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New bill brings rare collaboration between parties, would improve areas across America: 'Everything in our control is shaping up really well'

"Our champions have done everything we can … to deliver a bipartisan bicameral package."

"Our champions have done everything we can … to deliver a bipartisan bicameral package."

Photo Credit: iStock

The great outdoors might soon be even greater for the American people. 

One bipartisan group of House members is set to finalize a bill to upgrade and expand access to outdoor recreation areas across the nation.

The House Natural Resources Committee is enjoying bipartisan support to advance the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences Act, aka the "EXPLORE Act," which aims to help more people experience the wonders of the natural world.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) pushed to advance the EXPLORE Act through the House in a Nov. 30 legislative hearing that included testimonials from public witnesses across the parks and outdoor activities industries. 

What's included in the EXPLORE Act?

The EXPLORE Act is comprehensive in its efforts to improve Americans' outdoor experiences. It will direct a variety of government agencies — such as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and the Bureau of Land Management — to produce meaningful changes to our outdoor areas.

One such improvement is modernizing campgrounds through better broadband connectivity and digital park passes, bolstered by private-public partnerships, as reported by Politico. 

The EXPLORE Act will add countless miles of long-distance biking trails and new shooting ranges. Hiking trails will be improved to allow access for people with disabilities, too.

The legislative package will also codify a grant program — the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program — to ensure that historically underserved communities have improved access to parks

Such improvements are slated to bolster our country's recreation industry, which produced nearly $1.1 trillion in economic activity and supported roughly 5 million jobs in 2022.

What's next?

Following the Nov. 30 legislative hearing, which featured speakers like pro rock climber Sasha DiGiulian advocating for the bill, the EXPLORE Act has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands for review.

And unlike many pieces of legislation that fail to advance after not receiving support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the EXPLORE Act has a Senate counterpart — America's Outdoor Recreation Act — that passed this July.

Jessica Wahl Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable — a coalition of outdoor recreation groups —- explained to Politico that the EXPLORE Act will benefit both the recreation economy and everyday Americans alike.

"I am confident that the recreation community and our champions have done everything we can … to deliver a bipartisan bicameral package that propels the outdoor recreation economy," Turner stated. "Everything in our control is shaping up really well."

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