“Our national forests and grasslands have provided inspiration and peace to millions of Americans. By making it easier for our youth to access these lands and even to participate in helping us maintain and protect their resources, we are ensuring all Americans for generations to come will have the opportunity to experience a national forest, hike its trails, gaze at its mountain peaks, and row in its streams.” - Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture Secretary
Individuals and organizations that bring disadvantaged and under-resourced youth onto public lands continue to face challenges in obtaining permits for these activities, particularly for multi-day outdoor excursions in backcountry areas. They may be subject to significant fees, commercial use authorizations, and other requirements when attempting to access public lands. We plan to shift the paradigm and simplify the permitting process by using legislative pressure, guidance from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and by continuing to convene our key stakeholders in the Outdoor Access Working Group.
2016 has been a big year in advancing our efforts to address facilitated access. In February, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced her new initiative to expedite the permit process for those geared at getting kids outside. While she joked the lawyers called it the order for "Increasing Access to Extended Outdoor Experiences for Under-Resourced Youth," she said would affectionately refer to it as the Walker Permit.
In March, Sen. Ron Wyden (OR-D) introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to open broader access to outdoor recreation nationwide. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act removes barriers to outdoor recreation, making it easier for more Americans to get outdoors--enjoying its benefits and generating jobs. It helps streamline the permitting process for access to federal lands and holds agencies accountable for making recreation a priority.