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Wyden focuses on outdoor recreation economy, wildfire funding fix


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., highlighted the potential of the outdoor recreation economy and the need to address wildfire funding to improve maintenance of our public lands at a Senate panel hearing Tuesday.

In a hearing on public lands infrastructure before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyden emphasized the strong link between fixing wildfire funding and maintaining the nation’s forests. He and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, have introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act in the last two Congresses.

Wyden and Crapo are working to reintroduce the bill again this Congress in order to free up funding the U.S. Forest Service currently devotes to fighting wildfires so the agency can address the current backlog of fire prevention and forest management work.

Wyden also emphasized the importance of investing in public lands infrastructure to boost the outdoor recreation economy. He introduced his Recreation Not Red-Tape Act last year to help maintain public lands, increase outdoor recreation access for visitors and provide more economic opportunities for rural economies in Oregon and nationwide.

“When I was chair of this committee and we started talking about the potential for recreation, what I was really stunned by was how the framework of laws governing the various natural resource agencies just hadn’t kept up with the times,” said Wyden, who will re-introduce his recreation legislation in this Congress.

“After hearing from Oregonians about the barriers they faced when they tried to access public lands, I wrote the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act to modernize the system, streamline some of the permitting processes and make it easier to access outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands.”

Specifically, Wyden asked the chairman of the National Ski Areas Association Public Lands Committee, Bob Bonar, about how a provision in the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act that would allow federal agencies to keep ski area permit fees rather than sending them to the U.S. Treasury will help improve public lands maintenance and permit management.

Bonar expressed support for the ski area fees provision in Wyden’s RNR Act.

“We see the fee retention as being crucial for us to invest money and be able to move forward on these critical needs,” Bonar said. “We’re seeing increased visitation year-round at all the resorts and it’s really important that we’re able to move forward on those projects by increasing the funding.”

Wyden noted that infrastructure maintenance projects at ski areas on Mt. Hood have been delayed due to the Forest Service permitting backlog.

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