Laina G. Stebbins
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), alongside Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives aimed at breaking down barriers to accessing the outdoors – particularly public lands and waters – faced by many environmental justice communities.
The Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Act (EJRPA) would require an interagency study between the departments of the Interior and Agriculture on modifications to recreational permits, policies at the national and local level which facilitate public land access and recommendations for action to increase access to public lands for environmental justice communities.
The bill defines environmental justice communities as “a community with significant representation of communities of color, low-income communities, or Tribal and indigenous communities, that experiences or is at risk of experiencing higher or more adverse human health or environmental effects than other communities.”
Tlaib said in a statement that creating a positive relationship between environmental justice communities and recreation opportunities provided by the federal government is an “important step” towards allowing all Americans equal access to the outdoors.
“Everyone, no matter your zip code, should be able to enjoy our natural resources,” Tlaib said.
An interagency study would seek to understand how access to public lands for these communities could be improved through partnerships between permitting agencies and recreation service providers that serve environmental justice communities.
Stansbury said she was honored to be reintroducing the EJRPA as the Congressional successor of now-U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“Our beautiful outdoors is for everyone to enjoy, and this bill will make it easier for every community to recreate on New Mexico’s iconic public lands and waters.”
If passed, the bill would allow one year for the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to report to Congress on their findings on the topics outlined in the bill. Portions of the EJRPA passed the House in the 2021 Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, and Tlaib said she’s hopeful that it can be done again.
Tlaib said that people “across the country deserve the ability to hike, paddle, ride, camp, and experience all that our great public lands and waters have to offer. “
The legislation has been endorsed by several Michigan organizations, including the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, We The People of Detroit, Breathe Free Detroit and the Detroit Greenways Coalition.
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