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Limiting Costly Permit Process For Activity On Federal Lands

Washington D.C.- A bill to simplify how, and how much a permit for an activity on Federal Lands costs, has been passed by the House of Representatives and moves on to the Senate. The GO Act, or H.R. 289 the Guides and Outfitters Act, seeks to amend the National Park Services’s implementation of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA.) If approved the Interior and USDA would issue joint permits for an activity. The permit would be for the use of lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for recreational use of the lands and waters by those who conduct outfitting, guiding, and other recreation services or who conduct competitive events, which may involve incidental sales on federal recreational lands and waters.

The bill was introduced in the House at the beginning of January to streamline the current recreation permitting process and allow for increased public access to recreation opportunities on federal lands. The bill was agreed to by verbal vote in the House after a commonly used rule limited floor debate to 40 minutes, prohibited all floor amendments and also required a two-thirds vote to pass. The bill has been received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Tom McClintock recently spoke in favor of the bill when it came before the Committee on Natural Resources. McClintock stated the bill provides “long-overdue relief.” His full statement with examples of how various events have been overcharged and canceled are in his new blog “Pass The GO Act” here.

In summary the Act states:

The Department of the Interior shall publish guidelines for establishing recreation permit fees.

Revenues from special recreation permits issued to recreation service providers shall be used to: (1) offset partially Interior’s direct cost of administering permits, and (2) improve and streamline the permitting process.

When reviewing and adjusting allocations for the use of priority use permits for special uses of federal recreational lands and water managed by the Forest Service USDA shall allocate to the permit holder a prescribed amount subject to a cap.

USDA and Interior shall implement a program that authorizes temporary permits for new recreational uses of federal recreational lands and waters managed by the Forest Service or the BLM, respectively.

A permit holder prohibited by a state from indemnifying the federal government shall be considered to be in compliance with Interior and USDA indemnification requirements if the permit holder carries the required minimum amount of liability insurance coverage or is self-insured for the same minimum amount.

Interior and USDA shall revise certain:

  • special land use and special recreation permit regulations to streamline the processes for the issuance and renewal of outfitter and guide special use permits, and
  • cost recovery fee regulations to reduce costs and minimize the burden of cost recovery on small businesses and adverse impacts of cost recovery on jobs in the outfitting and guiding industry and on rural economies.

If a holder of a special use permit for outfitting and guiding that authorizes priority use has requested renewal of the permit, USDA may grant one or more exiting permit extensions for additional items for up to five years altogether, as necessary to allow completion of the renewal process and avoid the interruption of services under the permit.