Washington Newsletter – March 2015

Dunes

Legislative Update

After the predictable “slow start” in the new Congress, we are beginning to see legislation introduced that we like and we thought it might be a good idea to bring some of these legislative issues to your attention.  We anticipate featuring more in future ARRA newsletters.

National Forest System Trails Maintenance Act, H.R. 845
Last June, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo), introduced legislation that would encourage the U.S. Forest System to utilize volunteers to maintain the thousands of miles of recreational trails in our National Forests.   Rep. Lummis has re-introduced this measure in the 114th Congress and we were very pleased to see that Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) joined her as the lead co-sponsor.

We intend to work very closely with their offices because this legislation is desperately needed if there is any chance to begin to chip away at the more than $300 million backlog of deferred maintenance for our national trails systems.  Volunteers can make a huge difference, but first, the Forest Service needs to be “encouraged” to see the value of such an effort.  The legislation directs the Forest Service to develop an overall strategy to utilize volunteers and partners to maintain trails and specifies that within five years of enactment of the Act, trail maintenance by volunteers and partners must increase by 100%.  The Lummis/Walz legislation is just the ticket to get the agency’s attention.

California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015, S. 414
Senator Dianne Feinstein has been working for years to bring together a divergent set of groups to support legislation to preserve and manage the California desert.  This has been a massive undertaking by the Senator and her staff as they have sought to find agreement on all types of uses of these desert areas while also balancing conservation.

One component of this legislation would permanently protect five existing BLM areas that are currently used for off-highway vehicle recreation.  These areas encompass more than 142,000 acres and we are very supportive of permanently designating these areas for use by future generations of OHV enthusiasts.

The Feinstein legislation would also create two National Monuments and would facilitate of the installation of solar panels in certain areas of the desert.  This is one of those “something for everybody” pieces of legislation, but with the protection of these important OHV recreation areas, this is the type of legislation we intend to support.

ROV In-Depth Examination Act, H. R. 999
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) have introduced legislation that would defer further action by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on its proposed rule that would impose a mandatory product safety standard for recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) until the National Academy of Sciences completes a study on the technical validity of the handling requirements proposed by the CPSC regulation, among other issues.

ARRA has already sent out an alert to its members, so for many this is not a new issue.  But to recap, the CPSC held a 7 hour hearing in January in order to receive comments on a proposed rule that the Commission had already voted to move forward with on a straight party line vote of 3-2.  The crux of the issue is that a majority on the Commission is in favor of proceeding with the rule that was recommended by the Commission staff even though the actual staff report acknowledged that their recommendations were based upon “beliefs” rather than scientific data.

Requiring the National Academy of Sciences to study this issue would mean that a highly respected independent entity would provide the scientific data that has thus far been lacking in the Commission’s deliberations.  This is a simple but a very important step in restoring some rationality in the rulemaking process.

ROV

Click here if you would like to review the ARRA alert that went out on this important issue.  And, if you haven’t already contacted your Representative about co-sponsoring H.R. 999, please take the time to do so.

 Two bites are better than one

Since mid-January, we have been hearing rumors that Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Infrastructure Committee (the committee with jurisdiction over the Recreational Trails Program) were having organizational issues of an unknown nature.  Many of us thought that they couldn’t decide something as mundane as subcommittee assignments.   Well, Senator Barbara Boxer, the Ranking Democrat on the full Committee, dropped a little bombshell when she announced that she would also be serving as the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, thereby replacing Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) who thought he was going to be handling that position.

Senator Carper is a good legislator so this was not the case that Senator Boxer didn’t think he was up to the job.  Rather, the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure will get the first bite at the apple in shaping transportation legislation before it goes to the full committee.  Most observers believe that Senator Boxer’s move to be the lead Democrat on this Subcommittee means she sees a real possibility that this Congress will pass a multi-year transportation reauthorization measure and therefore, she wants to have a major role in shaping that legislation.  Serving as the Ranking Minority Member on both the Subcommittee and the full Committee gives her two bites at the apple, something too good to pass up.

We are hoping that her instincts about a multi-year bill are right.   The big unknown is how to pay for it, but that problem rests with the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.  If they don’t find a way to pony up the money, Senator Boxer’s big power play will be for naught.

Time for CRT Awards for RTP Projects

Volunteers
Volunteers improve the canyon creek trail

The Coalition for Recreational Trails, of which ARRA is a member, every year solicits proposals for the very best of projects funded with RTP funds.  We just sent out an alert announcing the 2015 award cycle, but we wanted to highlight this very important program of recognizing the best of the best in terms of RTP projects.  Please go to this link to learn more about nominating a project you deem worthy of national recognition.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

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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