On Thursday, October 31st, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee convened for a hearing on three bills related to outdoor recreation, including S.1665: Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act). The bi-partisan SOAR Act, sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich (NM), would positively impact services offered by hunting guides and outfitters who operate on public land. Testimony in support of the bill was offered by officials from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), both of whom mentioned the importance of hunting within the boundaries of their respective agency’s lands.
If enacted, the legislation would simplify and expedite the application process for guides and outfitters who operate in areas with multijurisdictional units of federal land. During the committee hearing, Senator Steve Daines (MT) spoke to some of the complications that guides can have when applying for permits. Senator Daines spoke specifically to the importance of streamlining the permitting process to address some of the challenges that hunting guides face related to the checkerboard of land ownership in the west, stating “you could be on BLM and then Forest Service land, a state piece of property, and a Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge all within a matter of doing a relatively short hike, and I can tell you that the elk have no idea what federal agency manages the land they’re feeding on… so forcing outfitters to get permits from three agencies and two departments for one hunt, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Committee Chair Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) noted that she intends to work with her Ranking Member, Senator Joe Manchin (WV) to pull together a consensus package of recreation policies, including the SOAR Act, that the Committee can report to the full Senate.