Manchin, Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act

March 16, 2023

Washington, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, and John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Senate ENR Committee, introduced America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2023 (AORA). Originally introduced in the 117th Congress as the Outdoor Recreation Act, the bipartisan legislation would increase and improve outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation while improving infrastructure and driving economic growth in rural communities.

 “Anyone born and raised in West Virginia knows that when it comes to the Mountain State, there is no better place to enjoy the great outdoors. From a young age I fell in love with hunting and fishing, much the same way Americans nationwide fall in love with mountain biking, hiking, trail running and all the other recreational opportunities on America’s public lands and parks. I am proud to have worked with Ranking Member Barrasso to reintroduce this legislation that will bolster outdoor recreation activities nationwide, boost rural economies and increase access to recreational opportunities for all Americans,” said Chairman Manchin. 

“Wyoming is home to some of the most incredible national parks and public lands in the country,” said Ranking Member Barrasso. “Our bipartisan bill will increase and improve outdoor recreation opportunities. It will modernize public campgrounds, establish shooting ranges on federal forests, and ensure increased access to public lands. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will benefit everyone who enjoys the outdoors in Wyoming and across the nation.” 

America’s 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 Department of Commerce 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.

America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including Access Fund, America Outdoors Association, American Canoe Association,  American Mountain Guides Association, American Prairie, American Sportfishing Association, American Whitewater, Archery Trade Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, Hatfield-McCoy Trails, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), International Mountain Bicycling Association, KABOOM!, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Association of State Park  Directors, National Forest Recreation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Recreation and Park Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, PeopleForBikes, Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, REI Co-op, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, RV Industry Association, Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA), The Mountaineers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Vista Outdoors, Water Stone Outdoors, Winter Wildlands Alliance & Outdoor Alliance California,  Wyoming Office of Tourism, Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, and Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.

“Chairman Manchin’s and Ranking Member Barrasso’s Outdoor Recreation Act is critical and timely as West Virginia continues to advance its reputation as the premier outdoor destination of the eastern United States.  Water Stone Outdoors is at the epicenter of recreation traffic through the New River Gorge National Park.  The numbers of visitors and their enthusiasm for the areas vast outdoor offerings only continue to increase. The outdoor economy in West Virginia must continue to mature and this bill is an important part of that momentum.  We applaud the attention this issue is receiving from our national leadership.” said Chris and Holly Fussell, Owners of Water Stone Outdoors. 

“Wyoming is proud of the world-class outdoor recreation opportunities we have for our citizens and visitors – they improve the quality of life in our state and enhance the economy. We applaud the work being done on this federal legislation to expand and enhance outdoor recreation through increased collaboration between state, local and federal land managers,” 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.

"Wyoming has endless opportunities to recreate outdoors. The added use on Wyoming's public lands requires that we work collaboratively to educate recreationists on ways to reduce their impact, disperse them away from the busiest corners of our state, and concentrate them into landscapes that can withstand increased visitation. With increased coordination between the federal government and our state, we can leverage Wyoming's natural resources and stunning beauty to deliver unforgettable experiences for visitors while providing lasting benefits for our communities. Senator Barrasso’s legislation will help us deliver on this mission for Wyoming and America’s recreating public who visit our great State," said Darin J. Westby, Director, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources. 

“After building significant support for the legislation in the last Congress with lawmakers, outdoor industry leaders, and other stakeholders, we are thrilled to see Senators Manchin and Barrasso reintroduce this historic comprehensive outdoor recreation bill. This package would provide meaningful support for outdoor recreation opportunities across the country at a time when a record number of Americans are getting outdoors and benefitting from the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide,” said Kent Ebersole, Interim Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association. “Federal outdoor recreation legislation will have a real impact on the ability of all Americans to spend time outside, while bolstering the outdoor recreation economy and the jobs it provides to communities across the country. We applaud these forward-thinking lawmakers for their leadership and their commitment to improving access to America’s lands and waters.”

“At REI, we believe that time outside–recreating with family and friends, or on your own–is fundamental to a life well lived. We applaud Chairman Manchin, Ranking Member Barrasso, and the senators who have been diligently working on these policies for years for coming together to support making the outdoors more accessible for everyone. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will both strengthen our public lands and increase opportunities for all people to enjoy time in nature. Through increased resources for expansive outdoor recreation pursuits, including long-trails and urban parks in historically disinvested communities, and permit streamlining, this bill is increasing equitable access to the outdoors in a bipartisan way,” said Taldi Harrison, Head of Government Affairs, REI Co-op

"This is a commonsense, no-cost bill that will help equalize and improve access to green spaces and wild outdoor places in every state in the country," said Chris Perkins, Senior Director, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. "We are seeing unprecedented interest in outdoor recreation, but many of the policies supporting outdoor recreation are outdated. This package will make it easier for Americans to access the outdoors and provide agencies with new tools to address long standing outdoor recreation needs. We need solutions that enhance outdoor recreation opportunities while protecting America's public lands and waters, and AORA is an historic step to update these policies."

“Outdoor recreation is enormously important to Americans, and Outdoor Alliance is grateful for Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso’s reintroduction of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which will benefit the millions of Americans who participate in outdoor recreation every year. Outdoor recreation on our public lands and waters is an important part of millions of people’s lives, and there is more we can do to protect and facilitate these experiences. Effectively managing our public lands and waters requires both conservation and sound policy guidance. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act provides improved management for climbing and mountain biking; enhances how agencies manage outdoor recreation; and invests in equity through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership and by making facilitated access experiences available to more Americans,” said Louis Geltman, Policy Director, Outdoor Alliance.

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is crucial to the RV industry and the wider outdoor recreation industry. It remains a significant factor in making sustainable improvements to our nation’s campgrounds and improving the experiences of current and future RVers,” said Craig Kirby, President & CEO of the RV Industry Association. “In addition, the Act provides greater access to the health benefits offered by the great outdoors and offers an economic boost to both the local and national economies. We would also like to thank Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso for their steadfast leadership. Our government affairs team will be continuing to advocate in support of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, and we call on Congress for its swift passage.” 

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will bolster outdoor recreation access and opportunities for the millions of Americans who continue to discover the benefits of the great outdoors and time spent on our nation’s lands and waters,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “We thank Senators Manchin and Barrasso for their bipartisan leadership in re-introducing this critical bill and urge Congress to swiftly consider and pass the bill in the weeks to come.” 

“By giving outfitters and public land agencies new tools and resources to improve access and the permitting process, we can all focus on what’s really important: building people’s connections with our greatest resource, the shared American landscape. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act bolsters the outdoor recreation economy and opens the doors for outfitters new and old to provide ample and affordable guided opportunities to folks from all walks of life,” said Aaron Bannon, Executive Director, America Outdoors Association.

“Outdated regulations in the outfitter-guide permitting system have made it time consuming, unpredictable, and unnecessarily difficult for guide services and outdoor organizations to provide guided climbing and skiing experiences on public lands,” said Alex Kosseff, Executive Director of the American Mountain Guides Association. “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act includes provisions that will remove old roadblocks in the permitting system and enable more Americans to experience the joy of rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing in forests and parks across the country. The American Mountain Guides Association applauds Senators Manchin and Barrasso for introducing this landmark legislation.” 

“IMBA is grateful for Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso’s work to introduce America's Outdoor Recreation Act, which offers a tremendous opportunity to expand access for mountain biking, for trails, and for recreation in communities across the country. IMBA and our partners will continue working to pass America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, and continue engaging mountain bike advocates to join us,” said David Wiens, Executive Director, International Mountain Bicycling Association.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) thanks Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso for reintroducing the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. This legislation is the result of bipartisan, consensus-building efforts to support and enhance recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and recreational target shooting,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Sportsmen and women appreciate the commitment by the Chairman and Ranking Member to increase access, streamline recreational permitting processes, and other efforts to bolster our sporting heritage.”

“Many of the highest quality river recreation opportunities exist on our shared public lands and we know local communities see huge economic, as well as quality of life benefits related to these important watersheds. We’re excited to see America’s Outdoor Recreation Act reintroduced in Congress because it will create a standardized system for measuring and sharing these benefits across all public lands and will work to improve sustainable, high-quality river running experiences through expanded protections, better infrastructure, and a focus on equitable access,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Director, Pacific Northwest Stewardship, American Whitewater.

“More than half of America’s climbing areas are on federal land, and we need common-sense and consistent federal policy that supports sustainable recreation and conserves public lands. Access Fund thanks Senators Barrasso and Manchin for spearheading the bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. We look forward to continuing our work on the bill that supports climbers, climbing history, gateway communities, and rural economies across the country,” said Chris Winter, Executive Director, Access Fund 

“Vista Outdoor and its brands congratulate the Senate leaders on introduction of this bipartisan legislation. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act policies will enable long overdue permit streamlining, update outdoor recreation infrastructure, improve long-range mountain bike trails and increase access to green spaces in shooting ranges. All of these policies have strong bipartisan support and are commonsense solutions to maintain and enrich the places we love most,” said Fred Ferguson, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Vista Outdoor.

"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. 

"Outdoor recreation is vitally important to boosting the health of all people, and access to public lands and trails is crucial for the millions of ATV, dirt bike, and side-by-side riders and drivers," said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. "The $50 billion powersports industry applauds Congress for reintroducing America's Outdoor Recreation Act, which would help create additional opportunities for motorized access to federal recreational lands, improve recreation infrastructure, support local communities, and bolster the nation's economy. We thank Senators Manchin and Barrasso for championing this legislation and urge swift bipartisan action to pass this act."

“Delta Waterfowl is pleased to support the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022. When enacted, this important legislation will have numerous direct and indirect benefits to waterfowl and waterfowl hunters,” said John Devney, Chief Policy Officer, Delta Waterfowl.

“KABOOM! supports the bipartisan efforts being made to ensure that every community has access to quality parks and playspaces. By placing racial and economic equity at the core of this legislation, Black, brown, and Indigenous children and families, will be able to experience the benefits of the resources they should have had all along. Building a different future where all kids have a safe, joyful place to play is as important as tackling other disparities in housing, education, and healthcare. Codifying the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program within the America's Outdoor Recreation Act will provide the valuable infrastructure investments under-resourced communities need and help advance racial and economic equity by providing access to quality outdoor recreation in different types of communities across the nation,” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO, KABOOM!.

“Time and time again outdoor recreation can bridge party lines and unify members of Congress who understand the value these pastimes hold for communities and individuals nationwide,” said Matt Gruhn, President of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “I hope that with the reintroduction of this historic outdoor recreation package we can continue to showcase that outdoor recreation continues to be a bipartisan policy priority in the 118th Congress”

“The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is proud to support the “America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2023” – legislation critical for advancing outdoor recreation opportunities across the country. NRPA is pleased to see the inclusion of the bipartisan, bicameral Outdoors for All Act, which will open eligibility for funding to additional communities and provide access to parks for all – particularly in urban areas. Our research shows that nearly nine in 10 people agree that it is important for local, state and federal governments to fund local park and recreation agencies sufficiently in order to ensure every member of the community benefits from this essential infrastructure and programming. We support the outdoor recreation package, and urge robust, bipartisan support from lawmakers in Congress,” said Kristine Stratton, President and CEO of NRPA.

"America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will make biking and mountain biking experiences on our public lands more accessible, sustainable, and enjoyable for all. Provisions like SOAR and BOLT will help meet the growing demand for bicycling as a low-cost, zero-emission, tourism-driving activity," said PeopleForBikes President and CEO Jenn Dice. "This package proves that bike policy brings both sides of the aisle together to grow infrastructure and access. We look forward to working with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on advancing this first-of-its-kind bipartisan investment in the future of recreation."

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will make our public lands more accessible to all Americans by modernizing agency rules and processes and enhancing recreation infrastructure across the country. This bipartisan bill reflects the importance of these shared spaces to outdoor recreation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Hunters and anglers thank leadership and members of both parties in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee for moving this legislation forward.”

“The members of the Wyoming Outfitter and Guides Association support and urge passage of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. Wyoming’s outdoor recreation industries are a huge part of our state’s economy and WYOGA whole heartedly supports the act,” said the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association in a statement.

“Wyoming welcomes more than seven million visitors per year to experience the high quality outdoor recreation offered through our public lands. We support this legislation as it continues to promote accessibility and destination development throughout Wyoming,” said Diane Shober, Executive Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation works to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and our hunting heritage. Federal lands are an important resource for outdoor recreation, including hunting and target shooting, but an array of red tape and fees can limit people’s recreational opportunities and access. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act brings common-sense solutions to the regulatory and informational barriers that many of our members have experienced. These include establishing shooting ranges so hunters have safe places to practice, identifying where and when vehicles can be used on forest roads, utilizing all the parts of animals taken from cull hunts within parks, allowing hunters to document and share their experiences on video, and streamlining outfitting and guiding permits. Passage of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will be a benefit for all outdoors enthusiasts,” said Blake Henning, Chief Conservation Officer, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“As outdoor recreation grows in popularity, we need more tools to get people outside safely and responsibly. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will streamline the federal recreational permitting process to enable more people to experience the outdoors through organized group experiences facilitated by outdoor leaders and educators. The Mountaineers is grateful to Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso for their leadership to help connect more people with their public lands and waters,” said Tom Vogl, CEO, The Mountaineers. 

“Access to urban waterways can be challenging. Creating park space in existing urban areas has the potential to provide waterways access for groups of people that might not have any existing options. Increasing access to paddling opportunities is a great thing for paddlers across the country. Establishing a dedicated source of funding for the Outdoor Legacy Partnership Program will help accomplish this goal by expanding park and open space infrastructure in places that are closest to 80% of the American population,” said the American Canoe Association.

“SEMA thanks Senators Manchin and Barrasso for reintroducing the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act This bipartisan bill would streamline the process and expenses associated with obtaining special recreation permits, require federal land management agencies to increase opportunities for motorized and non-motorized access on public lands, and direct the BLM and Forest Service to make maps available to the public depicting where vehicles are allowed to recreate,” said Karen Bailey-Chapman, Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). 

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is bipartisan legislation that will help ensure that Americans continue to enjoy the benefits of recreating outdoors for generations to come,” said Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association President Phil Ingrassia. “The act will improve and modernize recreation infrastructure on public lands to support everyone who enjoys the great outdoors, including the growing number of RV travelers.”

"Recreation in our great natural spaces is invaluable to our physical and mental health and spiritual well being," National Wild Turkey Federation Co-CEO Jason Burckhalter said. "Like our members and me, millions venture into national forests, grasslands and public waterways for ethically harvested, organic protein through hunting and fishing. The American Outdoor Recreation Act opens opportunities and provides infrastructure to support these and other recreational users and is vital to ensuring access to people of all walks of life who want to enjoy what nature has to offer."

“The Archery Trade Association is thankful for the many champions in Congress serving to reintroduce and support this important legislation” said Dan Forster, Vice President & Chief Conservation Officer of the Archery Trade Association. “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will help ensure that our federal public lands are accessible, well managed, and continue to provide a critically important foundation for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.” 

"American Prairie is glad to see the introduction of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. Outdoor recreation generates over 4% of Montana's GDP, second in the nation only to Hawaii. We support the bill's provisions to fund rural economic development in gateway communities and enhance public access to public land,” said Mike Quist Kautz, Director of Public Access at American Prairie. 

“Sportsmen and women across the nation applaud Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for the introduction of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act,” said Kaden McArthur, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Government Relations Manager. “This comprehensive legislation includes several longstanding priorities that will make public lands and waters more accessible, improving opportunities for hunters and anglers to enjoy our outdoor traditions.”

“There has never been a more opportune and urgent time to invest in the great outdoors. The leaders of America’s State Parks are keenly aware of the substantial increases in demand and visitation to parks and the associated management challenges. There are now more than 800 million visitors annually to state parks. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act codifies reasonable enhancements in the availability, accessibility, and efficiencies in the management of the public lands. The Act will provide for improvements in the quality of outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation, infrastructure modernizations, economic benefits, and the public health improvements associated with spending more time in nature and physical activity,” said Lewis Ledford, Executive Director, National Association of State Park Directors.

“The sportfishing industry thanks Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for reintroducing this incredibly important legislation for America’s outdoor recreation community,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure our public lands are well managed and conserved to benefit the outdoor recreation economy and all those who love the outdoors.”

“The National Forest Recreation Association extends its sincere appreciation to Chairman Manchin, Ranking Member Barasso and the other senators who have been champions of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act,” said Marily Reese, Executive Director of NFRA. “The AORA recognizes the importance of having and maintaining the infrastructure and facilities needed for quality outdoor recreation experiences to both the health and well-being of the recreating public as well as the rural economies which rely on a robust outdoor recreation economy. NFRA is hopeful Congress can pass the AORA for the benefit of the American public."

"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, Executive Director, Winter Wildlands Alliance & Outdoor Alliance California. 

“We appreciate the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advancing the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. This legislation includes an important provision that allows agencies to leverage data science, analytics, and operations research to help approach complex issues related to visitation on public lands. These important tools can ensure the agencies are better able transform data into information, and information into insights that lead to more efficient, effective, equitable, and impactful results. We appreciate Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso including data science, analytics, and operations research within this important outdoor recreation legislation,” said Jeff Cohen, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).