Archives

December 2018

Jones Valley, Little Truckee Summit, CA

Snowmobiler, Jones Valley, Little Truckee Summit, California. Submitted by ARRA member.

So much has happened since our last newsletter. The death of former President George H. W. Bush provides us with a reminder of a passing era. It is good to see that the media and historians are finally recognizing the significant contributions he made to this country throughout his public career but especially during his time in the White House. Also, the results of the November mid-term elections are in and the make-up of the 116th Congress when it convenes in January is going to be very different from the one that is about to close shop for good. We will have more on the implications of the new Congress and what it will mean for outdoor recreation in our January newsletter.

Another major event, and a very sad one indeed, were the horrible wildfires in California. The wildfire known as the Camp Fire virtually wiped out the town of Paradise. More than 88 deaths known to date and over 18,000 structures destroyed all in the matter of hours. And the death toll will likely rise as first responders continue to search block after block of burned out homes and commercial buildings.

The National Interagency Fire Center says that 2018 has been one of the severest fire seasons on record. More than 52,000 fires have burned destroying more that 8.3 million acres. This compares with the 10-year average of 60,000 fires with 6.3 million acres burned.

Lame Duck Session

Well, the Lame Duck session is in full swing with the projected adjournment date around December 14th. A lot of unfinished business remains including completion of the FY19 appropriations. The current continuing resolution expires on December 7th. Even though almost 75% of the federal government has full funding for the current fiscal year, there are some agencies operating with only partial funding. A major sticking point in completing the appropriations process appears to be the disagreement over the funding level for the border wall between the U. S. and Mexico. President Trump is arguing for more money and the Congress seems to be in favor of less. Unless there is a resolution, there could be a partial government shutdown, and the Department of the Interior would be one of those agencies affected.

In just over the last couple of days, there have been discussions about passing another short-term continuing resolution in order to provide more time to work out these differences. The short-term extension could be for a couple of weeks or possibly could extend into January 2019. We should have more clarity on this extension by the end of this week.


Pine Nut Mountains Recreation Area, NV

ATV rider, Pine Nut Mountains Recreation Area, Nevada. Submitted by ARRA member.

Omnibus Public Lands Bill

In our last newsletter, we listed several bills that we hoped would be included in an omnibus public lands package that might be brought up on the Senate and House floors during the Lame Duck session. As we prepare this newsletter, we simple don’t know whether this will happen. The holdup is getting the appropriations process completed. It is also uncertain whether there is enough Senate floor time available to consider the omnibus bill during the remaining days of the session. The House rules are such that an omnibus package could be considered in an expeditious fashion, but the Senate, as is usually the case, is the potential stumbling block to passage.

There is one piece of legislation that gives us serious concern and that is the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, (S. 2809/H.R. 5727). To put it bluntly, this legislation is not kind to OHV recreation. We have worked closely with the OHV community in Utah as they have tried to seek improvements in the legislation. The sponsors have been either been unwilling or unable to address these concerns. Just this week, more than 30 OHV organizations in Utah wrote to Rep. Rob Bishop, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to request that he not include the Emery County legislation in any omnibus public lands package that might be proposed. ARRA has now joined with 10 other national OHV organizations in supporting the position of the Utah organizations. The national organizations have sent a similar letter to the Chairman asking that the Emery County legislation not be included in the omnibus package. Click here if you would like to read that letter (in PDF).

It’s too early to know whether this effort to stop this legislation from advancing will be successful. But there are times when it is necessary to say, enough is enough, and as it relates to the Emery County legislation, this is one of those times. We will give you an update on the status in the January newsletter.

Changes in the President’s Cabinet

There has been a lot of speculation about possible changes in the composition of the President’s Cabinet. One possible change might include the Secretary for the Department of the Interior. We have no idea whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might be leaving his post, but the mere rumor does serve as a distraction for the Department’s top management.

What we do know is that Secretary Zinke has been very supportive of outdoor recreation since taking office. He has elevated the importance of recreating on the public lands more so than any of his recent predecessors. Going forward this focus must continue. We hope he will continue to lead the agency, but if not, his successor must keep outdoor recreation as a top priority.

2019

Right after the first of the year, ARRA will be launching a new website. We are very excited about the new design. We hope and believe it will be easier to navigate so it will become an even better resource for you to track public lands issues both in your state and across the nation. We anticipate going “live” shortly after the New Year, so please be on the lookout for our new look.

Finally, all of us at ARRA hope this holiday season will be a meaningful time for you and your family. Despite the rush of the season, we hope you will be able to carve out a little time to be outdoors with those closest to you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019!!!

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

November 2018

Fort Sage OHV Area, CA

Riders on a bridge, South Fork Salmon River, Idaho. Submitted by ARRA member.

Midterm Elections

Fulfilling our civic duty by going to the polls is an important responsibility of our American citizenship.  Election Day is this coming Tuesday, November 6th.  Do your part by voting.  And if you have small children, take them to the voting booth with you.  Show them what it means to vote!  They are never too young for this civics lesson.

Public Lands Legislation

Before the Senate left Washington so that Senators up for re-election could hit the campaign trail, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a business meeting and approved more than 40 bills having to do with federal public lands.  All of this is a prelude to an effort to pull together an omnibus public lands package that would be brought up for consideration in the House and the Senate during the lame-duck session.

Among the various bills reported out of the committee, three bills were of particular interest to us:

  1. S.32, the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2017. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2016 committed to the OHV community that she would introduce legislation that would create a congressional designated OHV recreation area in the California Desert. In addition to protecting five off-highway recreation areas totaling 142,000 acres, her legislation also designates wilderness areas, releases some specific wilderness study areas, and creates some renewable energy production areas in the California desert. Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) introduced companion legislation in the House, H. R. 857, and that measure has already passed the House. We are very pleased that this measure has made it out of committee and we are working towards its passage when the omnibus public lands package is offered sometime in the November/December timeframe.

Spangler Hills OHV Area, CA

Tom Jumping, Spangler Hills OHV Area, California, one of the five OHV riding areas covered by S. 32. Photo credit: Thomas Hart
  1. S.3172, Restore Our Parks Act. Introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), this measure would utilize a portion of revenue from energy production on federal lands and waterways towards paying for the huge maintenance backlog for the National Park Service. We believe this legislation has merit though we wished it also addressed the maintenance backlog for the other federal land agencies.  The House of Representatives has already passed similar legislation (H. R. 6510) but that legislation not only covers the National Park Service but also the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  We hope that when these two bills are reconciled in conference, the comprehensive approach taken by the House passed bill will prevail.
  2. S.2809, the Emery County (Utah) Public Lands Management Act. This legislation, introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), was reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with even more restrictive OHV language than was contained in the House version of the bill. (We reported on the House companion bill, H. R. 5727 in our October newsletter.)  We have major concerns about this legislation.

In a nutshell, the legislation places severe restrictions on any new roads/trails within the San Rafael Swell Recreation Area.  Under the terms of the Senate bill, the Bureau of Land Management would be further restricted from building “permanent and temporary” roads.  We feel this ties the hands of the federal land managers.

ARRA, along with the other national OHV organizations, is actively working this issue on Capitol Hill in conjunction with local OHV organizations in Utah.  This is a difficult problem and the time pressures in resolving the problematic issues is intense given the fact that Senator Hatch is very anxious to get his bill enacted into law during the lame-duck session.  Senator Hatch is retiring at the end of this session so from his perspective, it’s now or never in terms of this legislation.

Local OHV organizations in Utah are waging a strong grassroots campaign to get their issues heard and resolved by the Utah congressional delegation.  ARRA will continue to be supportive of their efforts.

Executive Appointments

October 11th was an important day for Vicki Christiansen, the Interim Chief of the U. S. Forest Service because on that day she was sworn in as the new Chief of the agency.  Christiansen has been serving as the Interim Chief since March of this year.  She has been with the Forest Service since 2010 and prior to that she served as the Arizona State Forester and Director of the Arizona Division of Forestry.

The National Park Service seems to be on the verge of finally getting a new Director.  Raymond David Vela’s nomination as Director will receive a Senate hearing on November 15th.  Vela is a 28-year veteran with the Park Service.  Prior to his nomination, he served as Director of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  If his nomination is reported out of the committee, we are assuming that will be the case, we anticipate that Mr. Vela’s nomination will be confirmed by the full Senate sometime during the lame-duck session.  If for some reason that were not to occur, the President would need to resubmit Mr. Vela’s nomination to the Senate after the 116th Congress convenes in January, 2019.

Lame-Duck Session

In just a few more days, we will all know the results of the 2018 midterm elections.  After the dust settles, members of the House and the Senate will return to Washington to complete unfinished business.  For those members defeated at the polls, it will be a bittersweet moment since they will be limping back to the Nation’s Capital after having been clobbered in the elections; hence the reference to lame-duck.

Historically, we have found lame-duck sessions generally non-productive.  If there is a shift in majority control of either the House or the Senate, the leadership of the incoming majority will want to defer as much as possible any action on major legislation until they take the reins of leadership.  And for the defeated members, their heart just isn’t in it.  They are more interested in packing up their belongings and focusing on the next chapter of their lives.

Having said that, there are a number of appropriations measures requiring final action since the existing continuing resolution expires on December 7th.  As we mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the Department of the Interior is one of those federal agencies still awaiting final appropriations for FY 2019.  And, there are all those public lands bills we have been talking about.  Staffers from the Senate/House Natural Resources Committees are already having informal conversations about the makeup of an omnibus public lands measure.  So, some things need to be done, but we are keeping our expectations low.  More on all of this in the December newsletter.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

October 2018

Fort Sage OHV Area, CA

ATV rider, Fort Sage OHV Area, California. Submitted by ARRA member.

Fiscal Year 2019

Happy Fiscal Year 2019. The big ball at Times Square did not descend to celebrate the October 1st event but believe it or not, for the first time in a very long time, the Congress is getting closer to passing all the appropriations measures. So far 9 of the 12 required funding measures are now law. For those not making it across the finish line, a short-term continuing resolution was passed to keep those agencies operating until the final work is completed. Better news yet, the President and the Congress agreed not to have a government shutdown like we have seen in past years.

Among those agencies covered by the continuing resolution is the Department of the Interior.  The House finalized its action on Interior Appropriations, H.R. 6147, on July 19th.  The Senate took similar action on August 1st. The House/Senate conference committee, whose job was to work out the differences between the two bills, met on September 13th.  So far, the conference committee hasn’t completed its work, though Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby sounded a note of optimism when he said, “we are very close to locking this package down.” Funding for the Interior Department was included in the continuing resolution that is set to expire on December 7th.  We anticipate that permanent funding will be resolved by that date.

Jeanette Train, ID

Clearing trees, Jeanette Trail, Idaho. Submitted by ARRA member.

Wildfires

I was traveling back from the State of Washington a few days ago, and the flight attendant announced that for those of us on the right side of the plane, if we looked out our windows we would see a wildfire burning out of control. Sure enough, we saw the burning edge of the fire with smoke bellowing upward for miles and miles. It looked as though there was only dry scrub in its path, but the fire was intense and fast moving. We flew for another 10 minutes or so before we finally got away the drifting smokescreen. It’s clear this wildfire season is not behind us.

So far this year more than 7.5 million acres have burned. Last year’s total was over 10 million acres.  Total firefighting costs for 2017 measured more than $2.9 billion. Cost figures for 2018 have yet to be released, but we are preparing ourselves for sticker shock.

The current reauthorization of farm programs, H.R. 2, has a provision in it that deals with wildfires in that it would categorically exempt from environmental review forest projects of up to 6,000 acres.  The idea is to expedite the harvesting of timber in national forests with insect infestation as an attempt to reduce hazardous fuel loads. When Congress passed legislation last year to provide a source of funding to fight wildfires, Public Law 115-141, a provision was included that exempted up to 3,000 acres from environmental review. H. R. 2 doubles that amount.  The Senate version of the farm bill does not include this provision so this is an issue that needs to be resolved in conference. The conference committee has met but has not completed its task due to a disagreement over an issue unrelated to the wildfire language.

Congressional Schedule

The House left Washington on September 28th with no expectation that it will return before November 13th. After all, it’s election season. The Senate will remain in session for another four weeks before making its own exit around the 29th of October.

Short Legislative Updates

Before leaving Washington, the House Natural Resources Committee took some significant steps in moving a series of public lands bill through the committee. Here are several that are of interest to ARRA.

  1. HR. 6510 would direct revenue generated from energy production on federal lands and waters to go towards funding the maintenance backlog for the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. With a combined backlog in excess of $16 billion, this new source of funding could be a game changer. There is companion legislation in the Senate, S. 3172, but it only covers the National Park Service. Left out of the equation altogether is the U. S. Forest Service. Nonetheless, these legislative efforts are of critical importance to federal lands and we think in due course all the federal lands agencies will begin to see some financial relief for tackling the huge maintenance backlog.
  2. HR. 502 would permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund with an authorized funding level set at $900 million. Appropriations would still be required, but the periodic reauthorization fight that has often paralyzed the fund will no longer have to be fought. Instead, efforts can be directed towards getting annual appropriations. H. R. 502 includes another provision that is a very good idea. It requires that no less than 1.5% of the annual authorized funding amount, or $10 million, whichever is greater, be used specifically for projects that secure recreational public access to existing federal public lands for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes. We like this idea.
  3. HR. 5727 is legislation that covers federal public lands in Emery County, Utah. ARRA has been working closely with other OHV organizations because this legislation would seriously affect OHV recreation in that county. A significant change was made during the committee mark-up when language was approved that specifically includes “motorized and non-motorized travel” in the purposes section of the bill. This was a significant change to the benefit of OHV recreation. There is one provision remaining that gives us serious concern.  This is language that would prohibit the building of any new roads after the date of enactment. We continue to work on this issue because we don’t want the hands of land managers tied up in perpetuity from adjusting the road network (trails) on an as needed basis.

All of this legislation still has to go to the House floor and then onto the Senate for legislative action. So for any of these items to become law, they must be a part of the legislative agenda for the Lame Duck session that will convene on November 13th.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

September 2018

Rio Grand County, Colorado

Riders at the Colorado 600, Rio Grande County, CO. Submitted by ARRA member

John McCain (1937-2018)

It is appropriate to pause for a moment and write a few things about John McCain.  His death just a few days ago made many of us who knew him think about who he was and what he meant to this country.

It’s not an overstatement to say there was no one else quite like him in the Congress. He wasn’t afraid to take unpopular stands if he felt he was doing the right thing for the country.  He seemed to enjoy playing the role of maverick but he wasn’t playing a role, he was for real.  He could be cantankerous.  He had a very short fuse and many friends and opponents were, at times, on the receiving end of his mini explosions.  He also had a wicked sense of humor.

He loved his country dearly.  Service above self could always be said of him.  He was big enough to say he wasn’t perfect, that he made mistakes.  He was a true war hero who suffered much as a prisoner of war.  He was a strong supporter of our national defense though he wasn’t afraid to take on the Pentagon when he felt it was wasting tax dollars.  He cared deeply for our nation’s Veterans.  He forged bi-partisan solutions to problems despite some criticism by members of his own party.  He was a giant among his Senate peers.  The Senate is now a poorer place because of his absence.  And we are a better country for his service to our nation.

Bent Tree, Arizona

Rider, Bent Tree, AZ. Submitted by ARRA member

Capitol Hill

The Senate was in session in August with the exception of a brief recess in the middle of the month.  Confirmation of judicial and administrative nominations as well as the completion of a major appropriations measure for FY 2019 have consumed a lot of the Senate’s time.  In addition, committee hearings have been ongoing.  Of particular interest to us is the fact that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) held hearings on 32 public lands bills.  This activity is also a precursor to putting together an omnibus public lands bill.  We have a number of bills we are tracking and the omnibus legislative vehicle will be critical in moving these measures forward through the legislative process.  It is encouraging that the SENR is focusing on these measures.

The House is away from Washington on its annual August recess and will not return until September 4th.  Before leaving town it had already passed six separate appropriations measures for FY 2019, but the Senate has now surged ahead with the passage of nine appropriations measures.  September is going to be a busy month as the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work to conference many of these bills so they can be readied for the President’s signature.  As in the past, a continuing resolution will be required to provide temporary funding to those federal departments without permanent funding for FY 2019 when the new fiscal year begins on October 1st.

NOHVCC National Conference

In August I attended the 2018 National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council Conference, held this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Conservation is a key word in the NOHVCC name and the organization’s emphasis is on assisting others in building and designing sustainable OHV trails and fostering responsible practices by all OHV enthusiasts.  Present were OHV enthusiasts from around the country and Canada, personnel from the federal land agencies and the U. S. Department of Transportation as well as officials from Michigan State Department of Natural Resources and many other state land managers.

One could sense a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the conference participants and renewed activity on the part of NOHVCC’s state partners.  OHV recreation appears to be alive and well, and NOHVCC goes a long way towards making that possible.   If you would like to learn more about NOHVCC’s work, please go to www.nohvcc.org.

Fall Semester

With both houses of Congress back in session after Labor Day, it does seem like the start of the fall semester as we are accustomed to with school.  The schedule is going to be jam packed up until Election Day.  Many are wondering how many of those members up for re-election will receive a passing grade.  It will be the voters on November 6th who will be making that determination.

Given the legislative schedule ahead, we will be asking ARRA members to contact their Members of Congress to urge support for specific pieces of legislation.  Please be on the lookout for these special ARRA alerts.

Last week we distributed a new quiz on the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).  If you haven’t already taken it, why don’t you do it now and see how much you really know about this very important program for motorized recreation.  We are hoping you will get a passing grade. 

A Note of Gratitude

On August 31st, a dear friend of ours and a long-time supporter of ARRA, retired from her position at the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association.  Kathy Van Kleeck served as the Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and ran the Washington office of these trade associations.

Kathy has been the guiding spirit behind ARRA from day one.  She has been an invaluable counsellor and mentor to me.  She always set the highest standards for responsible recreation.  And while I am excited that she is about to embark on a well-deserved retirement with lots of international travel, I will personally miss her guidance and good humor.  We are very grateful for all she has done for ARRA over the years.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

Attend Open Houses to Review Kingman Travel Management Plan!

The Bureau of Land Management Kingman Field Office in AZ has published a press release to announce a series of open houses to review the KFO Travel Management Plan and related Environmental Assessment.

The TMP will dictate the management of the networks of routes for both motorized and non-motorized uses within the planning area. BLM states that the TMP planning area includes, “Bagdad, Black Mountains, Cerbat Mountains, Crozier, Goodwin Mesa, Hualapai Mountains, Music Mountains and Poachies. It will also include the White Hills Travel Management Areas and encompasses Kingman, Bullhead City, Golden Valley, Chloride, Wikieup, Bagdad, Meadview, Dolan Springs, White Hills, and Wayside in Mohave, Yavapai and La Paz counties.”

BLM will present maps of the proposed travel network and other alternatives at the open houses. BLM staff also will be available to answer questions and receive comments.

Dates and Locations

Aug. 21, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Hualapai Elementary School, 350 Eastern Street, Kingman, AZ 86401

Aug. 22, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Suddenlink Community Center, 2380 Suddenlink Way, Bullhead City, AZ 86429

Aug. 23, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Owens School, 14109 Chicken Springs Road, Wikieup, AZ 85360

Additional Info

Maps and Related Documents

BLM Press Release

Attend Public Meeting for the White River Field Office Travel Management Plan!

The Bureau of Land Management has issued a press release announcing the publication of its preliminary environmental assessment (EA) for travel management planning within the 1.5-million acre White River Field Office in northwestern Colorado for public review and comment.

The EA includes four alternatives designating which areas would be open to cross-country motorized and mechanized use, which would be limited to designated routes, and which would be closed to motorized and mechanized vehicles.

Public Meeting

The BLM will host a public open house meeting to provide information and take written comments on the preliminary EA on August 15th, from 5-7 p.m., at the Public Library, 490 Main St, Meeker, CO 81641.

Comments

Comments on the preliminary EA are due August 30th. Comments may be emailed to blm_co_wrfo_tmp@blm.gov or mailed to Heather Sauls, BLM White River Field Office, 220 East Market St., Meeker, CO 81641.

BLM Press Release

Preliminary EA

Attend BLM’s Boise District Resource Advisory Council Public Meeting!

The Boise District Resource Advisory Council (RAC) has published a notice that it will conduct a public meeting on September 13, 2018 from 8-4 p.m. at the BLM Boise District Office, 3948 Development Ave., Boise, ID 83705. The meeting will include a briefing on travel management planning in addition to various other topics affecting public lands in Idaho.

The 15-member RAC advises the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, on a variety of issues associated with public land management in Idaho. RAC meetings are open to the public. The public may present written comments to the RAC at the address provided above. Time for public comments will also be allotted at the meeting. Depending on the number of persons wishing to comment and time available, the time for individual oral comments may be limited.

For further information, please contact Michael Williamson at 208-384-3393 or mwilliamson@blm.gov.

 

Federal Register Notice

August 2018

Pike National Forest, Colorado

Colorado 500, Pike National Forest, Colorado. Submitted by ARRA member

Summer

It seems as though this summer is zooming by.  Parents we know are already making preparations to get their kids back to school.  There is still time to involve the family in some type of outdoor recreation and sometimes making the decision on what to do is the tough part.  Well, there is a new brochure that displays all of the public lands and waterways managed by seven federal agencies.  These links will take you to the brochure and to the map so you can find the perfect place to take your family for that last summer get together before school begins. Another useful website is www.recreation.gov.  Another useful website is www.recreation.gov.

Mendocino, California

OHV rider, Mendocino National Forest, California. Submitted by ARRA member

Maintenance Backlog

Speaking of public lands, the looming maintenance backlog for our federal lands agencies is obscene.  Just the backlog for the National Park Service stands at $12 billion!  There is plenty of blame to go around for this sorry state of disrepair; previous Administrations that didn’t budget enough funds to keep things in good repair and previous Congresses that didn’t step up to the plate and say that we needed to do better.  But the problem just doesn’t rest with the Park Service because the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service also suffer under the burden of deferred maintenance.  Now the financial tab is so huge, extraordinary efforts are needed to turn things around.

In an unusual display of a bi-partisanship, Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Resources Committee, and Raul Grijalva, the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, have joined together in offering legislation that would create the National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, H.R. 6510.  The new Fund would receive 50 percent of all revenue the federal government receives from energy production on both federal lands and waters.  But it isn’t all oil production.  Alternative and renewable energy production such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower would also be contributing.

Similar legislation (S. 3172) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Angus King (I-ME), among others.  The Senate bill only addresses the maintenance backlog for the National Park Service but uses the same funding mechanism as found in H.R. 6510.  We expect that in time, the Senate bill will be expanded to include the other federal agencies as specified in the Bishop/Grijalva legislation. Unfortunately, neither of these bills include funding for the maintenance backlog on U. S. Forest Service lands.

There are multiple hurdles that must be overcome before this legislation can become law, but we think it is a very good idea.  All types of recreation, including motorized recreation, will be beneficiaries of the Restoration Fund.  While we applaud Reps. Bishop and Grijalva and Senators Portman and King for addressing this problem head-on, ARRA continues to urge inclusion of the USFS in these bills.  We will soon be asking ARRA members to contact their Representatives and Senators to support these initiatives and ask that the Forest Service backlog be addressed as well.

Interior Appropriations for FY 2019

Before the House of Representatives left Washington for the August recess, it passed a series of measures including the FY 2019 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill, H.R. 6147. The very next week, the measure was up on the Senate floor.  The Senate decided to complicate things a bit by adding three other appropriations measures to the Interior bill including Financial Services, Transportation and Agriculture.  In other words, a “minibus” rather than doing an omnibus encompassing all federal agencies.

The Senate isn’t quite finished with the bill, but we are hoping the final action can take place in the next several days. The Senate plans to appropriate about $600 million more to the land agencies than the House, so a conference committee will be needed to iron out the differences between the two bills.  Also, the House added a number of policy riders to the measure such as sage grouse and wolf delisting from the Endangered Species Act classification, all of which will need to be a part of the conference committee’s agenda.

As a whole, the House and the Senate are behind in finalizing the 13 separate appropriations measures needed to fund the federal government beginning October 1, 2018.  In part this explains why the Senate decided to go forward with the minibus.  A government shutdown can be avoided but with the House out until after Labor Day, a continuing resolution for some areas of the government might be required.  If so, we are hoping that Interior Appropriations will be the exception and that our federal land agencies will receive full funding right at the beginning of the fiscal year.  At least it would be a major step forward in good management and fiscal responsibility, but it is up to the Congress to make it so.

BLM to Head West

As we reported in a previous newsletter, earlier this year Secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled big plans for the reorganization of the Department of the Interior.  Those plans called for changing the boundaries of federal regions and for relocating the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from Washington to a western city where its employees would be closer to the actual lands they manage.  The reconfiguration of the federal regions received immediate pushback from state governments and the Congress so the agency literally went back to the drawing board to redraw the boundaries of the regions.  Those revisions received a better reception.

At a July 19th hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Susan Combs, a senior advisor at the Department,  indicated that Secretary Zinke still intended to move forward in relocating BLM to somewhere in the west though she did not reveal the actual location.  She said that more news would be forthcoming later this year.  Denver, Colorado is being mentioned as a potential site for the move, but to all those BLM employees dreaming of the Rocky Mountains, a word of caution:  Denver’s traffic is worse that D.C.’s.

Secretary Zinke also proposed that the Forest Service be merged with BLM.  We were told just this week that Agriculture Secretary Perdue politely said that such a move would not have his support.  We believe this means that Forest Service employees need not worry about packing their bags.

Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee

On July 18th, the Department of the Interior held its first meeting of its newly formed “Made in America’ Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee.  Encompassing all forms of outdoor recreation, including motorized recreation, the committee explored ideas on how to make it possible for more Americans to enjoy the great outdoors.  A primary focus is how to harness the power of public-private partnerships to the benefit of those Americans wanting to explore our federal lands and waterways.

Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the formation of the committee back in March, 2018.  The Secretary has said that he thinks that it is important for the Interior Department to receive input from the private sector on creative ways to improve access and the experience of those recreating on federal lands and waterways. The next scheduled meeting of the Advisory Committee will be in November, 2018.  We are enthusiastic about the formation of the Committee and optimistic that some creative ideas for the benefit of the recreating public will come out of these consultations.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

July 2018

Sierra Nevada, California

Father and son on a Father’s Day ride, Sierra Nevada, California. Submitted by ARRA member

Summer

Well, it’s officially here.  One can tell that by the greater number of people participating in outdoor activities, the increased traffic at the entrances of our national parks and the number of tourists visiting all the historic sites in our Nation’s Capital.  The Department of the Interior has also gotten into the act of encouraging more outdoor recreation by the release of a very exciting video.  Have a look and enjoy.

California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, H. R. 857

We have written previously about H. R. 857, as introduced by Rep. Paul Cook, (R-CA). We view this legislation as extremely important for the motorized recreation community because Congress will be designating these federal lands in California specifically for OHV recreation.

The good news is that this measure has been approved by the full House and will now be referred to the Senate.  Senator Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S. 32, and we are hopeful that House passage of H. R. 857 will serve to give the Feinstein bill a much- needed boost forward.

Getting legislation through the Senate is always a challenge; the Senate rules make it so.  ARRA will continue its work in the Senate on H.R. 857/S. 32.  Many of you have already reached out to your Senators urging support for S. 32 and for that, we thank you.  We will keep you apprised of further action as it occurs.

Tungsten Hills, California

4×4 ride, Tungsten Hills, California. Submitted by ARRA member

ARRA Federal Legislative Page

Keeping abreast on federal legislation can be pain, at times.  ARRA has updated its Federal Legislative page in hopes that we can make that process a little easier for you.  To check out this update on the ARRA website, please go to this link.

Forest Fires

We have been keeping an eye on this year’s wildfire season because recreational trails are always threatened by the devastation caused by these fires.   According to the National Interagency Fire Center, total acres burned to date in 2018 stands at 2,247,000 acres.  And as we prepare this newsletter, more than 450,000 acres are active fires.  We are hoping that this wildfire season is a short one, though given what has happened to date, this might not be the case.  The good news is that the Congress has finally solved the wildfire funding dilemma and for that, we are very grateful.

White House

4th of July fireworks at the White House. Photo by Matthew Straubmuller

Family Times

In this month’s newsletter, we have featured two photos sent to us by ARRA members.  One is a photo of a father and son who were out riding on Father’s Day.  The father’s note was that this was the best gift ever.  One can’t help but think this was so given the expression on their faces.  The other dynamic photo was taken by a couple riding in the Tungsten Hills area in California.

Summer is the best time for families to reconnect personally and there is no better way to do this than being outdoors.  These photos are a testament to how motorized recreation can facilitate those times together.  We hope in the next couple of months you will spend some family time in the great outdoors.  If you have photos to share, you can do so by going to this link.

The little town where I spend time has a 4th of July celebration that is true Americana.  Main Street is blocked off and all types of games are played including pie eating contests for the kids.  Right at noon when the town clock begins to strike, a massive water fight erupts between the town Fire Department and a pickup fire department made up of volunteer firefighters using antique fire equipment.  The professional firefighters always win because their engines pack more fire power, but that’s not the point.  The thousands of town folks gathered on Main Street all get soaking wet as collateral damage from the water fight.  It’s a wonderful time for families of all ages, including a lot of dogs brought along for the day.

I hope your 4th is as much fun as ours as we all gather to celebrate the birth of our country.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Sincerely,

 

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

Attend Public Meetings for the Crooked Creek/Musselshell Breaks Travel Management Plan

BLM has published a press release announcing two public meetings to discuss the Crooked Creek/Musselshell Breaks Travel Management Plan. The Plan will comprehensively manage both motorize and non-motorized routes on public lands in central Montana that are managed by the BLM Lewistown Field Office.

Dates and Locations
July 10th, 5-7 p.m.
Yogo Inn, 211 NE Main St., Lewistown, MT

July 11th, 5-7 p.m.
Petroleum County Courthouse, 201 E. Main St., Winnett, MT

Maps of the current and potential travel network will be available for review at the meetings and BLM staff will be available to answer questions.

Comments

The 30-day scoping comment period is July 10th-Aug. 9th. BLM states that comments are most helpful if they provide specific actions, resources or issues to be considered and analyzed. Submit comments to: blm_mt_lfo_travel@blm.gov or 920 NE Main St., Lewistown, MT 59457.

Additional Info
BLM Press Release