Washington Newsletter – May 2016

Virtue Flats, Oregon

Dirt Biker at Virtue Flats, Oregon.

BLM Planning Rule, 2.0

In our March newsletter, we discussed plans by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create a new process for developing Resource Management Plans for the public lands under its jurisdiction. The original deadline for the submission of comments was set for April 25th. The agency has now pushed back that deadline another 30 days until May 25th.

The real work starts with the development of each Resource Management Plan. But before that, you might find it helpful to visit the BLM website for more information on this proposed rule and the process going forward.

Sage Grouse Redux

The defense authorization measure is again being used to place further limits on what the Obama Administration can do with the sage grouse issue. The House Armed Services Committee reported the measure to the full House with language that allows those states with sage grouse management plans to stop federal plans from super-ceding those state efforts. The restrictive language also prevents the Interior Secretary from changing the bird’s conservation status until September 30, 2026. The full House still need to pass this bill and then it must go to conference with the Senate. Administration officials are opposed to the restrictive language and there is also opposition in the Senate. We will let you know the eventual disposition of the issue once the legislative process is completed.

EPA Steps Back

Last month we included an article about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rulemaking that would make it illegal to convert on road vehicles to vehicles used in competition only sports. ARRA along with many other organizations took this threat very seriously and have supported legislation, H.R. 4715 and S. 2659, which would make it clear that EPA was going beyond its authority under the Clean Air Act.

Due to pressure from motor vehicle racing stakeholders, EPA has announced that it will not include the on-road vehicle conversion language in its final rule. However, EPA continues to assert that the proposed language was only meant to be clarifying and not represent a change in policy regarding dedicated competition vehicles. Since EPA continues to say conversion has always been illegal, it’s important that advocacy of the “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016” (RPM Act), H.R. 4715/S. 2659, continue. If you haven’t already communicated with your Senators and Representative about this issue and would like to do so, please go to this link.

National Mall

The National Mall in Washington, DC.

National Park Service Centennial

This August, the National Park Service will celebrate its one-hundredth anniversary. This milestone is being used to focus attention on what the Park Service means to our country as well as to lend it some additional financial assistance as it cares for the historic and awe inspiring properties under its management.

The Park Service is crippled by the massive maintenance backlog that has slowly built up over the decades. As of February, 2016, that number stood at $11.9 billion. This shortfall cannot be made up with only federal funds, so the private sector is being asked to help out. The observance of the centennial is being used to generate a national discussion on how best to address this maintenance backlog and to keep our National Parks in tip top shape going forward.

The National Mall here in Washington is benefiting from an organization called the Trust for the National Mall. If you are interested, their website, www.NationalMall.org, will give you an idea of the scope of their efforts as well as the need. Similar efforts are slated for other areas of the country.

These are exciting developments and much needed. The right formula needs to be found between private and federal funding of our National Parks. Until that can be done however, perhaps park expansion plans need to take a back seat until we can take care of what we already have. Not a popular idea among some, but a fiscally responsible one nonetheless.

So Little Time

In our last newsletter, I made a passing comment that there were “so very few days when the Congress is actually in session.” That got me to thinking. I began to wonder how many legislative days were left before the November elections? I fired up my mighty calculator and found very quickly that a pencil and paper were more than sufficient. The answer: 65 session days for the Senate; 50 session days for the House.

Not much time and very little time to get much done before we go to our precincts polls. To be fair, Congress will return in mid-November and there will likely be a lame duck session in December, but any expectation for real progress on issues must await when the new Congress convenes in January.

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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