John Stewart

President Cancels Streamlined ESA Process

President Obama has withdrawn a policy adopted by the Bush Administration in late 2008 allowing federal agencies to approve a commercial development (road, power plant, homes, etc.) on its own authority if it is determined that the project will have no impact on a threatened species. 

The Interior Department will return to the previous application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and require all federal agencies to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) if there was the potential to impact a threatened or endangered species. In the past, this periodically led to a review process that could last months or years and be contested in court. 

Millions of acres of land have been closed under the ESA as a mechanism to protect plants and animals. Nevertheless, there is general consensus in Congress that the ESA needs to be updated so that less money is spent on ESA lawsuits and more is spent on providing quality habitats.

The issue is of consequence to SEMA members that market products for use on off-highway vehicles since public access has been denied to roads and trails in ESA-protected areas. 

Source: SEMA Action Network

 

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John Stewart

GPS and Go Home Button

Does your GPS unit have a simple, one-touch, Go Home button? Mine does and I love it when traveling. Makes the trip home easy to plan.

But here's a thought for you. Have you considered how easy it would be for a thief to find your house with this button? If a bad-guy gets your car keys, thus your car, there's a good chance you have a home key on the same key ring. So he gets the car started, pushes your Go Home button, follows the route and there he is, right at your front door with YOUR keys.

So my advice is to chart your Go Home button to a very nearby place – but not your house. Heck, just a few houses down would be enough to keep a car key stealing thief from finding your exact location.

There are a ton of websites out there to help you choose a GPS if you don't have one yet. I do recommend having one in your off road rig (and your RV if you play with big toys). It's a very helpful tool and be most useful in an emergency as well – you can direct in emergency folks with way points (lats and longs).

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John Stewart

Build a coalition; save a trail

Friends groups or coalitions are a significantly solid way to save your trail or riding area – especially where you need mixed uses working together. For example, if your riding area is used by dirt bikes, atv's and 4x4's, a Friends group (or coalition) is the way to go. This will save your trail in the long run. Folks have got to work together and find ways to cooperate in order to keep the anti-access crowd from shutting you down. I started Friends of the Rubicon 8 years ago and we've been saving the Rubicon ever since. We had to ban together for several reasons, but most importantly we also had to set aside club and organizational issues so we were all on the same team.

When you work under a Friends group banner, it's easy to set aside turf battles or disagreements, and get the job done together.

There are literally dozens of new Friends groups formed up all over the country recently. They are saving trails and winning land use battles. Some examples include Friends of Eldorado, Friends of Fordyce, Friends of Greenhorn, Friends of High Lakes, and many more. It WORKS! You become a much more powerful group when you include other groups, clubs and recreationists. Give it a shot. I'll be happy to help you get started.

Read more about the process on my web site right here: http://www.delalbright.com/Articles/coalitions.htm

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John Stewart

Politicians Want to Use Tax Dollars to Crush Newer-Model Trucks and SUVs

 

Under the legislation, “fuel efficient” means at least 25% better mileage than the CAFE standard. It will be illegal to resell the scrapped vehicles. Bill sponsors want to destroy 4 million pickups and SUVs over the next four years. 

The program will fail to achieve its goal of improving fuel efficiency and stimulating car sales, but will increase unemployment and the cost of used cars and parts. Here’s why:

Given the minimal $1,500–$4,500 voucher value, the program will lure rarely driven second and third vehicles that have minimal impact on overall fuel economy and air pollution. This is not a wise investment of tax dollars. The program will reduce the number of vehicles available for low-income individuals and drive up the cost of the remaining vehicles and repair parts. This is a basic supply-and-demand reality. The program will remove the opportunity to market specialty products that are designed exclusively for the targeted pickups and SUVs, including equipment that increases engine performance and fuel mileage. Congress will be enacting a program to eliminate jobs and reduce business revenues in the automotive aftermarket.   The idea that the trucks and SUVs must be scrapped in order to save energy is irrational. The program’s “carbon footprint” does not factor in the amount of energy and natural resources expended in manufacturing the existing car, spent scrapping it and manufacturing a replacement car.   The program fails to acknowledge driver needs, such as the ability to transport a family, tow a trailer or rely upon the performance, safety and utility characteristics associated with the larger vehicles. Instead, these vehicles will be destroyed. There is no evidence that the program will achieve the goal of boosting new-car sales or increasing fuel mileage. Many states have considered scrappage programs in the past as a way to help clean the air or increase mpg, but abandoned the effort because they simply don’t work. The programs are not cost-effective and do not achieve verifiable fuel economy or air-quality benefits.   The program will hurt thousands of independent repair shops, auto restorers, customizers and their customers across the country that depend on the used-car market. This industry provides thousands of American jobs and generates millions of dollars in local, state and federal tax revenues.

“Our members, like all business entities, are suffering the effects of the stalled economy,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA vice president of government affairs. “In fact, for our members that market product for newer vehicles, we depend on a thriving and vibrant auto industry to create new business opportunities. We support efforts to spur new-car sales. We don’t, however, support public policy efforts that we are convinced don’t work and will waste tax dollars in the process.”

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John Stewart

Scrappage Update from SEMA

Editor’s Note: As Congress is considering various scrappage proposals, this “Scrappage Update” section has been included in Driving Force to brief SAN members on developments surrounding these harmful and shortsighted measures. Critical to this effort are SAN members rallying their fellow hobbyists against these programs. Here is a letter that was sent by long-time SAN member Tom Cox to enthusiasts in his area.Fellow Hobbyists,Some of you are no doubt aware that Congress is considering funding another ill-advised “Cash for Clunkers” program. In the past, such scrappage programs have been largely funded and administered at the state level. Unfortunately, Congress is poised to ram a stimulus package through within 30 days of the inauguration. Many congressional members, at the urging of car dealers and manufacturers, are petitioning the Obama transition team to support a federal scrappage program funded with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars as part of the stimulus package.

The belief is that low-income families will trade their clunker for $1,500 or $2,000 from Uncle Sam, and then rush to buy a new car. In addition, it is believed that buying and scrapping these older cars will clean the air. Both assumptions are heavily flawed.Many of the cars traded in under this plan would have been driven sparingly, if at all, and many would likely come from junkyards and junk dealers. Additionally, these older vehicles represent a minimal part of the pollution problem due to their small numbers and minimal annual mileage. This is another feel-good proposition that will not address the true causes of air pollution, but will only serve to make bureaucrats feel useful.Low-income families will never be able to buy a new car simply because someone gave them $1,500 or $2,000. New cars cost far more than that; $1,500 or $2,000 will not cover taxes, DMV fees and the higher insurance fees required on most new vehicles. Not only will these lower-income folks not be able to access a new car, but they will find the cost of a used one in their price range is harder to find, as all the inexpensive cars will be scrapped under this plan. Accordingly, they will be limited to working in areas serviced only by public transportation, which will trap many in deteriorating metropolitan areas without access to better jobs. In addition to the motorists affected, auto body shops, general repair shops, auto parts companies and many others in our backyard will be affected negatively through the scrapping of these cars.Many of you may wonder how this will affect the old-car hobby. It will impact us immediately in some ways and eventually in others. There will be an immediate reduction in older parts available for restoration and project cars. Old cars will be looked upon as detrimental to the environment and will be labeled as such. Most government programs and initiatives such as this start out as “voluntary.” Eventually, they then become permanent, and we may all be compelled to rid ourselves of older cars or prevented from driving them. In addition, bodyshops and auto-service-related businesses will dwindle in number, driving up repair costs. Once old cars are labeled as gross polluters due to this legislation, we will be forced into emissions testing or even paying carbon taxes on our cars. There is even the possibility of federal auto registrations to keep track of these older cars. Trust me, you and your hobby will be disproportionately affected by this legislation.Instead of Cash for Clunkers, if politicians really want to help in these times of crisis while cleaning the air, they should support the following recommendations offered by our friends at SEMA:Allow an above-the-line tax deduction for interest, sales and excise taxes associated with the purchase of a new car or provide a tax credit/voucher for everyone towards the purchase of a new or used car, more efficient car, etc.Provide tax credits to help repair or maintain an older vehicle since this employs the people who make the parts, sell them or install them. This will offer the owner added performance, drivability and fuel mileage and significantly reduce pollution since maintenance, not age, is the greatest factor affecting air pollution from vehicles.Act now! Please respond immediately to the Action Alerts sent by the SEMA Action Network and available at www.semasan.com. On behalf of your fellow hobbyists, I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.Sincerely,Tom CoxVice President Membership AACAPresident Southwest Virginia Car CouncilPast President Virginia Museum of Transportation
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