Recreational Trails Program (RTP)
MIC, SVIA, ROHVA, and other members of the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) have been working diligently with Senate and House staff to ensure continued funding of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and to hopefully increase the amount supporting recreational trails. To that end, we are active on three fronts:
- Reauthorization of the RTP bill in the 2020 Transportation Reauthorization Bill
- Continued funding for the RTP program
- Getting our fair share of recreation gas tax money back for the RTP
The coalition has been meeting with members of the House and Senate transportation committees to ensure RTP is included in bills that are introduced. Thus far, there has only been one transportation reauthorization bill introduced in Congress, which is S. 2302 sponsored by Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and Carper (D-DE). We were able to include RTP language in that bill, which passed out of the Senate Energy & Public Works (EPW) committee in early August. Additional bills are likely be introduced in the House and Senate.
Many years ago the government estimated that off-highway recreational users pay $270 million per year in gas taxes. With the increased interest in side-by-sides, we are confident the $270 million estimate is far below what we truly pay today. In an effort to secure a more accurate estimate, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Risch (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced S. 1527 – the RTP Funding Transparency Act which would require the Department of Transportation to provide a new updated estimate of gas taxes paid by off-road users. That new estimate would then inform the authorizing and appropriating committees as to what level to fund the RTP. Currently, the RTP is only funded at $84 million per year, and we would like to increase that number.
These efforts received a boost in September when Senator Shaheen included report language in the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill S. 2520. The report language reads as follows:
In an effort to better inform the Federal-aid highway formula funding levels for the Recreational Trails Program, the Committee directs FHWA to determine the best available estimate of the total amount of non-highway recreational fuel taxes received by the Secretary of the Treasury and transferred to the Highway Trust Fund during the previous three fiscal years, as well as evaluate whether the current Recreational Trails program funding level reflects the amount of non-highway recreational fuel taxes collected and transferred to the Highway Trust Fund. FHWA shall report on its finding to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 1 year of the date of enactment of this act. For this purpose, “non-highway recreational fuel taxes” means taxes under sections 4041 and 4081 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 with respect to fuel used in vehicles on recreational trails or back country terrain.
We will continue to provide updates as these critical pieces of legislation move along.
Robert Adler named Acting Chairman of the CPSC
On Oct. 1st, Robert (Bob) Adler became the Acting Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Adler was appointed by a majority vote of the CPSC Commissioners to assume the role of Acting Chairman. This change was precipitated former Chair Ann Marie Burkle’s term expired at the end of September. Burkle had been serving as the commission’s acting chairwoman since February 2017, and decided to withdraw her pending nomination. She planned to step down as acting chairwoman on Sept. 30th and depart the agency on Oct. 27th.
Robert Adler’s term runs through Oct. 2021 and has served as a CPSC Commissioner since August 18, 2009. He was re-nominated by President Barack Obama on May 14, 2014 and confirmed by the Senate on Dec. 2, 2014. He previously served as Acting Chairman from Dec. 4, 2013 through July 29, 2014.
The CPSC is comprised of a maximum of five commissioners who are appointed by the President, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve seven-year terms.
Appropriators Assert Authority over Proposed BLM Move
On July 16th in a letter to Congress the Department of Interior announced a proposal to relocate the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s headquarters to Colorado and stated it had $5.6 million on hand to begin the transition in fiscal 2019. The letter was met with significant opposition by some in Congress who vowed to oppose the relocation.
Despite philosophical differences between the Trump Administration and Congress, the Department of Interior has taken the initial steps in relocating BLM’s headquarters and staff to Colorado. In response, the Senate Appropriations Committee asserted their authority by refusing to provide money to fund the relocation of BLM’s headquarters in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill (S. 2580).
At the Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up for S. 2580, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) noted that he was “pleased there is no new funding requested by the administration for the Interior Department reorganization, including no additional resources to implement the ill-advised relocation of the (BLM)”. Although, Sen. Udall did not say the legislation outright forbids the BLM move.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said “the move of the headquarters to the West would both sap BLM of its influence and make it easier for commodity groups to operate on the public lands.”
Rep. Grijalva went a step further and informed the press he may subpoena Interior Department documents justifying the move. On September 10th, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced H.R. 4268 which would require the BLM headquarters to remain in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
Fiscal year (FY) 2020 began on October 1st without the House and Senate agreeing upon a new FY 2020 spending bill. Absent a new spending bill the issue remains up in the air with the Administration continuing its push for relocation through the Interior Department’s continued operation under FY 2019 spending allocations. A statement was issued by the Interior Department stating the transfer is proceeding and the department has enough money on hand to carry out the move, without additional FY 2020 money.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who has promoted the BLM move for several years, welcomed the announcement that a lease had been signed in Grand Junction, CO. He stated that “from the very beginning, moving the BLM’s headquarters West has always been about strengthening the BLM’s relationship with local officials, moving the decision makers closer to the lands they oversee and the people they serve, and making better land management decisions.”
House and Senate members continue working towards ironing out the differences on the 12 FY 2020 government funding bills. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) on Sept. 19 to keep the government operating until Nov. 21st and there is already discussion about passing another CR that will keep the government operating into December at the FY 2019 levels. Stay tuned……
BEA Releases Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation
Last month the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the first-ever state-by-state data analyzing the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry on each state. According to the report, nationally the U.S. outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP), had a $778 billion economic impact, and accounted for 5.2 million jobs in 2017. They also provided individual state data which can be found here; https://apps.bea.gov/regional/orsa/stateMap.cfm.
Measured by economic output, the five largest conventional outdoor recreation activities are: boating/fishing, RVing, motorcycling/ATV/ROVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, and equestrian. Additionally, the outdoor recreation’s share of GDP is larger than mining, utilities, chemical products manufacturing, broadcast, and telecommunications.
The State Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) statistics isolate the economic activity associated with outdoor recreation spending and production in a state’s economy. For the first time, ORSA includes information on the contribution of outdoor recreation activities to GDP. These data, referred to as value added by activity statistics, are available at both the national and state level.
We find the data to be extremely valuable and useful when we reach out to members of Congress to convey the strong economic impact our industry provides at the state and national level. For an in-depth view of the statistics on outdoor recreation for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, click on the following link: www.bea.gov/data/special-topics/outdoor-recreation.
The BEA is asking everyone to review the data and provide feedback to them if they see information they think may be incorrect or over/under reported.
New Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Nominee
On Sept. 30th, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Katharine MacGregor to be the Department of the Interior’s new Deputy Secretary. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt welcomed the announcement.
“Kate is a tremendous leader who has helped shape and strengthen the Department as we continue to execute our initiatives as outlined by President Trump,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “I look forward to her prompt confirmation, so she can continue her service to the American people.” MacGregor is currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff.
She has served in several positions at the Department since joining the Trump Administration in January 2017, including Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Land and Minerals Management. MacGregor has worked on issues that include improving responsible domestic energy and mineral development, combating missing and murdered American Indians and Alaskan Natives, enhancing rural broadband, and executing on other Administration priorities.
Senate to Hold Hearings on Outdoor Recreation Bills
On Sept. 19th, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 3458, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (RNR Act) and H.R. 3879, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR). The panel included members from the outdoor community and representatives from Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On Oct. 31st, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a similar hearing on Outdoor Recreation Bills, S. 1967, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR Act) and S. 1665, Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act). Given the limited days on the legislative calendar in the first session of the 116th Congress, this is great news for the outdoor community as this hearing builds on the momentum established in the House.
The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) has submitted a letter of support to Senators, Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV), committing to working with staff for swift passage out the committee.
USFS Maintenance Backlog
H.R. 1225, Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act has picked up momentum as was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on June 26th. It is currently awaiting floor activity in the House. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bishop (R-UT) states that, funds could not exceed $1.3 billion for any fiscal year and would be equal to 50% of all energy development revenues due and payable to the United States from oil, gas, coal, alternative or renewable energy development on Federal land.
ROVHA and SVIA have conveyed to Rep. Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and Ranking Member Conaway that while the National Park Service holds the largest share of the approximately $20 billion maintenance backlog on the nation’s federally managed lands and waters, the USFS holds the next largest share at approximately $5.2 billion.
Additionally, 84 million people annually enjoy the 158,600 miles of trails managed by the USFS, which generate $9 billion in annual visitor spending and support 143,000 jobs. Congress needs to act on addressing the deferred maintenance needs of the USFS because further delays will ultimately be more expensive and result in unsafe conditions for forest users.
Department of Interior Annual Designation Program
The department of the Interior is currently taking nominations for the National Recreation Trails (NRT) designation. There are two procedures for applying for the NRT designation, depending on whether the trail is on land administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or any other land. The application process is for trails on state, local, or private land, or, on federal land (outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture). If the trail is on National Forest, National Grassland, or other land managed by the Department of Agriculture, see the USDA application process. Allowable uses under the NRT designation include; off-road recreation vehicles such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATV’s and four-wheel drive vehicles.
To determine if your trail is a good candidate for the NRT, visit the NRT Program to obtain information on criteria designation, basic trail information in the application process and deadlines. Applications to the Department of the Interior must be submitted by Nov. 1.
USFS Proposes Exemption of Tongass National Forest from Roadless Rule
The United States Forest Service (USFS) is seeking public comment on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement offering alternatives to roadless management and a proposed Alaska Roadless Rule. If adopted, the proposed rule would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The Secretary of Agriculture is expected to make a final decision by June 2020.
We recently sent out an alert to ARRA registrants in Alaska so they can submit comments on the proposed rule as comments are due Dec. 16, 2019.