In what can only be good news for the outdoor recreation industry and participants – including run specialty retailers and trail runners themselves – in a bipartisan agreement, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act, demonstrating the momentum that members of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) and industry partners have in helping promote policies that expand access to outdoor recreation opportunities. 

The ORR reported that the passage by the House of the EXPLORE Act “represents a historic moment as it is the first outdoor recreation-specific bill package, and it achieves this without cost to taxpayers.” This bipartisan legislation is “poised to stimulate local and national economies, enhance access for Americans – particularly those in underserved communities – to green spaces and modernize policies to bolster the recreation businesses that bridge people with nature.”

“The House’s passage of the EXPLORE Act is a pivotal advancement for outdoor recreation and the outdoor recreation industry in the United States,” explains Jessica Wahl Turner, president of the ORR. “Spearheaded by the collaborative efforts of Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR04), Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ07), and a bipartisan group of their colleagues, this legislation shows our collective commitment to ensure outdoor experiences are accessible to every American now and for future generations. 

The Act will:

  • Facilitate permit streamlining, alleviate challenges for outfitters and guides and enhance access to outdoor adventures;
  • Expand recreation on public lands and waters;
  • Guarantee green space access in underserved communities;
  • Develop, improve and complete long-range trails; and
  • Boost rural economic development.

A number of industry executives weighed in on the importance of the EXPLORE Act to their businesses.

“At REI Co-op we believe everyone should have easy access to nature, yet 100 million Americans lack access to a quality green space close to home. The EXPLORE Act, a first-of-its-kind package of outdoor recreation bills, will both strengthen our public lands and increase opportunities for all people to enjoy time outside. The bill centers bipartisan solutions that increase equitable access to the outdoors by increasing resources for outdoor recreation, including long-distance trails and urban parks in historically overlooked communities.” —  Harrison, Director of Community & Government Affairs, REI Co-op.   

“The EXPLORE Act addresses a critical need — creating more access to spaces where people can routinely walk, bike and be active outside. In particular, the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grants Program directly addresses inequities in access to close-to-home outdoor opportunities. Multiuse trail networks contribute greatly to equitable access by creating safe, convenient routes to nature and other destinations in neighborhoods across the country.” —  Kevin Mills, Vice President of Policy, Rails to Trails Conservancy.

“We are thrilled to see Congress taking action to ensure each American has the opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces in their own community, bolster economic growth, and advance mental and physical health benefits for all. The outdoor recreation economy continues to soar to new levels, accounting for over $1 trillion in consumer spending and demonstrating participant growth for the eighth consecutive year. This is an important inflection point. We must modernize, preserve, and increase access to the public lands and waterways – regardless of where someone lives or works. “ — Kent Ebersole, President of Outdoor Industry Association