John McCain (1937-2018)
It is appropriate to pause for a moment and write a few things about John McCain. His death just a few days ago made many of us who knew him think about who he was and what he meant to this country.
It’s not an overstatement to say there was no one else quite like him in the Congress. He wasn’t afraid to take unpopular stands if he felt he was doing the right thing for the country. He seemed to enjoy playing the role of maverick but he wasn’t playing a role, he was for real. He could be cantankerous. He had a very short fuse and many friends and opponents were, at times, on the receiving end of his mini explosions. He also had a wicked sense of humor.
He loved his country dearly. Service above self could always be said of him. He was big enough to say he wasn’t perfect, that he made mistakes. He was a true war hero who suffered much as a prisoner of war. He was a strong supporter of our national defense though he wasn’t afraid to take on the Pentagon when he felt it was wasting tax dollars. He cared deeply for our nation’s Veterans. He forged bi-partisan solutions to problems despite some criticism by members of his own party. He was a giant among his Senate peers. The Senate is now a poorer place because of his absence. And we are a better country for his service to our nation.
The Senate was in session in August with the exception of a brief recess in the middle of the month. Confirmation of judicial and administrative nominations as well as the completion of a major appropriations measure for FY 2019 have consumed a lot of the Senate’s time. In addition, committee hearings have been ongoing. Of particular interest to us is the fact that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) held hearings on 32 public lands bills. This activity is also a precursor to putting together an omnibus public lands bill. We have a number of bills we are tracking and the omnibus legislative vehicle will be critical in moving these measures forward through the legislative process. It is encouraging that the SENR is focusing on these measures.
The House is away from Washington on its annual August recess and will not return until September 4th. Before leaving town it had already passed six separate appropriations measures for FY 2019, but the Senate has now surged ahead with the passage of nine appropriations measures. September is going to be a busy month as the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work to conference many of these bills so they can be readied for the President’s signature. As in the past, a continuing resolution will be required to provide temporary funding to those federal departments without permanent funding for FY 2019 when the new fiscal year begins on October 1st.
NOHVCC National Conference
In August I attended the 2018 National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council Conference, held this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Conservation is a key word in the NOHVCC name and the organization’s emphasis is on assisting others in building and designing sustainable OHV trails and fostering responsible practices by all OHV enthusiasts. Present were OHV enthusiasts from around the country and Canada, personnel from the federal land agencies and the U. S. Department of Transportation as well as officials from Michigan State Department of Natural Resources and many other state land managers.
One could sense a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the conference participants and renewed activity on the part of NOHVCC’s state partners. OHV recreation appears to be alive and well, and NOHVCC goes a long way towards making that possible. If you would like to learn more about NOHVCC’s work, please go to www.nohvcc.org.
With both houses of Congress back in session after Labor Day, it does seem like the start of the fall semester as we are accustomed to with school. The schedule is going to be jam packed up until Election Day. Many are wondering how many of those members up for re-election will receive a passing grade. It will be the voters on November 6th who will be making that determination.
Given the legislative schedule ahead, we will be asking ARRA members to contact their Members of Congress to urge support for specific pieces of legislation. Please be on the lookout for these special ARRA alerts.
Last week we distributed a new quiz on the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). If you haven’t already taken it, why don’t you do it now and see how much you really know about this very important program for motorized recreation. We are hoping you will get a passing grade.
A Note of Gratitude
On August 31st, a dear friend of ours and a long-time supporter of ARRA, retired from her position at the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. Kathy Van Kleeck served as the Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and ran the Washington office of these trade associations.
Kathy has been the guiding spirit behind ARRA from day one. She has been an invaluable counsellor and mentor to me. She always set the highest standards for responsible recreation. And while I am excited that she is about to embark on a well-deserved retirement with lots of international travel, I will personally miss her guidance and good humor. We are very grateful for all she has done for ARRA over the years.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)