The EXPLORE Act Passes the US House of Representatives

The EXPLORE Act Passes the US House of Representatives

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The legislation will have a significant impact on the outdoor community of Arkansas (camping, cycling, rock climbing, etc.)

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Act (EXPLORE), bipartisan legislation sponsored by Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) to expand outdoor recreation access nationwide.

“Ever since the Forest Service suspended overnight camping at Albert Pike Recreation Area, I’ve heard from countless constituents who are disappointed with the decision and frustrated with the mismanagement of the site since the suspension,” said Congressman Werman, “As such, I included comprehensive and responsible policies in the EXPLORE Act that will ensure the Forest Service reopens overnight camping and better manages the Albert Pike Recreation Area. No one understands the blessing of outdoor recreation opportunities quite like Arkansans, which is why I’m proud to champion the EXPLORE Act to ensure that outdoorsmen and women can safely enjoy their favorite recreation sites, like Albert Pike, for generations to come.”

According to a press release from Westerman, the Albert Pike Recreation Area (APRA) is one of the most popular sites in the Ouachita National Forest. It is a unique area that has attracted outdoor enthusiasts from across the country. However, overnight camping at APRA was suspended by the U.S. Forest Service after a major flash flood that tragically killed 20 people on June 11, 2010. Since then, access to APRA has been limited to day use only. Congressman Westerman’s EXPLORE Act aims to address this issue.

  • Safely re-open any existing overnight campsites outside of the 100-year flood plain within 30 days of the bill’s enactment.
  • Identify 54 areas that may be suitable for overnight camping in the recreation area within 6 months of the bill’s enactment.
  • Establish at least 27 new overnight camping sites outside of the 100-year flood plain, including at least 8 with electric and water hookups, for public use within 2 years of the bill’s enactment.
  • Require the rehabilitation necessary to make publicly accessible areas in APRA suitable for year-round day use.

Much More Than Albert Pike Recreation Area

The Outdoor Industry Association has released a media statement, highlighting the significance of the EXPLORE Act, also known as H.R. 6492. This act is aimed at improving public land access and promoting outdoor recreational opportunities for everyone across the country. The bipartisan package of recreation bills was introduced by the House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The act aims to address barriers to access for veterans, people with disabilities, and underserved populations. It also includes measures to streamline permitting processes for guides and outfitters and support and enhance recreational opportunities on public lands.

“We are thrilled to see Congress taking action to ensure each American has the opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces in their own community, bolster economic growth, and advance mental and physical health benefits for all,” said Kent Ebersole, president of Outdoor Industry Association. “The outdoor recreation economy continues to soar to new levels, accounting for over $1 trillion in consumer spending and demonstrating participant growth for the eighth consecutive year. This is an important inflection point. We must modernize, preserve, and increase access to the public lands and waterways – regardless of where someone lives or works – and support more than five million employees who help drive our industry forward.”  

According to Outdoor Alliance, the EXPLORE Act contains important bills to improve outdoor recreation on America’s public lands and waters.

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Biking on Long Distance Trails Act (BOLT)

The BOLT Act is aimed at promoting sustainable long-distance mountain biking trails. The proposed bill requires land management agencies to identify already existing and potential long-distance bike trails, and collaborate with mountain bikers and other stakeholders to develop and promote these trails. The recognition of several existing trails as long-distance bike trails, such as the Ouachita National Recreation Trail in Arkansas and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail that spans from the Canadian to the Mexican border, would be beneficial.

“The International Mountain Bicycling Association is thrilled the House of Representatives understands the physical, mental, and economic importance of outdoor recreation on our public lands, evidenced by the passage of the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act. The mountain bike community is specifically excited about the Biking on Long Distance Trails (BOLT) Act that has been included within the text of the underlying bill. We now look to the Senate for quick action this summer to pass the EXPLORE Act and get it to the President’s desk before the August recess.” -Todd Keller, IMBA Director of Government Affairs

Protecting America’s Rock Climbing Act (PARC)

Rock climbing has a rich history in the United States, and climbers have been some of the most prominent conservationists in the last century. However, recent proposals to ban fixed anchors in Wilderness areas have brought to light the need for clear and consistent guidance around climbing, especially in these areas. Many of the most famous rock climbs in the country are located in Wilderness areas, including El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, these climbs are now threatened by new interpretations of the Wilderness Act by land management agencies.

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The PARC Act has been proposed to help protect Wilderness climbing, which is a historic use, by reaffirming the appropriateness of climbing on public lands and providing national-level guidance on placing and maintaining fixed anchors in Wilderness areas. The PARC Act would solidify Congress’s intent to allow climbing in Wilderness areas and support continued safe and sustainable access for climbers.

Makes FICOR Permanent

The EXPLORE Act proposes to make the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) permanent. FICOR is a council that facilitates land managers in coordinating and focusing on enhancing access to nature and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

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Makes Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Permanent

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program offers financial assistance to urban areas to create green spaces and provide outdoor access. Priority is given to economically disadvantaged areas and neighborhoods that lack outdoor recreational opportunities. The EXPLORE Act aims to make ORLP a permanent program, thereby expanding green spaces in communities that need it the most.

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