Well, who would have thought? Donald Trump elected President. Almost everyone was prepared that it was going to be Hillary Clinton including Hillary Clinton! All of this reminds us that the unexpected is always possible in electoral politics.
Trump’s election means that some federal agencies will undergo major policy shifts. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior are among those agencies being mentioned. While we are still waiting to hear who the President-elect will select to head these agencies, the winds of change seem to be in the air.
Trump’s election can only be described as having the impact of an earthquake here in the Nation’s Capital. Entrenched Democrats are going around in a state of shock and the news media, as a whole, is in denial. And the pollsters still can’t figure out how they got it all wrong.
We are spending all of our time trying to figure out what his election means for the issues we care about. It’s hard to really know until the President-elect completes his Cabinet selections, but what was the norm is about to be no longer. We await for the new norm.
Donald Trump seemed to have coattails after all. The Republicans kept control of the Senate by a margin of 4 seats at a time when everyone thought the Democrats would be the majority party the day after the election. On the House side, the Democrats had a net gain of 8 seats, but not enough to make a real difference in party control in that chamber. The party split in the House is 240 Republicans and 194 Democrats. One House seat is yet to be determined in the run-off election in Louisiana.
As we prepare this newsletter, we are still awaiting news on who will be nominated to lead the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. We care about Interior because of the Bureau of Land Management and Agriculture because of the U. S. Forest Service. We do know that Elaine Chao has been selected to lead the Department of Transportation which is important to us because the Recreational Trails Program comes under the jurisdiction of that department.
Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, it appeared that Congress intended to pass a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 31, 2017 in order to give the new Congress and the Trump Administration time to put in place their spending priorities for the remainder of FY2017. Both the House leadership and the incoming Trump Administration were in agreement on the March 31st extension. Some members of the Senate are suggesting that the CR should be pushed back to an even later time, perhaps as late as May, since the Senate will be busy with confirmation hearings during the first 100 days of the new session.
We expect this timing issue will be sorted out in the next couple of days. One thing is certain; federal agencies will be given status quo funding from anywhere to 4 – 6 months. Budget cuts will likely take place after that time.
Both the House and the Senate have passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016. This is an important legislative step and the measure now goes to the President for his signature. ARRA members have been contacting their congressional members since early summer urging action on these bills.
Private economic studies funded by the recreation industry indicate that the economic value of outdoor recreation exceeds $646 billion annually with motorized recreation making up 40% of that number. Not small change by any means.
With the federal government undertaking its own study focusing on the economic value of outdoor recreation, we are going to have a more complete picture on what this all means for our national economy. We have always felt this number was huge, but now we will have the data to prove it. This information will be helpful as priorities are established on the best uses of our public lands for years to come.
As a policy issue, this bird doesn’t ever die. Legislative language that would have allowed state designed sage grouse management plans to trump more onerous federal plans has been dropped from the defense authorization conference measure at the insistence of Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.
The original language was added to the House bill at the request of Rep. Rob. Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, in an attempt to limit action being taken by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Several states have worked very hard in developing their own sage grouse conservation plans but those efforts would be for naught if blocked by BLM. Since defense authorization is considered as “must pass” legislation, Bishop used this legislative tactic as a means to get this language into law.
Obviously, the sage grouse issue is going to be with us well into 2017 and beyond. It will be interesting to see how the incoming Trump Administration engages on this issue and whether their approach is different from that of the Obama Administration. Our hope is that they will allow the states to take the lead on this issue. Time will tell.
In our October newsletter, we reported on House passage of H. R. 845, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. The bill will require the U.S. Forest Service to develop a national strategy to maximize the use of volunteers to maintain trails on Forest Service land.
On November 17th, the measure passed the Senate and on the 28th it was signed into law by President Obama. This is excellent news. ARRA members can take pride in the fact that we helped push this measure across the finish line.
The U. S. Forest Service has recently released a citizen’s guide to its National Planning Rule. If you want to get involved in the planning rule process at your local national forest, this guide is for you! You can access a copy of the new guide by going to this link: A Citizens’ Guide to National Forest Planning (in PDF).
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)
Take the ARRA Quiz to test your knowledge! Then, share it with friends and family to test their familiarity with the Recreational Trails Program, too.
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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