Zinke is Confirmed
Ryan Zinke was confirmed by the Senate as the Secretary of the Interior on a vote of 68-31. The confirmation vote took place on March 1st. We expect he will take his oath of office shortly and will immediately move into his suite of offices at the Interior Department.
A Presidential Budget Cut
Secretary Zinke won’t even have time to unpack his bags when he has to face a potential 10% cut in the Interior Department’s budget for FY18. We had reported previously about hearing rumors of potential cuts but now we have the numbers. The White House has begun to circulate its budget blueprint to the various federal agencies for their input. The Interior Department could see its budget cut by almost $1.3 billion. At this juncture, it’s impossible to know where the cuts will fall, but one can’t help but think that the Bureau of Land Management will feel some of the budget heat and the National Park Service will see little progress in funding a portion of its $12.5 billion maintenance backlog.
Many are saying that the President’s budget proposal will be dead on arrival when it makes it up to Capitol Hill. This might be so, but his budget proposal will set up an intense fight on spending priorities. We will have a lot of work to do to ensure that recreation is not seriously affected.
Bears Ears National Monument Controversy Continues
Even before Secretary Zinke makes it to Utah to gauge local sentiment over the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument, the controversy has taken a costly turn. The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has announced its intent to move its twice yearly trade show from Salt Lake City to another venue outside of Utah. OIA representatives have said they disagree with attempts to change the Bears Ears designation as well as attempts to modify/nullify the Antiquities Act by members of Utah’s congressional delegation.
National Monument designations are usually touted as bringing economic prosperity to the region of the designation area. We have never subscribed to this theory. In terms of the Bears Ears designation, the opposite appears to be particularly true especially given OIA’s decision to leave the state. Utah’s tourist industry will take a hit.
The Bureau of Land Management’s 2.0 planning rule ran into the Congressional buzz saw when the House of Representatives rejected that proposed rule under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act. The House vote was 234-186 on a resolution of disapproval offered by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has offered a similar resolution in the Senate. With 16 co-sponsors on the Murkowski resolution, we believe the Senate will eventually take up the issue. The 2.0 planning rule may well end up as a zero, meaning that the new management at BLM will face the daunting task of drafting a new planning rule. Speaking of new management at BLM, still no word as to who the President will select to be agency’s new Director.
In our last newsletter, we mentioned that President Trump issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new one issued. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has incorporated that idea into legislation he has introduced, S. 56. The bill would restrict federal agencies from issuing a new rule that would place a financial or administrative burden on businesses or individuals unless they repeal or amend two or more existing regulations of equal value. It’s hard to know whether this legislation will gain any traction given the fact that the executive order is in effect, but its existence along with the executive order sets a pattern for rethinking the whole concept of governing by regulation. We think there is merit to this approach.
The Coalition for Recreational Trails is once again seeking nominations for its annual Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Achievement Awards. This is the 19th year for this prestigious awards program. If you know of a project that has been funded by RTP that deserves special recognition, this is the chance to gain this recognition.
Nominations are due by April 13, 2017. To learn more, please go to this link on the ARRA website.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)