Washington Newsletter – April 2018

Juniper Dunes Wilderness and OHV Area, Washington State

ATV, Juniper Dunes Wilderness and OHV Area, Washington State. Photo by Jeff Clark/BLM

Need to Confirm CPSC Nominees!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency that regulates ATVs and side-by-sides.  Ann Marie Buerkle has been nominated as the new Chair and Dana Baiocco has been nominated as a new Commissioner.  While both nominees have had a confirmation hearing and their nominations have been sent to the full Senate for action, to date little more has been done to move them through the confirmation process.  A Senate vote on these nominations is needed!

We have been asking ARRA members to sign a petition that will be sent to both Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Thune urging them to schedule a vote on these CPSC nominees.

If you haven’t already done so, please help us send this important message to Washington.  You can make a difference.  Please click here to take action.

 The Wildfire Fix

For those of you who have read this newsletter over the years, you know that we have expressed frustration with the way our government funds wildfire containment activities.  All too often, the land agencies would expend all the funds appropriated for wildfire fighting with no option available except to “borrow” funds from other agency program budgets to fund ongoing firefighting efforts.  Those agencies that had their budgets stripped would have to wait until Congress passed a supplemental appropriation to regain some of those “borrowed” funds.   Meanwhile, important agency functions would have to be curtailed.  This was particularly so with the recreation programs at both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The just passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provided a legislative fix to this annual problem. The authorization is capped at $20 billion.  This fund is like what exists to handle the costs of hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Going forward when there is a horrendous wildfire season, the land agencies will no longer have to scour their cupboards looking for spare change to pay for the cost of fighting wildfires.  Addressing this issue is long overdue.  In this case, the Congress has done a good job of fixing the problem.

North Barr Trailhead – Cline Buttes Recreation Area, Oregon

Motorbikers, North Barr Trailhead – Cline Buttes Recreation Area, Oregon. Photo by BLM Oregon and Washington

New Management at the Forest Service

The month of March was a tough one for the Forest Service.   Its Chief, Tony Tooke, resigned after allegations surfaced regarding some inappropriate behavior on his part towards other employees. All the allegations covered earlier assignments he had at the agency, not while he was serving as Chief.

Upon Tooke’s resignation, Vicki Christianson was named the Acting Chief.  Before this appointment, she was serving as the Deputy Chief over State and Private Forestry and that portfolio included responsibility for wildfires.   She has been with the agency for over seven years.

She has a big job ahead of her especially given that employee morale is very low.  She seems to be the perfect person to step into the lead at such a critical time.   We are all wishing her a lot of success.

maintenance

Maintenance Backlog

The federal land agencies have a big problem in that the maintenance backlog is huge.  The National Park Service has the largest backlog, but the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have large backlogs as well.  This graphic will give you a clear sense of the scope of the problem.

The Congress is beginning to focus on this problem and the attention is due in large part because the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of its founding.  The House Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing on two pieces of legislation that address the maintenance problem, at least for the National Park Service.  One approach, H.R. 5210, authored by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), would take 50 percent of new energy receipts from energy exploration on federal lands and waters and funnel those funds into a NPS maintenance fund.   The other approach, H. R. 2584, introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), would required the Congress to make annual appropriations to a NPS maintenance fund.

While both bills are well intended, they only address part of the problem.  Nothing in either bill deals with the maintenance backlog of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.  A colleague of ours, Callie Hoyt, with the Motorcycle Industry Council, testified at the hearing we just mentioned.  She suggested that “establishing a sustainable source of funding for rebuilding recreational infrastructure is an investment, not an expense.”  She went on to suggest that any maintenance fund established should also fund maintenance projects for roads and trails managed by both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.  We couldn’t agree more.

If you would like to read Callie’s entire testimony, please click here.

New Recreation Advisory Committee

Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, announced just a few days ago the members who will serve on the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee.  The formation of the committee was announced last November.   The purpose of the Advisory Committee is to foster public-private partnerships that will seek to expand access and improve the infrastructure on public lands and waterways.

We see the formation of this Advisory Committee as a clear signal that Ryan Zinke intends to follow through on his commitment to make recreation a key focal point of his time as the top executive of the federal land agencies.  There is growing recognition of the importance that recreational activities have for the overall national economy.  Having the public-private sectors working together will go a long way towards strengthening these federal agencies as they foster recreational opportunities for the American public.

Sincerely,

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

About ARRA

Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) was formed to ensure that Americans are not arbitrarily denied the right to responsibly experience and enjoy the public lands that belong to the citizens of the United States. The members of ARRA, which include horseback riders, personal watercraft users, off-highway vehicle and snowmobile riders, and vacationing families, have joined together to provide input on decisions regarding land use designation, recreation opportunities, and preservation. Its members seek responsible consideration of competing activities, which are based on sound environmental principles.

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