Standing Watch

Will “Recreation Not Red-Tape Act” set tone for recreational boating access?

Senate bill aims to increase outdoor opportunities on federal lands; what can state and local jurisdictions learn?

NATIONWIDE — An Oregon senator believes red tape is obstructing outdoor enthusiasts from pursuing recreational opportunities on federal lands and waters. Time will tell whether Sen. Ron Wyden’s proposal will gain enough traction to ultimately benefit boaters in Southern California and across the nation.

The Democratic senator from Oregon proposed S. 1633 – known as the “Recreation Not Red-Tape Act” – in late July. National Marine Merchants Association (NMMA) President Thomas Dammrich co-authored an Op-Ed in The Hill about 70-some days after the bill’s introduction, urging senators and representatives to support – and eventually approve – S. 1633.

Dammrich (and his co-writers) identified outdoor recreation as part of the country’s national heritage. The Op-Ed stated S. 1633, if approved and signed into law, would modernize how national public lands are managed. Such modernization, the writers argued, would ultimately “improve the outdoor recreation experience.”

“[The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act] aims to reduce barriers to outdoor recreation access, and improve public land management for Americans who enjoy recreation pursuits of all types,” Dammerich’s co-authored Op-Ed in The Hill stated. “Public lands offer many exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation, but too often unique or exceptional settings for outdoor recreation are not formally recognized in land use planning.

“This legislation, including its system of National Recreation Areas, will identify and protect landscapes where sustainable outdoor recreation should be a priority use for jobs, local economies and quality of life,” the authors continued.

Wyden stated public access to recreational opportunities could sometimes be more of a chore than something enjoyable – hence his proposal.

“Getting outdoors often requires permits, parking passes and camping fees that are important to help maintain public lands, but too often involve confusing, complicated and lengthy processes. This bill removes barriers to outdoor recreation, making it easier for more Americans to get outdoors – enjoying its benefits and generating jobs,” Wyden stated in a published summary of S. 1633.

The federal bill proposes to expedite the permitting process for recreation guides, promote outdoor access to seniors, youth and veterans, require improved landscaping and maintenance of public lands, and direct agencies to prioritize recreational opportunities.

S. 1633, if ultimately signed into law, would only be applicable to federal lands, but there are certainly elements of the proposal recreational boaters and anglers would like to see implemented in California.

Bureaucracy is often the go-to complaint for any issue involving the Department of Fish and Wildlife or Division of Boating and Waterways.

California’s current fishing license system, for example, has long been a source of frustration for anglers up and down the state. Many anglers believe bureaucracy and politics have prevented California officials from moving forward with what they believe is common sense fishing license reform. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, it could be argued, might provide the framework to address the bureaucratic barriers facing fishing license reform.

The state’s boaters are also a few weeks away from being required to carry what effectively functions as a boating license. Division of Boating and Waterways staff will be rolling out the Boater Education Card during the next few years. The card is intended to foster and promote safe boating practices, to be sure, but it’s fair to ask whether the bureaucracy associated with the program’s administration might actually make it more annoying or difficult to be out on the water.

Would Wyden’s proposal open the door for California’s boaters and anglers to demand greater efficiency in its many boating- and fishing-themed initiatives and policies?

The questions above – and certainly many more – won’t be answered immediately, but Dammrich and his Op-Ed co-authors certainly believe S. 1633 is a step in the right direction.

“The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act offers commonsense solutions that will unite — rather than divide — a growing population of outdoor enthusiasts, and ensure access to sustainable recreation experiences for generations to come,” the co-authored Op-Ed in The Hill stated.

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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

S. 1633 is still in its infancy as the bill is currently sitting in front of its first committee. It could be weeks or months before the proposal comes to a full vote in the Senate, let alone the House of Representatives. Of course the bill might not be voted on at all before the expiration of the current legislative session. Accordingly it behooves boaters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to reach out to their respective elected officials and urge them to either move S. 1633 forward or reconsider it altogether.

Lisa Mangat, California State Parks Director


Lynn Sadler, Boating and Waterways Deputy Director

Gloria Sandoval, Boating and Waterways Deputy Director, Public Affairs


Boating and Waterways Commission Chair Randy Short

424-271-3351 (Office)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein


Twitter: @SenFeinstein

Sen. Kamala Harris

213-894-5000, 619-239-3884

Twitter: @KamalaHarris

Rep. Ted Lieu (Los Angeles)

323-651-1040, 202-225-3976, 310-321-7664

Twitter: @TedLieu

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach)

562-436-3828, 202-225-7924

Twitter: @RepLowenthal

Rep. Scott Peters (San Diego)

858-455-5550, 202-225-0508

Twitter: @RepScottPeters

Rep. Juan Vargas (San Diego)

619-422-5963, 202-225-8045

Twitter: @RepJuanVargas

Rep. Darrell Issa (Oceanside/Dana Point)

949-281-2449, 760-599-5000, 202-225-3906

Twitter: @DarrellIssa

Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (Newport Beach/Huntington Beach)

714-960-6483, 202-225-2415

Twitter: @DanaRohrbacher

Rep. Julia Brownley (Channel Islands/Ventura)

805-379-1779, 202-225-5811

Twitter: @JuliaBrownley26

Gov. Jerry Brown (California)


Twitter: @JerryBrownGov

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom


Twitter: @GavinNewsom