Four key pieces of legislation under the umbrella of the EXPLORE Act passed the House this week, helping to improve and expand access to public lands and waterways.

The measures were led by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and underscore the vital nature of access to recreating outdoors.

“Passage of the EXPLORE Act is a testament to our collective commitment to enhancing and preserving access to America’s stunning public lands and waters,” Curtis said. “This legislation, particularly the inclusion of four of my bills: the SOAR Act, PARC Act, Connect Our Parks Act, and BOLT Act, reflects our dedication to Utah’s majestic landscape. I’m proud to have contributed to this significant step forward in ensuring our kids and grandkids will be able to enjoy our state as much as I have.”

The overall EXPLORE Act would:

  • Improve public land access for sportsmen and women.
  • Modernize technology to improve visitor experiences like increasing broadband connectivity and creating digital passes.
  • Streamline the permitting process and reduce fees for small businesses that depend on public land access.
  • Protect rock climbing in iconic places and create new long-distance bike trails.

Additionally, it aims to restore campgrounds and modernize other infrastructure, support gateway communities by addressing housing shortages and improve access for members of the U.S. military, veterans, children and people with disabilities.

Utah’s recreation economy is booming, reaping benefits for all

“Utah has some of the most abundant and beautiful public lands and resources in America, and Rep. Curtis has been faithful advocate for these issues in our work on the EXPLORE Act,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman, R- Ark., and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“Several of his bills make up a core part of the EXPLORE Act, and everyone from rock climbers, long-distance bikers, and anyone who enjoys recreating in his home state of Utah and across the nation will benefit”

Todd Keller, director of government affairs for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, said the group was thrilled with the House passage of the legislation.

“The mountain bike community is specifically excited about the Biking on Long Distance Trails (BOLT) Act that has been included within the text of the underlying bill. The BOLT Act will identify at least 10 existing long-distance bike trails and identify at least 10 areas where there is opportunity to develop or complete such trails. The bill will also direct the Department of Interior to publish and distribute maps, install signage, and distribute promotional materials.”

He urged the Senate to take quick action this summer to pass the overall EXPLORE Act and get it to President Joe Biden before the August recess.

National ‘blueprint’ embraces more outdoor recreation on public lands

The other measure under the package, SOAR, is an acronym for the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation that makes outdoor recreation more accessible by streamlining the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups.

The Protect America’s Rock Climbing (PARC) Act, introduced alongside House Assistant Minority Leader Joeseph Neguse, D-Colo., ensures responsible access to rock climbing in designated wilderness, an activity dating back to its creation in the Wilderness Act of 1964. The news release from Curtis emphasized this is particularly relevant in the West where over 99% of federally managed lands are located.

The Connect Our Parks Act directs each national park to assess where broadband service is needed and develop a plan to increase access to internet and cellular service.

People walk on the Bonneville Shoreline trail in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 11, 2024. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News