Department of the Interior Reorganization 2.0
In last month’s newsletter, we reported on Secretary Zinke’s plan to reorganize the agency he leads into a series of new regions throughout the country. One problem we foresaw with the proposal was that “under the new plan, many of the states would be in two regions and Oregon would be in three regions.” We anticipated there would be pushback from Capitol Hill.
Well, the ink was barely dry on the new regional maps when the Secretary wrote to the Western Governors Association to say that the regional boundaries would be adjusted along the lines of state boundaries rather than geographical basins as originally envisioned. The Secretary heard the criticism and quickly moved to make a change. In doing so, he has improved the chances of getting the needed political support required to make his reforms a reality.
New Recreation Group in Town
In recent years we have seen greater emphasis on the importance of outdoor recreation both in terms of our own personal health but also the general health of our nation’s economy. This point was driven home just last month when a Bureau of Economic Analysis study showed that motorized recreation was the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output. That number got a lot of people’s attention.
Last month a new organization was unveiled, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). This is welcomed news because it pulls together a diverse group of recreational interests under one umbrella, all working together to move recreation forward on the national front. Many of the organizations that have faithfully supported ARRA over the years were also major movers in the creation of ORR.
Motorized recreation enthusiasts should view this development as very good news. To learn more about ORR and its members, click here (in PDF).
Every year at this time we send out a solicitation for nominations of worthy projects funded by the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to receive national recognition by the Coalition for Recreational Trails, CRT. ARRA is a member of CRT.
This awards program is important for a couple of reasons. First, it recognizes worthy recreational trails projects and elevates their success to the national level. It acknowledges the efforts of local and state organizations that work to bring these projects into reality. And finally, it serves to remind the Congress of the importance of the Recreational Trails Program since the awards ceremony is always held on Capitol Hill.
Many of you have in the past been active in sending in nominations of projects you hope will receive this national recognition. Now is the time to do it again. Please go to this link to find out more information on how to submit your nominations (Word Document). This is another way you can make a difference in supporting RTP as well as those local organizations who use RTP funds for the greater good of outdoor recreation.
Since our last newsletter, the Congress approved a continuing resolution through March 23rd. But more importantly, it also approved budget agreements for FY 2018 and FY 2019. This means that the House and Senate Appropriations Committees can complete their work on funding the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year and begin work on FY 2019. We are also not expecting any more government shutdowns until at least FY 2020!
The continuing resolution just passed did provide more than $653 million in emergency appropriations to reimburse both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for monies expended during the horrible wildfires of this past summer/fall of 2017. Both agencies had “borrowed” dollars from other agency accounts to meet the shortfall in wildfire funding.
While a long term fix for wildfire funding still hasn’t been agreed upon, both the House and Senate are getting closer in resolving this annual problem. We are encouraged by some of the developments and hope that we will soon be able to report to you that they have finally solved this problem.
As you know, you often receive ARRA Alerts asking you to contact your Representative or Senators on a critical piece of legislation or an agency nomination or to attend an agency meeting in your area. Your participation is so critical in moving the ARRA agenda forward at the federal level. I cannot emphasize that enough.
We are on Capitol Hill on a weekly basis and many times on a daily basis. What we do is important but only if you are reaching out to your elected representatives as well. For those of you who are actively involved in responding to ARRA Alerts, we say “thank you.” For those of you who have not yet responded to one of our appeals, please have a look the next time you receive an email notice and go to a public meeting in your area or contact your Member of Congress. We try to make easy, but in the end, you are the one making the difference, a very big difference!
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)