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Pass The GO Act

Tom McClintock (R-CA) made this Floor Statement in the Committee on Natural Resources:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 289, the Guides and Outfitters — or GO Act — offered by my Natural Resources Committee colleague and California neighbor, Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

For many years, we have seen increasingly severe restrictions on the public’s use of the public land. One of the most galling aspects of this exclusionary policy is the use of exorbitant fees to prevent many group events and small business services that are often the economic mainstay of small mountain communities like those in my district in the Sierra Nevada.

This abusive practice was made possible by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act in 2004.

It unleashed a flood of complex rules, regulations, and court decisions that have gradually increased the cost of permit administration for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which these agencies, in turn, have used to raise fees on the public to cost-prohibitive levels.

For example, the California Endurance Riders Association had been using the El Dorado National Forest for many years. In 2009, when they sought a simple 5-year 10-event permit to continue doing exactly what they have been doing without incident for decades, the Forest Service demanded $11,000 in fees.

They paid these fees, but the El Dorado National Forest management nevertheless pulled the approved permit and halted the process on utterly specious grounds. It then demanded an additional $17,000 fee, causing the Endurance Riders Association to cancel what had been a long-term civic tradition that had been a boon to the local economy.

In 2010 this outrage was repeated after the group spent $5,800 for the “Fool’s Gold Endurance Run” that had been an ongoing event for more than 40 years.

Hardest hit are guides and outfitters – the folks who make it possible for visitors to fully enjoy our national lands. They’re the small businesses that provide specialized knowledge, skills and equipment that new visitors just don’t possess.

Both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have used FLREA to require these small businesses to pay for permit processing and environmental analyses that require more than 50 hours. These fees, along with complex planning requirements, have virtually shut down so many legitimate and traditional public events and uses.

Efforts to encourage the agencies to modify and streamline the process have failed, even when those efforts were supported by agency policy.

The GO Act is a long-overdue relief of these practices.

It amends FLREA to streamline the recreation permitting process and allow for increased public access to recreation opportunities on federal lands.

The GO Act was crafted in consultation with a wide-variety of recreation groups throughout the country and aims to reduce the cost and complexity of these permits.

I commend Representative LaMalfa for listening to his constituents and to thousands of recreation service providers throughout the country who are begging Congress to make these changes.

I urge adoption of the measure and yield back.