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News and information from ARRA - Americans for Responsible Recreation Access

John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - April 2010

Sadly, one result of this process is that partisan tensions in Washington are at an all time high. Neither side seems willing or trustful enough to work with the opposing party. Like kids at the local school playground, we might have to call a "time out" and send everyone to their rooms in hopes that civility will return and members of Congress can begin to work for the common good. Short of this, we all stand to suffer.

Omnibus Public Lands Bill and More!

Last month, we reported on the Monumental Problem the Department of the Interior had when the disclosure of a confidential document revealed that the Administration was considering the designation of a whole slate of new monument areas. The leaked document was dismissed by the Secretary of the Interior as merely the work of a "brainstorming session" within the Bureau of Land Management. It now seems the little brainstorming session has morphed into something else and Administration's caterpillar is about to spread its' wings.

On March 26, 2010, the Obama Administration announced its decision to hold a White House Conference on April 16th called: America's Great Outdoors Initiative. The conference has been billed as an opportunity to collect ideas from all over the country on new initiatives that could be undertaken by the Administration to connect the American people to America's great outdoors. Normally when a White House Conference is announced, a detailed agenda is also distributed, but not in this case. Specifics about this conference coming from the Administration have been sketchy to say the least.

Due to the diligent work of a very good journalist, more details about the conference have come to light. A March 29th special bulletin of the Public Lands News reported the following: "If and when the initiative is fleshed out, insiders (we assume this means sources within the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture) believe it could include:

*  The designation of a number of national monuments on BLM land
*  Full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
*  Revitalization of the National Park System in time for its 100th Anniversary in 2016
*  An omnibus public lands and parks bill
*  All of the above"

Jim Coffin, editor and publisher of Public Lands News went on to write that the "source of the billions of dollars to accomplish such ambitious goals....has not been identified publicly." Coffin speculated that the money might come from off shore oil and gas royalties since Secretary Salazar has previously identified such royalties as a new source of revenue, especially if royalty revenues are increased.

Well, guess what happened on March 31, 2010, two days after Jim Coffin's article? President Obama announced a major initiative to authorize new off shore drilling for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast. The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to come together. First, we had the internal work at BLM preparing lists of action items that were later described as the results of a mere brainstorming session by some faceless government workers. Second, we have the announcement of a major White House Conference focusing on public lands, and finally, a potential funding mechanism to support such expansion efforts becomes known when the President unveils a new policy authorizing expanded off shore oil and gas exploration.

Okay, you say, why should you care and what is the rush all about? You should care because this initiative might be so huge that it will be difficult to sort out the full scope of the proposal. Remember, the Congress just passed a 2300 page health care bill even though Members of Congress didn't know all the details of the reform package. The answer to the "what's the rush" question is easy. The Obama Administration is reading the same political polls as everyone else. Predictions are that the Democratic Party will have slimmer margins when the new Congress convenes after the November elections. Therefore, the rush is to get this package through the Congress while they still have the votes!

We are hoping that good things will come out of this White House Conference, but we also believe in Ronald Reagan's mantra:trust but verify.

These next few months are shaping up to be very interesting. We will keep you posted and we hope you stay engaged.

Forest Service Planning Rule

The process of collaboration on the proposed Forest Service planning rule has begun. The first two days of meetings in Washington were called the Science Forum. Then the next two days were the National Roundtable meetings. Other sessions will occur throughout the country this month and next.

These are important sessions since they will set the tone for the future management of our National Forests. For example, one issue that received quite a bit of attention during the course of the Science Forum was the need to elevate "recreation" as an area of focus under the rule. This was one of ARRA's main criticisms of the Notice of Intent, so it was heartening to hear others say that this was an omission that needed to be addressed.

One of the themes I heard during the first day of the National Roundtable session was that our national policies are sometimes disconnected from the realities that exist at the local level. The forests in the eastern part of the U.S. are very different from those in the west. Gateway communities face different challenges than those communities totally dependent upon the harvesting of forest resources. In other words, one size doesn't fit all. This doesn't mean we shouldn't have a national rule. It does mean, however, that we need a rule that is flexible and accommodating to a variety of needs ranging from timber harvests, to grazing, to mining, to recreation and to tourism.

The rule will only be as good as the input provided in these sessions. Therefore, it is critical that the Forest Service hear from those of you who care about recreational access, especially for motorized recreation. The ARRA website has a listing of the upcoming meetings. Be engaged and make a difference. Do your part to help shape the new planning rule for our National Forests.The future is yours to control.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)

 

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John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - Feb 2015

(We prefer the new name.)  We have worked with Rep. McClintock and his staff on a number of issues over the years and believe he has a very good understanding of our issues.  He replaces Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) as subcommittee chair since Rep. Bishop has moved up to become the Chairman of the full committee.  With Chairman Bishop and Subcommittee Chair McClintock, the House Resources Committee has a strong team of leaders in place and we look forward to active engagement with them over the course of the next two years.

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Fire Suppression Funding -- One of our disappointments in the last session was the fact that Congress did not approve H.R. 3992, legislation that would provide for the establishment of a separate fund to cover the cost of fighting wildfires.  The establishment of such a fund would end the process by which the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management must reprogram funds from other departmental activities in order to fund the deficit in the wildfire accounts during times when the forest fire season is costly.  Our interest stems from the fact that the recreation budget for both agencies always gets squeezed when the wildfire accounts run out of money.

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Presidential Declarations -- The Obama Administration continues its pace of reshaping how our public lands are managed.  Monument designations continue, but the latest, most far reaching executive decision has to do with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (ANWR).  The Administration just announced that it will begin managing an additional 12 million acres of the refuge as if wilderness.  Congress had previously designated 7 million acres of this refuge as wilderness.

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Forest Service Snowmobile Regulation -- The Forest Service has issued its final rule governing the use of snowmobiles.  Less onerous that the Travel Management Rule covering off-highway vehicles, the rule, nonetheless, will require the various national forests to determine a policy governing snowmobile use on the lands under its jurisdiction.

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Symbolic Votes on Monument Designations, Lesser Prairie Chicken and Wilderness Designations -- During the three week Senate debate on the Keystone pipeline issue, a number of amendments were offered having to do with monument designations, the removal of the lesser prairie chicken from the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and the multiple use designation of certain federal lands.  In every case, these amendments received at least 50 votes or more, but all fell short of the 60 vote margin required for inclusion with the pipeline legislation.  Given the fact that the President had already indicated he would veto the pipeline legislation, votes on these issues were really symbolic in nature.  However, the value of offering these issues up for a vote in the Senate is that we now have the Senate on record.  We now know the supporters and the opponents on each issue. We have already begun to reach out to some of those Senate offices where we have a different view on certain issues.  One can only hope...


Read More of this ARRA Newsletter....

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John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - December 2009

Washington Newsletter
December 2009

The December Legislative Race
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Congress has returned to Washington from its Thanksgiving recess only to face a legislative agenda packed full of unfinished business items.  One commodity not in abundance is time since the Christmas holiday is a little more than three weeks away.  The Senate will spend much of December on health care reform, but both chambers may face possible votes on supporting additional troops for the war in Afghanistan and some yet-to-be-determined legislation to address the very high unemployment rate.

Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act
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It seems as though we seldom have good news to tell you, but the Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act of 2009, H.R. 765, has the potential of becoming very good news for OHV enthusiasts living in the Las Vegas area.   The legislation, sponsored by Representative Dean Heller of Nevada, would create an OHV recreation area of more than 10,000 acres by using lands owned by Clark County and the Bureau of Land Management.   The legislation would authorize the conveyance of approximately 1,200 acres of BLM land to Clark County so the County can develop an active off-highway vehicle recreation park.  An additional 9,000 acres would be designated as an off-highway vehicle recreation area to be managed by BLM.

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John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - March 2013

In This Issue...
Personnel Changes
Johnson Valley
Forest Service Planning Rule Proposed Directives are Released
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Playing the Fiddle while Rome Burns

** Personnel Changes **

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John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - Feb 2013

In This Issue...

  • Secretary Salazar Prepares to Leave Washington
  • House Resources Committee
  • National Monument Areas
  • Johnson Valley Petition to the White House
  • Sequestration
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