It’s that time of the year when we call upon all OHV enthusiasts to nominate their favorite OHV trail project to be considered to receive a Coalition for Recreational Trails Achievement Award. The only caveat is that the nominated projects must have been funded in part by the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT), a federation of national and regional trail-related organizations, every year leads the process in selecting the most outstanding RTP projects to receive the Achievement Awards at a reception held on Capitol Hill. ARRA is a member of the CRT.
Please go to this link to learn more about the nomination process. The deadline for submission of projects is May 1, 2019.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a March 28th confirmation hearing on David Bernhardt’s nomination to be the next Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Bernhardt has been serving as Acting Secretary since the resignation of Secretary Ryan Zinke.
We have every expectation that Bernhardt will be confirmed by the full Senate once his nomination is reported out of the committee. There could very well be a vote on his nomination prior to Senate going on recess, April 15-26. If that proves not to be possible, we would then expect a vote on his nomination to take place in early May.
ARRA along with other national OHV organizations signed a letter in support of Mr. Bernhardt’s nomination. We believe that he knows the value of outdoor recreation on federal lands both from a national economic standpoint and personal health. He comes to the job at a critical time in the agency’s history; a time when severe financial pressures could well limit the scope of various departmental programs, including outdoor recreation.
Acting Secretary Bernhardt signed a secretarial order requiring that the Bureau of Land Management consider the impact of “public access to public lands” prior to making any decision on whether to exchange or sell a federal parcel. The order also directs the bureau to “identity priority recreational access opportunities in all ongoing resource management plan (RMP) revisions to ensure that recreational access is evaluated.”
This action further expresses the priority and the importance that the Interior Department is placing on recreational access to the lands that fall under its management. All forms of outdoor recreation, including motorized recreation, stand to benefit from this directive.
The Trump Administration forwarded to the Congress its budget submission for the 2020 fiscal year, and neither the Department of the Interior nor the Forest Service fared very well. Compared with what they are to receive in this current fiscal year, both agencies are looking at potential cuts in funding of upwards to 11%. Among the proposed cuts is a $234 million reduction in operations for the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Those same agencies would also see funding reduced for deferred maintenance to the tune of $197 million. If implemented, these cuts could have a devastating impact on the day to day operations of these agencies and would, in time, seriously affect access to our federal lands.
We don’t believe the Congress will embrace these cuts as recommended on the part of the Administration. The House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations had already held hearings on the proposed budget for both the Interior Department and the Forest Service. The response of the Subcommittee members was such that we anticipate substantial increases to the President’s budget request.
The Administration did indicate that it continues to actively consider relocating the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington to somewhere in the western part of the United States. To date, the actual location of that move has not been announced, though it seems likely we will know more about this move sometime during 2019. The goal is to put the agency closer to the lands that it manages.
Finally, to end on a positive note, the issue of wildfire funding was addressed in the Administration’s budget submission. You will recall that in the 115th Congress, a special fund was created that could be used to infuse new sources of funding to both the Forest Service and the Interior Department if appropriated funds were exhausted for the fighting wildfires. In past years, the agencies were forced to reallocate funds from other agencies activities to cover such funding shortfalls and recreation programs were always hit hard by these accounting transfers. In the 2020 budget submission, $2.25 billion is set aside for this special supplementary funding “if the agencies fully expend their base funding levels for wildfire suppression.” This is good news.
The Bureau of Land Management has signed a lease agreement that will allow the Maricopa Parks and Recreation Department to manage 1046 acres of BLM land at the Vulture Mountain Recreation Area near Wickenburg, Arizona. This lease agreement will allow for a portion of this area to be developed and then managed for a variety of recreational activities including an OHV riding area. This is encouraging news that this area will be made accessible to the recreating public. If you would like to learn more about this agreement between BLM and Maricopa County, please go to this link to access the Master Plan.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)
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