H.R.289 – GO Act

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Week ending October 6, 2017

H.R.289 – GO Act


“H.R. 289 would change the way certain federal agencies issue special recreation use permits and would change how the affected agencies recover costs associated with the permitting process.” – cbo

To that end:

Interior and USDA may issue special recreation permits:

    for specialized individual and group use of federal facilities and federal recreational lands and waters;

    to recreation service providers who conduct outfitting, guiding, and other recreation services on federal recreational lands and waters; and

    to recreation service providers who conduct recreation or competitive events, which may involve incidental sales on federal recreational lands and waters.

Interior and USDA shall issue joint permits for the use of lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Interior shall publish guidelines for establishing recreation permit fees.

Revenues from special recreation permits issued to recreation service providers shall be used to: (1) offset partially Interior’s direct cost of administering permits, and (2) improve and streamline the permitting process.

When reviewing and adjusting allocations for the use of priority use permits for special uses of federal recreational lands and water managed by the Forest Service USDA shall allocate to the permit holder a prescribed amount subject to a cap.

USDA and Interior shall implement a program that authorizes temporary permits for new recreational uses of federal recreational lands and waters managed by the Forest Service or the BLM, respectively.

A permit holder prohibited by a state from indemnifying the federal government shall be considered to be in compliance with Interior and USDA indemnification requirements if the permit holder carries the required minimum amount of liability insurance coverage or is self-insured for the same minimum amount.

Interior and USDA shall revise certain:

    special land use and special recreation permit regulations to streamline the processes for the issuance and renewal of outfitter and guide special use permits, and

    cost recovery fee regulations to reduce costs and minimize the burden of cost recovery on small businesses and adverse impacts of cost recovery on jobs in the outfitting and guiding industry and on rural economies.

(Additional Views)

(Full text of H.R. 289 congress.gov)

Sponsor:  Rep. LaMalfa, Doug [R-CA-1] (Introduced 01/04/2017)

Status:  Passed House /



On Passage: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote.

House Amendments:

Motion to recommit:

Text of the motion:


On Passage:

Procedural Actions:

Senate Amendments:


Cost to the taxpayers:  Based on information provided by the affected agencies and assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $5 million over the 2018-2022 period.

Pay-as-you-go requirementsCBO estimates that enacting the bill would affect the amount of fees (which are treated as reductions in direct spending) the affected agencies would collect; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, because the affected agencies have the authority to spend those fees, any change in fee collections would be offset by a corresponding change in the spending of those fees, so that the net effect on direct spending in any year would be negligible. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.

Regulatory and Other Impact: H.R. 289 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.

Dynamic Scoring:   CBO estimates that enacting the bill would not significantly affect net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.

Tax Complexity:  Not applicable to this bill.

Earmark Certification:  Data not available

Duplication of programs: Data not available

Direct Rule-Making:  Data not available

Advisory Committee Statement: Data not available

Budget Authority: Data not available

Constitutional Authority:   Assumed.


More Bill Information:

Additional Views



H.R. 289 amends the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA)\1\ to adjust recreation-related permitting and fee authority at the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture. The stated purpose of the bill is to reduce permitting time and administrative hurdles faced by permit applications. We are open to the idea of improving the permit process to ensure timely and transparent access to public lands for recreation activities and other special events; however, we are concerned that some of the methods used by the bill could lead to more problems than they solve.


\1\16 U.S.C. 6802.


For example, Section 2 creates a categorical exclusion for permits related to activities that have been previously considered through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Categorical exclusions are reserved for types of activities that are determined to have limited environmental impacts. They are most commonly developed through a rulemaking process, which allows for public comment and provides the agency with the flexibility to determine when they are appropriate. The Forest Service already stresses the use of existing categorical exclusions for special recreation permits and does what it can with available resources to speed up permit processing time. It is unclear why this section is necessary or appropriate. If current categorical exclusions are insufficient, Congress should encourage a rulemaking process to address the inadequacies.

At markup, the committee adopted an amendment by Representative LaMalfa. The amendment adds a reference to the `extraordinary circumstances’ regulations used by agencies to evaluate the use of categorical exclusions. While we appreciate the effort to address some of our concerns, we still believe that Congress is not the appropriate venue for establishing categorical exclusions. Moreover, there is some question as to whether this provision will do anything to provide more permits or speed up processing times. Decisions about permits on public lands, in addition to the requirements of NEPA, include carrying capacity determinations and wilderness compatibility assessments, among other considerations. Under-staffing and shrinking appropriations add to the challenge of completing all of these necessary requirements. Funding adequate staff levels, not limiting public review, is the best way to improve permit processing times.

We are also concerned with Sec. 6, which addresses the Forest Service’s permit review process. One major concern is that the bill allows for existing permit holders to receive additional capacity above the caps put in place by the original permit. Automatic allocation of additional capacity to existing permits holders could inadvertently lead to increased utilization for permit holders that are not meeting their evaluation standards. At a minimum, increased capacity should only be available to individuals and organizations with a solid record of performance. For example, a guide that provides services on horseback should not be allowed to add more horses to the operation unless they are meeting agency standards.

Section 6 could also decrease availability for new permit applications. The cap adjustments should only be available when there is no demand for the additional capacity. We should be encouraging more groups and organizations to engage in activities on our public lands, not simply incentivizing existing users.

We share the goal of increasing the availability of special recreation permits on public lands and hope that we can address these concerns if this bill moves forward.


Raul M. Grijalva,

Ranking Member, House

Natural Resources


Colleen Hanabusa,

Ranking Member, Subcommittee

on Federal Lands.

Jared Huffman,

Ranking Member, Subcommittee

on Water, Power and


Nanette Diaz Barragan,

Member of Congress.

Darren Soto,

Member of Congress.

  1. Donald McEachin,

Ranking Member, Subcommittee

on Oversight and


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