Washington Newsletter – May 2017

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Photo of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument – This monument designation is eligible for review under the Trump Administration’s executive order. Photo credit: adifferentbrian’s flickr photostream

Trump Tackles National Monuments

In response to a lot of pressure from western states, President Trump has directed Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, to have his agency undertake a thorough review of those National Monuments in excess of 100,000 acres or those that the Secretary deems did not receive sufficient public input prior to their creation that have been designated since 1996. This means 25 National Monuments will be under review!  Members of Congress from western states hailed the executive action as an important step in re-evaluating the Antiquities Act.  The environmental community was incredulous.

We happen to think this review is long overdue and are looking forward to the results of this study.  We think that at a minimum there will be some recommendations about reducing the boundaries of some of the Monument areas.  A step further might actually be the reversal of a National Monument designation though that seems like a much heavier lift given the prospects of litigation that would likely occur.  One thing is certain; the report itself will be in great demand once it is released.

Meanwhile, we believe the Congress should continue its efforts to rewrite the Antiquities Act of 1906.  Even if we are ultimately pleased with whatever executive action is taken by President Trump, a future president might not have a similar philosophy.  The Antiquities Act is long overdue for reform and this should be a priority of this Congress.  The House Natural Resources Committee has already held an oversight hearing on the subject and we are hoping to see action on legislation reforming the Antiquities Act in the coming days.

Click here if you would like to read President Trump’s executive order on national monuments.

FY 2017 Appropriations, finally…

It has been a long time coming, but the Congress and the Trump Administration have agreed on an Omnibus appropriations package that would fund the federal government for the rest of FY2017 (until September 30, 2017).

Besides appropriating funds to federal agencies, the massive bill addresses a lot of policy issues.   It prohibits funds being used to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act while at the same time providing $69.9 million for on the ground conservation work for sage grouse habitat, an increase of almost $9 million from FY2016.  It prohibits the Department of the Interior from unilaterally creating new wilderness areas.  It increases funding for wildfire fighting and prevention programs and also for the hazardous fuels reduction program.  In recognition of the long standing dispute over the need to reform the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF),  It only provides LWCF with $400 million in funding, $50 million less than last year’s funding level.

For House and Senate appropriators, they can how turn their attention to the FY2018 budget.  Given that the Administration has proposed some major budget cuts to some of the federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, 20% and 12% respectfully, there is about to be a major tug of war between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Capitol Hill.  No doubt there will be some cuts, but the Congress is less likely to embrace some of the large cuts being suggested by OMB.  Given that the new fiscal year begins on October 1st and all of August is spent in recess, a lot of work in a very short period of time needs to get done.

BLM Planning Rule 2.0 Rework

Secretary Zinke lost little time in directing his department to begin work in studying the overall planning approach of the agency.  His directive laid out in blunt terms the problems associated with the planning rule 2.0 and the need for change.

I suspect those agency personnel who worked hard on the previous planning rule are a little taken back by the tone of the Secretary’s directive.  My guess is most of you will find it refreshing (click here if you would like to read it). The Secretary was quite clear in what he is looking for his department to do going forward.

The report is due to the Secretary at the end of September.  It might well give us a snapshot on whether the agency is changing its attitude about access to public lands and public engagement.  We hope that our October newsletter will have something to report to you on this initiative.

Cabinet Update

Sonny Perdue was confirmed by the Senate on April 23rd as Secretary of Agriculture and was sworn in on April 25th.  Now that he has taken office, we are awaiting word on who will be tapped to become the next Chief of the U. S. Forest Service.

Attorney David Bernhardt has been nominated to the position of Deputy Secretary of Interior.  During the George W. Bush Administration, Bernhardt served as the Solicitor and Chief Legal Officer of the Interior Department so he comes to his new job with a lot of agency experience.  Once Bernhardt is confirmed and sworn in, we hope to see some movement on who will be selected to be the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management.

Clear Creek Legislation, H.R. 1913

In the last Congress, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) came close in getting legislation passed that would re-open the Clear Creek recreation area to OHV recreation.  Unfortunately, he ran out of time at the end of session, a disappointing moment.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Farr’s successor in the House, has picked up the torch and introduced a new version of the Clear Creek legislation, H. R 1913, in this Congress.  The OHV recreation community has already endorsed the Panetta legislation and we expect to be working closely with his office in getting this bill across the finish line in this Congress.

Young OHV Rider

Photo of youth OHV Rider, Shotgun Creek OHV Area, Oregon. Photo credit: BLM Oregon and Washington’s flickr photostream

Outdoor Recreation = $$$

The Outdoor Industry Association recently released its latest economic study on the value of outdoor recreation to the nation’s economy.  The numbers are staggering:  $887 billion in consumer spending; 7.6 million in American jobs; $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue; $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.   No one can say that we don’t all benefit from having fun outdoors.

One statistic in the study caught our eye and made us laugh.  More American jobs depend on recreational motorcycling and off-roading (867,000 jobs) than there are lawyers in the U. S. (779,000 jobs).  The legal profession is finally falling behind…

 

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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