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Washington Newsletter

February 2013

Secretary Salazar Prepares to Leave Washington

Secretary Ken Salazar finally put the rumors to rest about his possible departure from Washington when he announced that he would be leaving his Cabinet post as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Sec. Salazar’s resignation is effective March 31, 2013.

It didn’t take long for attention to shift away from Salazar’s retirement to who will be nominated to take his place. Many environmental organizations seem to be circling their wagons around Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) as a possible replacement. Other names mentioned include the current Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes, former Washington Governor Christine Gregorie, former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, and former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, among others. Seems like a new name pops up almost every day.

An early action item for the new Secretary is the appointment of a permanent Director of the Bureau of Land Management. The current Acting Director, Mike Pool, is said to be retiring from government service.

House Resources Committee

The House Resources Committee has organized for the 113th Congress and among the significant changes made was the creation of a new subcommittee, Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The Chairman of the new Subcommittee is Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and he has already announced an aggressive agenda including a thorough review of the National Environmental Policy Act, known to all as NEPA, and the Antiquities Act, which is the measure that provides the President with the authority to create national monuments. Both measures are long overdue for a comprehensive review. NEPA was enacted back in 1969 and the Antiquities Act in 1906!

Congressional Hearing Room

(photo courtesy house.gov)

Rep. Bishop wants the Subcommittee to do some serious fact finding on the cost associated with NEPA compliance both in terms of monetary cost as well as jobs lost due to administrative delays associated with administering the Act. No one should assume that Congress will revoke NEPA, but there is plenty of room to improve it. The Subcommittee doesn’t have an easy task ahead of it because of the political volatility associated with this issue. Nonetheless, this review is desperately needed.

In terms of the Antiquities Act, the original Act is quite specific that any monuments created should have as small of a footprint as possible. Presidents of both political parties have ignored this restriction. Rep. Bishop will be looking for ways to tighten this footprint restriction while at the same time ensuring that multiple use practices, among those being recreation, are not severely limited when a new national monument is created.

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National Monument Areas

Speaking of the creation of new national monument areas, it is looking more and more likely that the President will elevate to monument status the Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico. You will recall that in our January newsletter we reported on the surprise public meeting that Secretary Salazar held in Taos on this issue. Speculation is that this declaration might be one of the final acts of the Salazar era at the Interior Department and several in the New Mexico congressional delegation seem to be supportive of this idea. We were told by three congressional offices that there have been direct talks with the President on this issue.

Two bills were just introduced in the House of Representatives, H.R. 250 and H.R. 382 and one in the Senate, S. 104, which would place some restrictions on monument designations. While it may be hard for any of these bills to gain traction in the short term, the introduction of these measures does highlight the need to revise the Antiquities Act.

Johnson Valley Petition to the White House

Recreation in Johnson Valley

Recreation opportunities abound in Johnson Valley (photo courtesy blm.gov)

Thousands of OHV enthusiasts signed a petition to the White House asking for intervention to make sure that the Marine Corps does not seize more than 140,000 acres of prime OHV recreation ground in southern California. The petition had a goal of 25,000 signatures within thirty days and that goal was achieved in little more than two weeks. Now that we have reached that goal, let’s exceed it even more. If you haven’t signed the petition, please sign today! ARRA was very supportive of this petition drive. It will be interesting to see what kind of response comes out of the White House.

Sequestration

The clock is ticking and unless something is done by Congress in the next thirty days, over $1 trillion in budget cuts will begin to take effect on March 1st. Right now it looks as though this might happen for at least a few days before some sort of short term remedy is devised. Be prepared to see closures or shorter hours for National Parks and other federal recreation areas. Neither the Washington Monument nor the Statute of Liberty is eligible for closure since both were closed due to damage sustained from last year’s earthquake. I suspect the Executive Branch is scrambling to identify other highly visible targets for closure in order to maximize the public’s attention on this continuing financial saga. Federal fiscal issues will continue to be a theme throughout this year and at some point could begin to have serious implications for recreational access to federal public lands.

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

 

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