(photo: CA Parks)
Coastal Commission Votes to End OHV Access at Oceano Dunes
Despite an ARRA letter campaign, which generated more than 4,300 letters, the Coastal Commission voted unanimously at the March 18 meeting to end OHV activity at ODSVRA within three years. The original staff recommendation was to close ODSVRA to OHVs within five years, but on a 6-4 vote, the Commission voted to reduce that to three years. They also voted to prohibit nighttime vehicular activity on the beach (except for campers) and to extend the Pier Avenue closure from July 1, 2021, until July 1, 2022.
Subsequently, ARRA has received inquiries from members and non-members as to what our next steps are. On the March 30 ARRA call, members agreed to have ARRA convene and facilitate a call with OHV stakeholders regarding Oceano Dunes in response to the Coastal Commission’s vote to end OHV activity at ODSVRA within three years. The call’s purpose will be a listening session where our members can listen to what the other OHV interests have planned (or the direction they intend to take) in response to the Commission’s vote. The various stakeholders could then decide, at a later time, what their level of activity will be. The call is scheduled to take place in early April.
Bipartisan Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Legislation Reintroduced in the House
On March 11, Reps. Peter Welch (D-At Large VT) and John Curtis (R-3rd UT) introduced H.R. 1864, The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2021. Currently, the RTP’s funding is held at $84 million nationally. However, a nearly decade-old government estimate of off-highway recreational gas taxes paid suggests that users pay more than $270 million annually in gas taxes. If passed, the bill will more than double RTP funding to at least $250 million.
For more than a quarter-century, the RTP has provided funding for recreational trail development and maintenance across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 30,000 projects across the nation since its inception. Congress first authorized the RTP in the 1991 transportation reauthorization Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, known more commonly as ISTEA. Since then, the RTP has been reauthorized in several highway bills and was most recently reauthorized under the FAST Act. The RTP is based on the “user-pay, user-benefit” model of the Highway Trust Fund and is funded through taxes paid on gasoline used to fuel motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides, snowmobiles, and other recreational vehicles.
Under the RTP, funding is sent to the states to administer their programs and recommend which applications should be approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The RTP formula requires that 30% of the state’s money go to motorized trails, 30% to non-motorized trails, and the remaining 40% be used for mixed-use projects (such as a trail used for bicycling in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter or a trailhead parking lot that serves as a base for hiking trails as well as horseback or OHV trails). RTP funds are vital because they can be used for trail maintenance.
The RTP is critical for the continued development and maintenance of trails across the country for all recreational interests. We urge you to take action via the ARRA website to write your member of Congress and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 1864. You can also send a thank you letter to your Representative if they have cosponsored the bill.
The BLM Seeks Public Comment On Hungry Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Sierra Front Field Office (SFFO) has prepared the Hungry Valley Off-highway Vehicle Area Public Health and Safety Improvements, Preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of authorizing improvements that address immediate public health and safety issues on BLM-administered land (public land) in the north Hungry Valley area also known as Moon Rocks. The BLM is requesting public comments, including comment and input on this Project under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and information identifying historic properties in or near the project area.
The BLM SFFO is proposing improvements on approximately 19,050 acres of public land. Improvements would include: public outreach including kiosks and additional signage; barriers for resource protection to limit uncontrolled, user created expansion of camping areas and OHV routes; upgrade roads and provide for route maintenance with traffic control barriers, establish control access points; develop supplemental rules to target specific public health and safety and resource concerns; define camp areas and install restrooms; provide dumpsters for waste disposal; and establish speed limits and install signs.
Public comments can be submitted to the BLM Carson City District, Sierra Front Field Office, Attn: Gerrit Buma, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City, NV 89701, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Moon Rocks Public Health and Safety Improvements” in the subject line. Comments are due on April 8, 2021.
Senate Confirms Biden Nominees
In March, the Senate confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) as the new Secretary of the Interior and, in the process, made history by becoming the first indigenous person to serve as a Cabinet secretary. Former Rep. Haaland, a first-term congresswoman, recently served as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. She also served on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.
Also confirmed in March, Katherine Tai will serve as the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Ambassador Tai worked in the office of the USTR from 2007 to 2014 and spent several years as the Chief Counsel for China Trade Enforcement. She also worked on trade issues with the House Ways and Means Committee where she was named Chief Counsel in 2017.