to continuing to attract the next generation of park stewards and outdoor recreation enthusiasts. We thank Senators Manchin and Barrasso for their leadership and call for swift action by Congress to pass this critical legislation,” said Craig Kirby, President and CEO, RV Industry Association.

“The Outdoor Recreation Act’s pilot program to modernize federal campgrounds is an outstanding example of smart public-private partnering which will benefit outdoor recreationists for years to come.  Without using any public funds, it will allow our nation’s aging campgrounds, many of which were constructed in the 1950s and 60s, to be improved to meet the needs of today’s campers. It will also promote inclusion of more diverse users groups in our outdoor spaces, including those with disabilities and those from underserved communities and a variety of cultures, through improved facilities and designs.  This proposal could not come at a better time as our country is relying more and more on outdoor recreation to relax and recharge,” said Marily Reese, Executive Director, National Forest Recreation Association.

“A bill as comprehensive and impactful as this has been a long time coming for the outdoor recreation industry. Its provisions are a win-win: they will ensure that all Americans continue to have access to high quality, sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities and that outdoor recreation businesses are able to efficiently and effectively connect their consumers to America’s public lands and waters and the gateway communities that surround them. ORR thanks Senators Manchin and Barasso for the introduction of this bill at such an important time for the robust outdoor recreation economy, with record breaking sales and participation taking place across the industry,” said Jessica Turner, President, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

“Amid a turbulent time in our history, outdoor recreation has provided millions of Americans with the physical and mental recharging they needed. From combating aquatic invasive species to ensuring recreation management is a top priority of the federal government, this measure will bolster outdoor recreation opportunities well into the future and I encourage all members of Congress to support this bill,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President, National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“Recreational fishing participation has grown significantly over the past year and half, benefitting the economy and Americans’ overall wellbeing. Federal lands play a pivotal role in providing recreational fishing opportunities. The sportfishing industry is grateful to Sens. Manchin and Barrasso for compiling this comprehensive legislative package that will modernize and enhance management of, and access to, our nation’s public lands,” said Glenn Hughes, President, American Sportfishing Association.

"Access Fund is thankful for the introduction of a bill that enhances recreation on America's public lands. It is clear that increasing and improving opportunities for recreation is in the best interest of our country. Rural and gateway communities need better recreation infrastructure and policy. Sustainable recreation, from rock climbing areas to bike trails, is not only good for the economy, but also the health and wellness of the American public. Kudos to Senators Manchin and Barrasso for leading the charge on this critical and timely recreation bill,” said Erik Murdock, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Access Fund.

“Vista Outdoor is proud to support the bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Act. Common ground is best found outside, and the bipartisanship between Sen. Manchin and Sen. Barrasso is another example where the outdoors is bringing us together. The Outdoor Recreation Act will expand outdoor infrastructure at a time when its needed. Millions of people connected with the outdoors during the pandemic and interest in the outdoors remains elevated. Our recreation infrastructure needs to expand in-kind so that we can deliver continued, enhanced experiences to these new and diverse outdoor participants. The Outdoor Recreation Act is the right approach and we look forward to its consideration in the United States Senate,” said Fred Ferguson, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Vista Outdoor.

"We are excited to see the introduction of legislation that recognizes the need to improve recreation management and equitable access on public lands in all seasons. Among other things, we are encouraged to see language that would prioritize completion of meaningful travel planning in order to minimize resource impacts and use conflicts in winter, followed by the long overdue publication of practical winter use maps for the recreating public,” said David Page, Advocacy Director for Winter Wildlands Alliance and Policy Director for Outdoor Alliance California.

“Outdoor Alliance is grateful for the leadership of Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso in introducing the Outdoor Recreation Act. We are particularly enthusiastic about provisions to make recreation a priority for land management agencies, improve use data, and support climbing and mountain biking on our public lands. We look forward to continuing to work with the Senators to refine the bill in support of sustainable and equitable recreation policy and access,” said Louis Geltman, Policy Director, Outdoor Alliance.

“Improving visitation data about our public lands and national parks can be a critical tool to inform data-driven decision-making about these uniquely American treasures.  At INFORMS, our members can be an important asset in helping to leverage operations research, analytics, and data science in developing visitation models.  I commend Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for their leadership on this critical data issue and strongly support these bipartisan objectives,” said Jeff Cohen, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

“The American Motorcyclist Association thanks Senators Barrasso and Manchin for introducing this legislation. Their diligent work will support outdoor recreation across our country and help Americans explore our beautiful public lands. This bi-partisan legislation helps all trail users, but in particular has the benefit of addressing the growing number of Americans who use off-highway vehicles to recreate with their friends and family. With the continued growth of off-highway motorcycling, and motorized recreation in general, it is important that federal land managers consider motorized access in their travel management planning. The AMA strongly supports this bill and increasing opportunities for multiple-use recreation,” said Peter W. Stockus, Government Relations Manager, American Motorcyclist Association.

“Outdoor recreation supports 4.3 million jobs across 50 states, and contributes $689 billion to our national economy. It is critically important to support and invest in the communities and programs that support this thriving industry by expanding access to the outdoors, improving infrastructure, and supporting local communities. One of the ways this legislation achieves that goal is by increasing the time federal lands are open to the public and extending the outdoor recreation season. It also invests in specific recreation activities like cycling and target shooting, giving even more Americans the opportunity to take part in outdoor recreation on federal lands. We applaud Senators Joe Manchin and John Barrasso for introducing this important legislation and look forward to working with them to ensure it is enacted into law,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association.

“Southwest Wyoming Off-Road Trails (SWOT), an economic development project for Wyoming, readily supports the Outdoor Recreation Act. The vision and our motto for SWOT to “Connect the communities, connect the forests and connect the historical sites,” would not be possible without access to Public Lands. Multiple communities and counties have signed on to SWOT with the knowledge that motorized recreation can help drive the Wyoming economy much like it has done in other states. Accessibility into and out of communities is paramount. With much of Wyoming being Federally held Public Land, it will be important for generations to come for it to be managed for multiple use and open to the public,” said Mark Tesoro, President, SWOT.

“We thank Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso for taking an interest in outdoor recreation on our nation’s public lands and waters through their introduction of the Outdoor Recreation Act. We appreciate the opportunities we have had to engage with the Committee and are particularly pleased to see provisions for inventory and assessment of recreational values including unique recreation values found on our public lands,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director, American Whitewater.

"The motorized recreation community strongly supports the Outdoor Recreation Act. This investment in outdoor recreation will help expand access to public trails and improve visitation experiences. Many communities rely on the money that motorcycle, ATV, and side-by-side enthusiasts bring when they ride and drive on the nearby trails. The Outdoor Recreation Act will help more of these places flourish, which will lead to more people experiencing the fun that outdoor recreation offers,” said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO, Motorcycle Industry Council.