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News and information from ARRA - Americans for Responsible Recreation Access

John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - May 2012

Read more on the ARRA Website...
http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=CmhYPF0O6VvsOSnbKCMTpw

Power to the People
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One of the themes we often touch upon in ARRA communications is that people can make a difference when it comes to shaping public policy.  This became apparent when the Forest Supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon had to pull the plug on the proposed travel management plan because of citizen outrage.

The Forest Service originally announced its Record of Decision on the plan on March 15 with an April 30th deadline for public comment.  The opposition to the proposed plan was swift and fierce.  On April 6th, more than 1500 people showed up at a meeting convened to organize opposition to the plan.  News reports out of Oregon indicate that thousands of people showed up at town meetings held by Oregon's Congressional delegation.  People didn't show up to talk about taxes, health care, the national economy or international affairs.  They showed up to express outrage that their access to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest was going to be seriously affected by the proposed travel management plan. Oregon's two U. S. Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley along with U. S. Representative Greg Walden heard that message loud and clear.

Oregonians also encouraged their local government officials to become involved and as a result commissioners from Wallowa, Baker and Union counties actively opposed the proposed travel management plan citing the negative impact that curbing access to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest would have on the local rural economy.

Read more...
http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=mz_UXZAspfumPVHIUB47gA

Hunting and Fishing Community Score
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The issue of access to federal lands is not only a problem for motorized recreation.  Our brethren in the fishing and hunting community also have concerns and they scored big when the House of Representatives passed H. R. 4089, the Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012, which would safeguard sportsmen's access to public lands.  The legislation would require federal land managers to consider the impact on hunting and fishing when developing land management plans.

Learn more on the ARRA Website...
http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=hqGP_i8H5qJbmP6XpmqdDg

 

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John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - July 2008

ARRA Newsletter - July 2008

Senate OHV Hearing
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We reported in the last newsletter that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had scheduled a hearing for June 5th on federal OHV management issues. In preparation for those hearings, ARRA made a number of visits to Senate offices to discuss the importance of OHV recreation on public lands and to answer any questions that Senate staff might have about OHV management issues. We found a great deal of interest and support for OHV recreation and we think this attitude was reflected in the hearing as well.

Much of the focus at the hearing was spent on how the Bureau of Land Management and the U. S. Forest Service differed in their approach in managing OHV recreation. Both agencies acknowledged that OHV recreation was an important component of the recreational opportunities they provided to the general public and we were pleased to here that affirmation. The Bureau of Land Management did come under some criticism on why it wasn't pursuing a travel management rule similar to the one promulgated by the Forest Service. BLM officials addressed those concerns, but I am not sure that they convinced the committee chairman, Senator Jeff Bingaman, with their arguments. However, I don't anticipate the committee will take any further action this year on OHV issues, but think there is potential in the next Congress. We will be closely following the work of this committee and will alert you in the event any potential action might be of concern.

I submitted testimony on behalf of ARRA. If you care to review our testimony or the press release issued about the hearing, please visit the ARRA website:

ARRA's submitted testimony - http://www.arra-access.com/arra/arra_senate_ohv_testimony.html
ARRA's Press Release - http://www.arra-access.com/arra/arra_commends_pressrelease.html

A Full Plate
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Wildfires in the west; floods in the midwest; rising fuel prices throughout the country; home foreclosures soar; financial institutions in trouble; airlines cut back flights; truckers park their trucks because they can't afford to fill up the tank; the auto industry shuts down plants because no one wants to buy an SUV; and our soldiers continue to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, if this isn't enough, it's an election year as well.

I have listed just some of the challenges facing our nation and you no doubt can add to this litany of woes. I prepared this list as a reminder that we face some serious issues ahead... issues requiring politicians to put country above party.

The price of gas at the pump is just one example. Republicans have for years argued for more domestic petroleum exploration both offshore and on public lands. On the whole, Democrats have opposed such efforts and have done so successfully.

Democrats, on the other hand, have argued that we need a national policy that encourages energy conservation as well as the development of alternative sources of energy. Republicans have generally been lukewarm to such ideas because they claimed such efforts wouldn't do enough to close the energy gap.

Could it be that we need to do both? What's wrong with increasing domestic oil production while at the same time seriously embracing an energy conservation program? Maybe we need to provide new tax incentives for solar, wind and other forms of energy. Maybe we need a basket of solutions rather than just being for or against oil production. Maybe we need a national collaborative effort on the part of Republicans and Democrats alike so that our country can eventually become energy independent. After all, such independence is in our country's self-interest both from an economic and national security standpoint.

Seeking a consensus on more effective forest management practices, meaning that harvesting trees is not a bad thing to do if done right, will go a long way towards minimizing the risk of wildfires. Managing floods may mean providing farmers with financial incentives to cultivate away from watershed areas while also focusing on the need to repair an aging levee system.

Having a national energy policy may mean coupling energy production with energy conservation, involving not only the traditional sources of energy but alternative sources as well. Maybe our national energy policy should provide incentives for car and truck manufacturers to find new solutions to energy efficiencies rather than maintaining the traditional adversarial relationship between manufacturers and the federal government.

Well, I could go on in citing other potential areas of collaboration for the national good, but I think you get my point. But you are probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with access to public lands? To me it's quite simple.

If people are worried about a wildfire or a flood, they are going to attend to the immediate problem and not something down the road. If they can no longer afford filling up their car with a full tank of gas or they are worried about losing their home to foreclosure, they aren't going to spend any time planning a trip to a national forest to camp, hike or ride their OHV.

My fear is that with pressing national problems (wildfires, floods, energy shortages, etc.) people are going to be distracted and aren't going to have the time to worry about policy issues affecting the use of our public lands. The national plate is full. Our challenge is to figure out a way to make sure that a small corner of that plate has space for our issues. I have no doubt that the anti-access folks will make sure their viewpoint makes it on the national agenda. And maybe, just maybe we need to think outside of the box and find ways to collaborate with the very entities who want to deny us access to public lands. We can't preach collaboration on other national issues without taking a look in the mirror and realizing we, too, need to change our way of thinking and doing when it comes to advocating for OHV access to public lands.

At ARRA, our job is to keep you informed and engaged in the public policy issues affecting access to public lands and we primarily do that through the ARRA website. I believe our job is going to become even more challenging in the months ahead as other pressing issues demand your attention. You can help us help you by letting us know how we can do a better job. We are constantly seeking new ways to become more effective voice in keeping our public lands open to you, the American people.

As we celebrate this Fourth of July with family and friends, as we celebrate all that this country means to us and to the world, let us think of ways we can all begin to work together, more effectively. As always, we welcome your ideas.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

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John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - December 2008

Names are floating about as potential picks for Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture, but nothing is certain at this point, though we should know more by the middle of December. Until then, I refuse to worry about it. I can't change the weather; I certainly can't help the Redskins; I don't understand what's happening to the economy except a whole lot of people are losing their homes and jobs; and I don't have a clue what the President-elect is up to in terms of pulling his cabinet together. In other words, I'll have to wait to find out like the rest of America and then I will figure out how to deal with the news.

110th Congress Lame Duck Session
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The Lame Duck session met and after a few days, left town without much to brag about. When the Congress was in town, much attention was placed on the plight of the American auto industry and the millions of Americans whose livelihoods are dependent upon the financial health of these companies. The Detroit CEOs didn't do a very good job of explaining why they needed the bailout. For one thing, they didn't seem to have a coherent business plan on how they plan to turn their companies around. And then, the mode of transportation they used to get to Washington didn't help matters. Each CEO flew to town on his own corporate jet. Not an unusual circumstance, by any means, but maybe they should have considered "jet pooling" to Washington. I guess if you are a CEO you don't do that sort of thing. Congress returns again on December 8th and we will see the CEOs do a better job of justifying the need for the bailout. If they pass that road test, I expect Congress will approve the bailout before the Christmas holiday.

There is one positive note regarding the Lame Duck session. The Senate did not pass H.R. 5151, the massive public lands bill that many ARRA members oppose. Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, announced that the Senate did not have sufficient time to break the likely filibuster of Senator Tom Coburn. Reid also announced, however, that he intended to make the measure a priority in the early days of the 111th Congress. With Senate Democrats enjoying a larger majority in the new Congress, Senator Coburn may have more difficulty stopping Senate passage. Also, it's likely that the new President will sign the legislation, so Senator Reid's decision to pull back and wait until next year probably makes sense from their perspective. ARRA, along with a large number of other organizations, will continue to oppose the passage of this legislation.

Fewer Visitors to our National Forests
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A recent study by the U. S. Forest Service shows that fewer Americans are using their National Forests as a venue for recreation. Forest Service officials seem to be surprised by this news and uncertain as to why this is the case. The statistics are startling. In 2004, total forest visits were 204.8 million. In 2007, that number dropped to 178.6 million visits, a 13% decline.

Obviously, there are a number of factors contributing to the problem. Part of the decline may stem from our change of lifestyle including the amount of time we all spend in front of a computer or television screen. It's just a fact of life that people spend less time outside.

Some years ago, the National Park Service was alarmed by the drop-off in visitors to the National Parks under its jurisdiction. We wrote about this phenomenon back in May, 2006. During the course of a Congressional oversight hearing on the subject, one of the reasons cited for the decline was that the National Park Service had developed a reputation of being unfriendly towards park visitors. It's a simple thing, if the welcome sign isn't out, people won't come.

The Forest Service faces a similar dilemma. Policymakers are busy designating millions of acres of our National Forests as wilderness areas making access to those areas more difficult. Then, several years ago, the Forest Service decided to go to a designated trail system for OHV recreation when it promulgated the Travel Management Rule. We supported that rule because we felt that a designated trail system made sense. We also said at the time that the implementation process associated with the design of a trail system was critical in making the policy a success. Gaining public input on where those trails should be would ensure that people would want to continue to visit our National Forests for recreational activities.

We were concerned at the time that the local forest districts lacked adequate funding for the implementation phase of the rule. Forest supervisors were told to find the money by re-programming funds from other programs. Some found the money and others didn't, but all operated under the same strict timetable for completing the designation process - which is slated for December, 2009. Time will tell whether OHV enthusiasts are turned off or turned on by what they find as designated trail system for OHV recreation. If they are turned off, visitation to our National Forests will decline further. Let's hope this is not the case.

Looking to 2009
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The best thing about the New Year is that it arbitrarily marks a time for new beginnings. The clock doesn't stop; it simply slips into another demarcation for the recording of the passage of time. 2008 has been a tough year for many Americans and here's wishing that the New Year brings better economic times for all.

With a change in Administration and Congress, OHV recreation will be met with new challenges. I think we have a very positive story to tell about responsible recreation and all the good things that OHV enthusiasts do in their communities and on public lands. Our detractors aren't going to tell the good stories, only the bad ones. It's up to us to keep the record straight. Join us in 2009 in meeting this challenge.

Until then, please enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

  4827 Hits
John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - August 2008

Urgency aside, Democrats and Republicans have slugged it out in terms of what to do. Republicans want to authorize more off-shore drilling and Democrats want to go after oil speculators and compel more energy conservation. Much of the month has been spent in a virtual deadlock, because neither party seems to think that "compromise" is in its political interest. Now that they are about to leave town until after Labor Day, Congressional leadership is beginning to talk with each other about working out a compromise, though both parties seem wary about giving the other party too much credit for solving the energy crisis. Maybe we will have to wait until the start of the "heating season" before a new sense of urgency sets in.

Massive CR
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A massive CR has nothing to do with a medical condition, but rather it is the description of what Congress will do in terms of funding the operation of the federal government when the new fiscal year begins October 1, 2008. Normally, Congress would enact specific appropriation measures for the various departments, but whenever it fails to complete work in time for the fiscal year to begin, it takes the easy route and passes a "continuing resolution" which means that agencies will be funded at the same level in the new fiscal year as they were in the previous year. Call it "status quo" funding, if you will.

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this legislative approach. If fact, some policy experts prefer it since continuing resolutions tend to limit the growth of federal spending. But to show how the stalemate over energy policy has affected the appropriations process, Senate Democrats recently cancelled a mark-up session on the Interior Department's appropriations measure for fear that Republicans would use that appropriation measure as a vehicle to offer amendments on energy issues. Senate Democrats decided that the best course of action was no meeting at all rather than being forced to vote on some tough amendments.

We are, however, making some progress in the House Appropriations Committee. As the following chart indicates, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee is recommending an increase in funding for the Forest Service Recreation and Trail programs over what was recommended in the President's budget submission for FY 2009. A number of ARRA members have contacted their Members of Congress on this issue and we are making some headway because of your diligence. For those of you who haven't yet contacted your Representative or Senator on this funding issue, it not too late to let them know what you think. Take action today on the ARRA Website (http://www.arra-access.com/ct/71zUY291-YbR/).

Cape Hatteras OHV Access
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The Cape Hatteras OHV access issue is getting some attention here in Washington. In our May, 2008 edition of our Washington newsletter, we reported on the situation in North Carolina where a recently approved Consent Degree severely limits OHV access to some of the best sport fishing areas in North America. Well, the OHV community has been busy tackling this issue and legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate that would reinstate the National Park Service's Interim Management Strategy for the Cape Hatteras area. The legislation, if enacted, would ensure that the Interim plan would remain in effect and thereby provide OHV access to Cape Hatteras until such time as a long-term off-road vehicle management plan is completed.

This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on S. 3113. The House companion legislation is H. R. 6233. You can read the text of both bills by going the ARRA website Federal Legislation page.

North Carolinian OHV enthusiasts as well as local and federal elected officials and national OHV groups are working hard in support of this legislation. It merits our support as well, so please contact your elected Representative/Senators and urge adoption of these measures before Congress adjourns this session. If you have an interest in contacting your elected representative, we have a special page on the ARRA website to take action on this issue! Visit http://www.arra-access.com/ct/IpzUY291-YbQ/.

Law of Unintended Consequences for Recreational Boaters
-------------------------------------------------------
Recreational boaters throughout the United States are breathing a bit easier now that the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Clean Boating Act of 2008. The bill now awaits the President's signature in order for it to become law.

In response to a federal court decision, Congress had to step in and bring some practicality to public policy. This time, it was the recreational boater who was threatened by a 2006 ruling by a federal judge who said that the Environmental Protection Agency incorrectly exempted recreational boats from the Clean Water Act. EPA made that interpretation back in 1973!

If the court's ruling remained in effect, beginning September 30, 2008, recreational boaters throughout the United States would have to pay large fees for annual permits similar to those of ocean-going cargo ships. Failure to have such permits and failure to abide by stringent dumping guidelines meant that recreational boating as we know it would have been dealt a fatal blow. Imagine having to pay a large fee for a federal permit just so a couple of times a year you could take your 14-foot fishing boat to your favorite lake.

Many people in the recreational boating community worked very hard on this legislation and ARRA sends them our congratulations. This is an excellent example of how a grassroots effort can make a difference! Well done, boaters!!!

Land Use Forum Meets in Washington, D. C.
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A number of national OHV organizations met in Washington during July to discuss land use issues. In addition, we met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. Stakeholders present for the meetings were leaders from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, American Motorcyclist Association, Americans for Responsible Recreational Access, BlueRibbon Coaltion, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Off-Road Business Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, Tread Lightly!, and United Four Wheel Drive Associations. The meeting sessions were held in ARRA's Washington office.

The purpose of this meeting was to exchange ideas, share war stories, and talk about the challenges facing us as we approach a new Congress and Administration in 2009. While there is a diversity of views, interests and strategies, we find that by periodically talking and meeting with each other, we can do a better job of working together on those interests that we share in common.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

  5274 Hits
John Stewart

ARRA Washington Newsletter - December 2010

ARRA sent out a special alert to our members asking you to contact your Senators urging them to oppose any legislative effort this late in the session.  If you haven't already done so, click the link below to locate the alert for further information.

http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=H2XNy0OZKbai21sLQ-GqKA..

America's Great Outdoors Initiative
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Back in April when President Obama established the AGO initiative, he instructed that recommendations coming out of the process be on his desk by November 15th.   Well, that didn't happen and the President is still waiting.

Read more about ARRA's efforts to provide more transparancy to this process...
http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=fHZ1amL3-DKMk1Qh2ueiAw..

Forest Service Planning Rule
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We have kept you apprised of all the developments surrounding the Forest Service Planning Rule from the very first day when the Notice of Intent was printed in the Federal Register. As we previously reported, recreation was barely mentioned as a priority of the agency.  ARRA members have been very active in expressing their collective concern about this major oversight and we are most appreciative of your efforts.

Read more and see the Congressional letter to Chief Tidwell...
http://www.arra-access.com/site/R?i=Hbq4F2xm0wmdxkCw9sYd3A..

2011
----
It's hard to believe that the New Year is almost upon us.  2010 has certainly been a year of challenges and of changes.  Challenges like the Forest Service Planning Rule process and the AGO Initiative.  And changes like the result of the 2010 elections.

One thing I learned from this year's electoral process is the sheer audacity of attempting the ridiculous despite overwhelming odds.  I am referring to the Tea Party movement.  Only in America could a loosely connected group of people, common citizens actually, come together outside of the traditional two party-system and make a real impact on the outcome of the elections.

Initially, both political parties chose to either demean or ignore the Tea Party Movement.  Later, the Republican Party decided it had better pay attention and began a dialogue with the Tea Partiers, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. Whether you agree with the Tea Party Movement or not, there is a lesson to be learned from their experience and that lesson is:  people do make a difference.

I think ARRA members made a difference in 2010 as well.  We were right on top of emerging issues affecting the recreation community when others were not.  We have made a difference in shaping the debate on public lands issues in the Administration and on Capitol Hill.

One could argue that the new Congress will be more receptive to our approach on federal lands issues.  Even so, it will be incumbent upon us to tell our story and to share our concerns.  We hope in the New Year you will continue to work with us on these issues.  Remember, "people do make a difference."

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

 

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