The Senate is expected to take up S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), when it resumes work in June. This landmark legislation would address the $20 billion maintenance backlog on America’s public lands and waters, as well as fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“We are very thankful to Senators Cory Gardner, Steve Daines, Michael Bennet, Joe Manchin and others for their efforts to get the Great American Outdoors Act passed,” said Erik Pritchard, president and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. “Having access to outdoor recreation, including riding trails for dirt bikes, ATVs, and side-by-sides, is immensely beneficial for the physical and mental well-being of Americans — especially in these times. As public lands reopen, we need to have responsible planning and adequate infrastructure, which the GAOA would address, so visitors can enjoy the outdoors safely.”
Of interest to the off-highway vehicle community, the GAOA addresses the $20 billion maintenance backlog facing our public lands and waters. It will provide infrastructure for the recreational community, improving public lands for all who enjoy outdoor recreation including, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and of course motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side, and snowmobile enthusiasts across the country. After experiencing an unprecedented surge in visitor demand on the federal lands over the past decade, significant wear and tear combined with underfunding have resulted in continuously deteriorating infrastructure. These recreation assets, in parks, forests, wildlife refuges and more, could face considerably more stress as even more Americans recognize the many benefits of time spent outside. This funding will ensure that adequate infrastructure for all types of recreation on our public lands and waters can support rural communities and economies.
ARRA continues to take an active role on this landmark legislation and has reached out to the House and Senate leadership urging swift passage. Perhaps now, more than ever, America needs these recreational assets to rebuild the outdoor recreation economy, which accounts for 2.2% of our GDP.
On Wednesday, May 13, California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) held a public meeting to present and receive comments on the Oceano Dunes Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Draft and associated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which provides the basis for the issuance of a 25 year permit by the US Fish & Wildlife Service in compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act.
This Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) focuses on Pismo State Beach and the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), administered by the CA Department of Parks and Recreation that has responsibility for management and operation of these units.
The purpose of this HCP is to describe the measures the District will undertake to avoid, minimize, and mitigate specified visitor and park operations-related impacts to several listed species. Avoidance and minimization of listed species will continue to be the primary objective. Consistent with CDPR’s and the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division’s missions, this HCP is designed to accommodate recreational use within the covered parks while protecting and benefiting numerous populations of threatened and endangered species occurring within those parks. Under the current plan results relative to the 4 listed animal species have been positive demonstrating that recreation activities can co-exist while preserving the natural environment. Public comments on the HCP Draft EIR were due on June 1, 2020. This is just a step in the process as they are operating under a permit now and they are working on acquiring the next permit.
Ronnie Glick, Senior Environmental Scientist, CPDR provided an overview of the HCP and conclusions of the Draft EIR. You can access the detailed presentation here.
As states begin to reopen, they are increasing recreational access to roads, trails, picnic areas, restrooms, and wilderness. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to work with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and use a phased approach to increase access on a case-by-case basis. The following recreational areas were reopened in May:
On May 15, the House of Representatives passed HR 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, but the bill could be DOA as it reaches the Senate. The $3 trillion stimulus bill, the biggest thus far, provides nearly $1 trillion in federal aid to state and local governments to cover their coronavirus-related costs and families would receive another round of direct payments. The package includes provisions that would amend the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program by expanding unemployment assistance and increasing emergency grants to small businesses trying to weather the COVID-19 pandemic that has decimated the economy.
Despite the pressure facing Senate Republicans to consider another expansive stimulus package, several Senate Republicans voiced concerns that some provisions do not belong in the stimulus package. The Senate is likely to ignore the House proposal and instead, continuing to focus on confirming Trump administration nominees. The Senate may consider legislation in June to provide businesses protection from virus-related lawsuits, and that bill could be combined with some limited economic aid.
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