National Monument Review
More than 1.4 million comments were filed on the review of the national monument designations. Comments from ARRA were among them. I feel for the federal employees who have to categorize all those comments.
Secretary Zinke’s recommendations to the President are due on August 24th. The Secretary has already indicated that he will not make recommendations for changes to at least three national monuments: the Canyon of the Ancients (Colorado); Craters of the Moon (Oregon); and Hanford Reach (Washington). Making boundary adjustments for some of the other national monuments is clearly in the works. Once those recommendations go to the President and once he issues a final decision, we can expect a series of lawsuits to be filed, perhaps delaying the implementation of his decision for years to come.
Last month we reported that H. R. 1913, the Clear Creek National Recreation and Conservation Act, was reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee. This month we are very pleased to report to you that this legislation was passed by the full House and has been sent to the Senate for further action.
We all know that things tend to get bogged down in the Senate, so we have our work cut out for us, but the Clear Creek issue is a compelling one. We must get OHV recreation restored to this area. We are looking forward to engaging the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the reasons why this legislation merits becoming law.
Sec. Zinke Finally Gets a Deputy
The Senate finally confirmed the nomination of David Bernhardt as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior by a vote of 53-43. Secretary Zinke has accomplished a lot during his first six months in office, but having a Deputy will enable him to accomplish even more. Bernhardt has excellent credentials, having previously served as Solicitor of the Department during the George W. Bush Administration. We think he will be able to step up to the plate in short order.
New BLM Planning Rule
Early in this session, the Congress, under the authority of the Congressional Review Act, cancelled the Obama Administration’s BLM planning rule, dubbed 2.0. On July 3rd, BLM began taking comments on the scope of a new planning rule with a focus on how it could be “timelier and less costly.” All comments were due on July 24th.
This is just the beginning of an effort to fashion a new planning rule for the agency. Our hope and expectation is that it will be a planning rule that will have greater acceptance by western state and local governments.
FY 2018 Appropriations
The House Appropriations Committee reported out legislation that will fund the U. S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for FY 2018. The committee provided the agencies with $800 million less than they received in FY 2017. Given the fact that the Trump Administration was seeking a reduction of funding of $4.3 billion, the $800 million haircut seems minor in comparison. Here’s a snapshot of some items in the committee bill.
|National Forest Service||FY 2018 funding, $1.493 billion, $20 million less than FY 2017|
|Forest Service Wildfire||FY 2018, $2.898 billion, $65 million more than FY 2017|
|BLM Resource Management||FY 2018, $1,075 billion, $20 million less than FY 2017|
|Land and Water Conservation||FY 2018, $110 million for land acquisition, $79 million less than last year.|
The overall appropriation process is behind schedule. We think it will be difficult for the individual appropriations bills to be passed by both the House and the Senate by the October 1st deadline. In the end, we think the Congress will again either pass a continuing resolution to fund the government for a specific period of time or an omnibus measure that will consolidate all of the individual appropriations measures into one bill. In other words, the funding levels listed above are not exactly the final word. More on this later as the legislative process continues.
Recreate safely and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)