Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act. The legislation, which is expected to pass in the Senate after bipartisan support in the House, includes different policies geared toward easing and maintaining access to the outdoors, as well as increasing funding and resources for more projects. That’s a lot of gobbledygook that basically suggests our lawmakers are taking the country’s booming outdoor economy seriously.

“Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities are vital to our local economies and to our state’s overall wellbeing,” said Colorado representative Joe Neguse, who backed the act, in a press release. “From ensuring housing for the local workforce in our mountain communities to better facilitating residents’ enjoyment of the great outdoors, these bills expand and support the outdoor recreation industry in Colorado and beyond.”

Ultimately, this wildly popular piece of legislation is likely to bring a lot of good to a state like Colorado. Here’s what the Columbine State—and its nearly $14 billion outdoor recreation industry—can expect from the EXPLORE Act.

1. More Long-Distance Mountain Bike Trails

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The Biking on Long-Distance Trails (BOLT) Act within the EXPLORE Act focuses on building and maintaining long-distance mountain bike trails across the country. Bike trails like this are often considered epics worth traveling for, which inevitably increase bike tourism and the outdoor economy in general.

Colorado is already a notable destination for mountain biking, and the BOLT Act will bolster resources for existing and new long trails in the state. This includes routes like the ultra-distance Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, which runs north to south from Canada to Mexico via Colorado. The bill will also allocate resources to develop more long-distance trails within the state.

“For communities across Colorado, this bill is key,” Neguse said. “It will expand recreation opportunities and boost mountain economies, which rely on the outdoor industry and tourism revenue.”

Read more: The Newest Colorado Adventure Spot Isn’t Sure It Wants You to Visit

2. Better Climbing Access in Wilderness Areas

Another piece of the EXPLORE Act is the Protect America’s Rock Climbing (PARC) Act, which will positively impact climbing access around the country and in Colorado by making management policies consistent in wilderness areas. This includes regulations on the placement of new and existing climbing protection, like fixed anchors and bolts, both of which make many iconic and popular routes possible to climb. More specifically, this bill protects existing climbing routes in wilderness areas and requires that they be properly maintained. It also states that “recreational climbing (including the use, placement, and maintenance of fixed anchors)” is legal within designated wilderness, so long as it complies with the Wilderness Act.

Other legislation has been recently proposed that would essentially make all fixed anchors illegal in wilderness areas via an interpretation of the Wilderness Act that includes these climbing fixtures as “installations”—like roads and buildings—which are illegal per the 1964 act. While there is some ambiguity as to how each agency will manage the use of fixed anchors and the like, the PARC Act provides clear protections for routes and anchors that already exist in wilderness areas, such as the Diamond on Longs Peak’s east face in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is technically located within designated wilderness.

3. Simpler Permitting Process for Guides and Outfitters

Hiking is fun
Photo courtesy of REI Co-op

Outdoor recreation is a major piece of Colorado’s economic pie. This includes guiding companies and outfitters who rely on access to public land to run their businesses and provide positive recreation experiences for residents and visitors to the state. Currently, the permitting process for operating on various public lands—whether it be for hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing, fishing, or any other outdoor activity—is a labyrinth of red tape.

“Permitting has previously been a very daunting, extensive, and costly process that we as a small company really struggle to manage and pursue,” said Jordan Larson, guide and owner of Boulder-based Cairn Outdoor Guides. “This is largely because of convoluted application processes that can be time-consuming and tricky to navigate, especially for those new to the business.”

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act will help to simplify this process, making things easier for guides and outfitters. The bill will require lawmakers to evaluate and revise the permitting process, eliminating duplicate steps, reducing the cost to issue permits, and decreasing overall processing times. The SOAR Act will also open doors for other groups and nonprofits to obtain permits more easily. Supporters like Arvada-based Big City Mountaineers—a nonprofit that takes inner city kids out on backcountry adventures—say a simpler permitting process will ultimately help more folks get outdoors.

4. More Access for Outdoor Recreation

Along with the BOLT, PARC, and SOAR Acts, the EXPLORE Act will create more consistency for management across public land agencies. Some listed examples are codifying regulations for shooting ranges on Forest Service and BLM lands and refining permitting processes for photography and videography in national parks. The bill also directs lawmakers to find ways to increase access to public lands for disabled folks, veterans, and kiddos.

Notably, the EXPLORE Act will improve day-use and camping access in national recreation areas. After the post-COVID outdoor recreation boom, designated campsites have become increasingly difficult to snag, especially in places like Colorado. The new legislation will add more campsites in recreation areas and improve facilities in the years to come, as the state’s campgrounds will likely become even more coveted.

5. Support for Gateway Communities

Lastly, the EXPLORE Act also includes a subsection with directives to assist the communities that act as gateways to popular public land areas. Legislators will be required to work with local governments and Tribal Nations to address issues like housing shortages and overcrowding in the parks. This is a crucial piece of the legislation, as increased recreation ultimately causes more strain on gateway communities, which are already dealing with overcrowding and a dire lack of affordable housing for locals.

Read more: The High Cost of High Country Living

Stasia Stockwell
Stasia Stockwell
Stasia is a writer and mountain dweller who currently calls the Tenmile Range home.