WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today sought to improve and expand access to public lands in Montana and throughout the country for sportsmen, outfitters and guides.
During an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), Daines sought answers on how to streamline and improve access by cutting down red tape on public access to public lands. Additionally, Daines emphasized his work to end fire borrowing and reform federal forest management in light of one of the worst fire seasons for Montana and other western states in recent memory.
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Daines emphasized the concerns brought to him by Montana outfitters regarding permitting renewals and costs associated with environmental analyses.
“I have heard some concerns regarding some challenges surrounding permit renewals on federal lands in Montana,” Daines stated. “In fact, in your testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, you said permit renewals sometimes face ‘runaway analyses’ from the National Environmental Policy Act, and unfortunately, permittees are required to recover those costs from the agency like a ‘blank check,’ according to one Montana outfitter. How much of that uncertainty for the outfitters and agencies can be fixed by streamlining NEPA? Do you have any recommendations on how to create more certainty for those who facilitate access to our public lands?”
In response to Daines’ inquiries, David Brown from the American Outdoor Association emphasized the significant costs facing outfitters and guides.
“The use of categorical exclusions would help reduce some of those costs,” Brown stated. “When permits come up for renewal, they have to have NEPA analysis currently. As you know in Montana, in the Bob Marshall those costs are $100,000 for a group of small businesses, which is fairly significant.”
Daines also stressed the importance of ending fire borrowing and classifying wildfires as true natural disasters and reaffirmed his commitment to implementing comprehensive forest reform.
The Fiscal Year 2015 Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed in December of 2014, included a 2-year extension of FLREA. Current authorization will expire at the end of 2016. The House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2016 include another year extension of FLREA until the end of 2017.