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Recreation Not Red Tape Act: a bill to benefit outdoor recreation

Posted: 10/05/2019
by Thomas O'Keefe

For the past several years American Whitewater has worked with our partners on the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (H.R. 3458/S.1967). This is among the most important piece of positive policy we expect to see this Congress in terms of improving outdoor recreation and our access to rivers on public land. Senator Wyden originally approached us on the idea for this bill 5 years ago. In the time since, our Pacific Northwest Director Thomas O'Keefe has participated in an oversight hearing before Senate Energy and Natural Resources covering topics in the bill and American Whitewater member and Outdoor Alliance Policy Director Louis Geltman has also testified before the House Natural Resources Committee. We are in regular contact with Congressional offices and working to ensure the interests of the whitewater boating community are well represented and recognized.


The bill includes four Titles or sections with a number of subsections. We have written a detailed and comprehensive overview of the bill: read our detailed history and section-by-section explanation.


To Summarize, the four Titles of the bill are as follows:

  • Title I is designed to help organizations, clubs, small business owners, and outfitters get more people outside and make it easier to provide instruction and clinics on public lands and waters. The bill does not adjust allocations between outfitters and the general public on Western Rivers with limited-entry permit systems. The provisions in this section will make it easier for us to organize trips to get Members of Congress, hydropower operators, and agency staff out on rivers their actions affect. It will enable small-business owners to provide instruction for those just learning the sport or tuning up their skills. It will also facilitate our ability to get people out on rivers threatened by development or extraction and build our base of advocates.
  • Title II recognizes the benefits of outdoor recreation for physical and mental health for service members and veterans.
  • Title III of the bill is the one we are most excited about. It will extend seasonal opportunities (kayakers are often out enjoying rivers outside the standard summer recreation season and too often we encounter locked seasonal gates limiting access), establish performance metrics for outdoor recreation, direct a broader suite of Federal agencies to consider how land and water management decisions can enhance recreation (like Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation who operated dams) and Department of Transportation (whose projects affect access at bridges), establish a National Recreation Area system, and require agencies to inventory lands for their recreation value.
  • Title IV provides authority for cooperative agreements for on-the-ground activities and education efforts aimed at those who recreate on public lands and waters. 


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Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012