Motorbike rider, Flat Top Peach Valley Recreation Area, Colorado. Photo credit: BLM Uncompahgre Field Office.
BLM Gets Ready to Move West
On July 16th, the Department of the Interior announced its intention to relocate the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, Colorado. Over time, upwards to 500 BLM employees will relocate to Grand Junction and to other BLM offices throughout the west.
BLM’s Director, Deputy Director for Operations and all Assistant Directors will be operating out of Grand Junction headquarters. A skeleton crew of approximately 60 employees will remain in Washington and their responsibilities will include writing regulations, preparing BLM’s budget and other administrative functions. Employee transfers to Grand Junction are scheduled to begin as early as August 15th.
There is opposition to the proposed move. The House of Representatives has already included language in the FY2020 appropriations that would prohibit the move. We don’t expect the Republican controlled Senate will agree to that restriction.
The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on September 10 on the proposed BLM move. We expect there will be opposition to the move on the part of some members of the committee, but at the end of the day, BLM employees will still be packing boxes so they can head west to their new official home.
Recreational Trails Program (RTP)
A new transportation bill unveiled by the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) contains a provision that will authorize a new study on RTP funding. ARRA has been supporting S. 1527, the RTP Funding Transparency Act and we are pleased to report that the EPW legislation includes the legislative concepts found in S. 1527. This is a major accomplishment and we thank ARRA members for contacting their Senators in support of RTP.
In the coming months, more work needs to be done to support the RTP funding study when both the House and Senate begin consideration of transportation reauthorization legislation. We will keep you apprised of further developments.
California Coastal Commission Hearing on Oceano Dunes SVRA (July 11, 2019). Photo credit: Don Amador, AMA District 36.
Oceano Dunes State Park
In last month’s newsletter, we reported on the possibility that OHV riding at the Oceano Dune State Park in California could be threatened. The California Coastal Commission held a public hearing on July 11th to consider comments on a Commission staff report that recommended severe restrictions on OHV use at this important coastal riding area.
Hundreds of people showed up at the hearing that lasted more than seven hours! At the end of a long day, the Commission voted 8-2 to postpone for one-year further consideration of any restrictions to OHV riding so that California State Parks (the agency responsible for Oceano Dunes) could complete a new management plan for the park. One observer at the hearing told me that California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat did an excellent job of explaining what her agency has done to date to mitigate dust issues. The agency’s ongoing public works plan will address many of the other concerns raised by the Coastal Commission. That study is scheduled to be completed by next summer.
Finding a way to resolve these issues so that OHV riding can remain at this location is of critical importance to the OHV riding community. It’s also important for the local economy. Between July 2016 and September 2017, the Oceano Dunes Park area generated a total of $243 million for the San Luis Obispo County, an economic boost that could be severely curtailed if OHV riding is no longer permitted at this very popular state coastal park.
FY2020/2021 Budget Agreement
Before the Congress left Washington for its August recess, an agreement was reached between the Trump Administration and the Congress on federal spending levels for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. Both the House and the Senate have passed this agreement which means that there will NOT be a government shutdown at the beginning of the new fiscal year! When the Congress returns after its August recess, it will complete action on all outstanding appropriations for FY2020.
The House has already passed its version of FY2020 appropriations for the Interior Department and related agencies. The measure also included several riders having to do with policy issues that aren’t going to find a receptive audience when the Senate debates the bill in September. Differences between the two measures will have to be worked out in conference. At this point, it’s hard to predict whether a separate Interior appropriations bill will be signed into law or whether it will be folded into an omnibus bill encompassing several federal agencies.
Thank you and Farewell
This is the last newsletter I will send you as Executive Director of ARRA. Much has happened during my 19 years with ARRA. Motorized recreation on public lands has reached a new level of support on the part of federal policymakers both in the Executive Branch and in Congress along with the recognition that this activity contributes to both the personal health of OHV enthusiasts and to the economic vitality of our country.
Before I close, I want to thank a couple of individuals and the organizations for their longtime support of ARRA. Namely, Tim Buche and Kathy Van Kleeck, both of whom served as key executives for the Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. Tim as CEO of these organizations and Kathy as the former head of the associations’ Washington office. Not enough recognition is given to these trade organizations for all they do for motorized recreation. So, a sincere thank you for their support of ARRA for so many years.
And finally, to all of you as ARRA members, thank you for being a part of this journey with me. ARRA is you. It’s not about me. You are the ones who have consistently made the difference by contacting your elected representatives on critical OHV issues and in attending countless forums before the various land agencies for so many years (the RTP study and Oceano Dunes are the latest examples). Your collective efforts have made a positive difference for motorized recreation.
ARRA is about to enter a new chapter and I hope you will continue to be a part of this effort. It’s mission to improve access to our public lands for motorized recreation remains of critical importance. In the months to come, you will be learning more about ARRA’s future; an exciting one at that, so please be a part it.
Larry E. Smith