Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced The Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act, which will ensure continued access to national parks and help preserve jobs for outfitters, guides and other seasonal employees.
The Department of Labor finalized rules in 2014 that established a new minimum wage and overtime hours for businesses operating under federal contracts – including recreational businesses whose only connection to the federal government is a permit to be on federal lands. The changes will force many such businesses to either close, move off of public lands, or operate with fewer workers.
Rep. Stewart said, “Not only do we have some of the best outdoor recreational activities in world, but these businesses also play an important role in our economy, often providing summer jobs for our high school and college students a few months a year. Increased costs on these businesses ultimately hurt younger workers and the tourist economy.”
The 2014 rules should have been limited to procurement and service contracts, but outfitters and guides, who provide services to the public, were tied up in the rule as well. One tour operator within Utah’s Second Congressional District wrote a letter explaining their concerns. “We very much want to maintain our commitment to the recreational experience in National Parks and on other public lands. However, the cost of compliance and the draconian overtime restrictions created by this rule, have significant impacts on our business. This is so serious to us that we may have to cease running trips in National Parks.”
To address the problem, the Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act clarifies and expands an existing exemption to wage and hour laws for seasonal recreational establishments under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The bill will broaden the exemption, which currently exempts ski businesses, to include businesses involved in rafting, horseback riding, hiking, cycling, and other seasonal recreational businesses.
“Congress recognized the need for an exclusion when it exempted skiing businesses many years ago,” Stewart said. “The Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act is a similar fix to ensure that outfitters and guides continue to help families enjoy remarkable experiences in National Parks and other public lands.”
For a PDF copy of the bill, click here.