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John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - September 2008

Presidential Politics
It's Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin. The 2008 marathon nominating process for presidential candidates is finally over. Our attention now turns to the November general elections. We all may have our favorite candidate or political party and although we may get tired of watching the political pundits on television, it is exciting that we get to choose our leaders. The political process is ours. Washington, that city most politicians love to run against is our national capital. And those we send to Washington to serve in our government are, in fact, our representatives.

Sometimes, the national electorate decides to throw the bums out and start over, and sometimes, the decision is to stay the course. But, whatever the result, the decision always rests with the people of this nation. Our democratic process has evolved much over 230 years. We are a far different nation than the one created back in 1776. What has remained constant and has grown in strength is the concept that the common citizen, you and I, decides who will succeed or fail at the ballot box. That's an awesome responsibility we share.

The next Administration and Congress will face some daunting problems. In this newsletter, we will touch on some of those issues relating to outdoor recreation and OHV recreation in particular. It's not the first time you have heard about these issues nor will it be the last time. Looking into 2009, I am convinced more than ever that we have our work cut out for us.

Recreational Trails Program Under Attack
In the April newsletter, we wrote about the coming reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and the challenges we face in getting this done. Those stakes recently became even higher when the current Secretary of Transportation, Mary E. Peters, released recommendations to the Congress on the need to restructure and reform federal funding of transportation projects. Secretary Peters said, "Without a doubt, our federal approach to transportation is broken. It is time for a new, a different and better approach." Part of the Secretary's "new and better" approach is to recommend the cancellation of the Recreational Trails Program.

We don't underestimate the need to restructure our highway funding mechanisms, but eliminating the Recreational Trails Program, a program with an annual budget of $80 million, isn't going to solve Secretary Peters' concerns about an aging interstate highway system. For example, it's going to cost $234 million to replace the bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. If Secretary Peters gets her way, a very important and successful program that builds trails for hikers, bikers, and OHV enthusiasts would bite the dust, all in an attempt to put a little more money into highway construction. $80 million doesn't go very far in funding highway construction but it can do an amazing amount of work in building recreational trails. This is one reform idea we need to make sure is dead on arrival when it comes before the next Congress. In the coming months, you can join us in the fight to save RTP.

Budget Woes Fighting Forest Fires
This fire season has been particularly tough for areas like California. Fire suppression costs (that's a bureaucratic term for fighting forest fires) will exceed the 2008 budget by more than $400 million. Unless Congress provides the Forest Service with more money, it will have no other choice but to cut funding for other programs such as recreation, funding the implementation of the Travel Management Rule and the acquisition of paper clips. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating about the paper clips, but things are dire and programs across the board are feeling the impact of these budget cuts.

Over the past ten years, fire suppression costs for the Forest Service have grown dramatically to the point that approximately 48% of the total budget of the Forest Service goes towards firing fires. Many factors contribute to creating an environment for deadly forest fires including prolonged drought conditions, climate change, housing developments built too close to national forests, and the change in forest management techniques including the decline in timber harvests. It's an unfortunate fact that during the past two decades, our national forests have become kindling just waiting for any spark to ignite them with deadly results. Fighting fires means the Forest Service has little time or funds to attend to other important core mission responsibilities such as providing expanded opportunities for recreational activities.

There has to be a better way in terms of funding "fire suppression costs." Recently, the House of Representatives passed H. R. 5541, the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act or FLAME Act. The FLAME Act (appropriately named) would establish a separate fund (the FLAME Fund) for catastrophic, emergency wildland fire suppression activities. Call it a rainy day fund, if you will, since it would be an account established at the Department of the Treasury that could be tapped when annually appropriated funds are insufficient to meet this need in any given year. The existence of the FLAME Fund would mean that the Forest Service would no longer have to borrow money from other existing Forest Service accounts when its fire suppression accounts were depleted.

H.R. 5541 has now been sent to the U. S. Senate and is pending before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The Senate still has time this session to take a responsible step by passing this legislation so that by the time the next fire season rolls around, the FLAME Fund would be available. If you are interested in contacting your Senators about this important legislation, please visit the ARRA website.

Johnson Valley OHV Area Threatened
The OHV community has known for some time that the Marine Corps was looking to expand its training operations into the existing Johnson Valley OHV area, one of the premier OHV recreation areas in the country, just east of Los Angeles (San Bernardino County). Well, the other shoe dropped on August 13th when the Marine Corps filed the necessary paperwork with the Bureau of Land Management requesting that approximately 421,270 acres of land be withdrawn from public use and eventually designated for the exclusive use of the Marine Corps for training exercises "in the interest of Homeland Defense and the War on Terrorism."

Because of the size of the land transfer, approval of this request requires action by the Congress. For those of you not familiar with Johnson Valley, this is the largest open OHV area in the country, 189,000 acres to be exact. The possible closure of this area to OHV recreation could have a devastating impact on OHV recreation in southern California.

The review process for considering the Marine Corps request has just begun. Until a final decision has been made, OHV recreation will continue to be allowed in the Johnson Valley area. OHV leaders in southern California are working to identify potential alternative sites for OHV use in the event Congress approves the transfer from the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management to the Marine Corps. ARRA will keep you informed on further

Congress Returns to Washington
On September 8th, the Congress will return to Washington in an effort to try and clean up its legislative agenda before adjourning for the November elections. Top on the list of must pass legislation is the funding of the federal government for FY09, which begins on October 1st. As we reported earlier, a massive continuing resolution seems the most likely scenario. Partisan gridlock is likely to prevent much else from happening, though we believe that work on a focused energy program is desperately needed. Other than possibly a symbolic vote by the House of Representatives on the off-shore drilling issue, we don't expect to see real action until the new Congress and the new Administration take office in January, 2009.

Meanwhile, gas prices and the price of heating oil will remain high affecting the overall economy and the pocketbooks of those Americans who are least able to afford high energy costs, senior citizens on fixed incomes and poor and middle class families. The political gridlock must come to an end if we are going to have a comprehensive energy policy that gets our country back to a position of energy independence. Without it, our economy will continue to lag behind and Americans won't be able to afford some of the more pleasant aspects of life, like visiting their
favorite public lands.

National Public Lands Day
September 27th is National Public Lands Day. Despite the high cost of gas, please make a point to go to your favorite forest or park and participate in a variety of activities to care for the lands we all love. Last year, more than 100,000 volunteers worked in 1,300 locations on various conservation and
improvement projects. Project organizers are hoping that this year's participation will exceed last year's impressive turnout.

You can find a volunteer activity near you by going to the National Public Lands Day network calendar: http://www.publiclandsday.org/calendar/search


Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

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John Stewart

Cantina for the ‘Con a Success

The 4th Annual Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) Cantina for the ‘Con was held over the Labor Day weekend and was a great success on many levels. We had a new record of over $20,000.00 in raffle prizes and raised $20,083.00 for RTF! We can’t thank our vendors and users enough for their generous support.

This year’s event saw the cooperation of several clubs working together to support the Rubicon. Here’s a list of clubs and the duties they shared:

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Tread Lightly!

Local Volunteers Join HUMMER Recreation Rescue Project In Sierra National Forest

DETROIT – More than 35 volunteers from local four-wheel-drive clubs, Tread Lightly! and HUMMER joined U.S. Forest Service employees on August 1, for a day of trail maintenance on the Bald Mountain OHV route in Sierra National Forest, east of Fresno, Calif.

The project was the second trail maintenance event supported by a new Tread Lightly! program called HUMMER’s Recreation Rescue. Thanks to funding from HUMMER and the help from local volunteers, Tread Lightly! is providing project grants to recreation projects around the country to ensure land remains accessible for responsible recreationists.

“This project is a great opportunity for the Forest Service and the forest visitors to work with Hummer and Tread Lightly!, who are dedicated to providing recreational experiences while protecting the integrity of the forest ,” said Greg Marks, Sierra National Forest Off Highway Vehicle Manager.

The volunteer team worked the entire day to improve and stabilize a section of the Bald Mountain trail that is subject to erosion during the spring snow thaw and summer storms. The group also closed and restored unauthorized routes that developed over time. The project concluded with the development of a trail map and brochure to ensure that visitors drive only on the designated routes and learn the Tread Lightly! principles to responsible recreation.

Volunteers from several U.S. states and Canada participated in the event, representing more than eight off-road organizations, including: Clovis Independent Four Wheelers; Mountain Toppers Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno; California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs, Inc; California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Safety and Education Foundation, Inc.; 4x4Him Christian Wheelers; Californians for Public Access, Inc, (Cal Access); Northern California Land Rover; and Lock and Low Four Wheel Drive Club of Visalia.

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John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - August 2008

Urgency aside, Democrats and Republicans have slugged it out in terms of what to do. Republicans want to authorize more off-shore drilling and Democrats want to go after oil speculators and compel more energy conservation. Much of the month has been spent in a virtual deadlock, because neither party seems to think that "compromise" is in its political interest. Now that they are about to leave town until after Labor Day, Congressional leadership is beginning to talk with each other about working out a compromise, though both parties seem wary about giving the other party too much credit for solving the energy crisis. Maybe we will have to wait until the start of the "heating season" before a new sense of urgency sets in.

Massive CR
A massive CR has nothing to do with a medical condition, but rather it is the description of what Congress will do in terms of funding the operation of the federal government when the new fiscal year begins October 1, 2008. Normally, Congress would enact specific appropriation measures for the various departments, but whenever it fails to complete work in time for the fiscal year to begin, it takes the easy route and passes a "continuing resolution" which means that agencies will be funded at the same level in the new fiscal year as they were in the previous year. Call it "status quo" funding, if you will.

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this legislative approach. If fact, some policy experts prefer it since continuing resolutions tend to limit the growth of federal spending. But to show how the stalemate over energy policy has affected the appropriations process, Senate Democrats recently cancelled a mark-up session on the Interior Department's appropriations measure for fear that Republicans would use that appropriation measure as a vehicle to offer amendments on energy issues. Senate Democrats decided that the best course of action was no meeting at all rather than being forced to vote on some tough amendments.

We are, however, making some progress in the House Appropriations Committee. As the following chart indicates, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee is recommending an increase in funding for the Forest Service Recreation and Trail programs over what was recommended in the President's budget submission for FY 2009. A number of ARRA members have contacted their Members of Congress on this issue and we are making some headway because of your diligence. For those of you who haven't yet contacted your Representative or Senator on this funding issue, it not too late to let them know what you think. Take action today on the ARRA Website (http://www.arra-access.com/ct/71zUY291-YbR/).

Cape Hatteras OHV Access
The Cape Hatteras OHV access issue is getting some attention here in Washington. In our May, 2008 edition of our Washington newsletter, we reported on the situation in North Carolina where a recently approved Consent Degree severely limits OHV access to some of the best sport fishing areas in North America. Well, the OHV community has been busy tackling this issue and legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate that would reinstate the National Park Service's Interim Management Strategy for the Cape Hatteras area. The legislation, if enacted, would ensure that the Interim plan would remain in effect and thereby provide OHV access to Cape Hatteras until such time as a long-term off-road vehicle management plan is completed.

This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on S. 3113. The House companion legislation is H. R. 6233. You can read the text of both bills by going the ARRA website Federal Legislation page.

North Carolinian OHV enthusiasts as well as local and federal elected officials and national OHV groups are working hard in support of this legislation. It merits our support as well, so please contact your elected Representative/Senators and urge adoption of these measures before Congress adjourns this session. If you have an interest in contacting your elected representative, we have a special page on the ARRA website to take action on this issue! Visit http://www.arra-access.com/ct/IpzUY291-YbQ/.

Law of Unintended Consequences for Recreational Boaters
Recreational boaters throughout the United States are breathing a bit easier now that the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Clean Boating Act of 2008. The bill now awaits the President's signature in order for it to become law.

In response to a federal court decision, Congress had to step in and bring some practicality to public policy. This time, it was the recreational boater who was threatened by a 2006 ruling by a federal judge who said that the Environmental Protection Agency incorrectly exempted recreational boats from the Clean Water Act. EPA made that interpretation back in 1973!

If the court's ruling remained in effect, beginning September 30, 2008, recreational boaters throughout the United States would have to pay large fees for annual permits similar to those of ocean-going cargo ships. Failure to have such permits and failure to abide by stringent dumping guidelines meant that recreational boating as we know it would have been dealt a fatal blow. Imagine having to pay a large fee for a federal permit just so a couple of times a year you could take your 14-foot fishing boat to your favorite lake.

Many people in the recreational boating community worked very hard on this legislation and ARRA sends them our congratulations. This is an excellent example of how a grassroots effort can make a difference! Well done, boaters!!!

Land Use Forum Meets in Washington, D. C.
A number of national OHV organizations met in Washington during July to discuss land use issues. In addition, we met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. Stakeholders present for the meetings were leaders from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, American Motorcyclist Association, Americans for Responsible Recreational Access, BlueRibbon Coaltion, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Off-Road Business Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, Tread Lightly!, and United Four Wheel Drive Associations. The meeting sessions were held in ARRA's Washington office.

The purpose of this meeting was to exchange ideas, share war stories, and talk about the challenges facing us as we approach a new Congress and Administration in 2009. While there is a diversity of views, interests and strategies, we find that by periodically talking and meeting with each other, we can do a better job of working together on those interests that we share in common.


Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

  5085 Hits
John Stewart

ARRA Newsletter - July 2008

ARRA Newsletter - July 2008

Senate OHV Hearing

We reported in the last newsletter that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had scheduled a hearing for June 5th on federal OHV management issues. In preparation for those hearings, ARRA made a number of visits to Senate offices to discuss the importance of OHV recreation on public lands and to answer any questions that Senate staff might have about OHV management issues. We found a great deal of interest and support for OHV recreation and we think this attitude was reflected in the hearing as well.

Much of the focus at the hearing was spent on how the Bureau of Land Management and the U. S. Forest Service differed in their approach in managing OHV recreation. Both agencies acknowledged that OHV recreation was an important component of the recreational opportunities they provided to the general public and we were pleased to here that affirmation. The Bureau of Land Management did come under some criticism on why it wasn't pursuing a travel management rule similar to the one promulgated by the Forest Service. BLM officials addressed those concerns, but I am not sure that they convinced the committee chairman, Senator Jeff Bingaman, with their arguments. However, I don't anticipate the committee will take any further action this year on OHV issues, but think there is potential in the next Congress. We will be closely following the work of this committee and will alert you in the event any potential action might be of concern.

I submitted testimony on behalf of ARRA. If you care to review our testimony or the press release issued about the hearing, please visit the ARRA website:

ARRA's submitted testimony - http://www.arra-access.com/arra/arra_senate_ohv_testimony.html
ARRA's Press Release - http://www.arra-access.com/arra/arra_commends_pressrelease.html

A Full Plate

Wildfires in the west; floods in the midwest; rising fuel prices throughout the country; home foreclosures soar; financial institutions in trouble; airlines cut back flights; truckers park their trucks because they can't afford to fill up the tank; the auto industry shuts down plants because no one wants to buy an SUV; and our soldiers continue to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, if this isn't enough, it's an election year as well.

I have listed just some of the challenges facing our nation and you no doubt can add to this litany of woes. I prepared this list as a reminder that we face some serious issues ahead... issues requiring politicians to put country above party.

The price of gas at the pump is just one example. Republicans have for years argued for more domestic petroleum exploration both offshore and on public lands. On the whole, Democrats have opposed such efforts and have done so successfully.

Democrats, on the other hand, have argued that we need a national policy that encourages energy conservation as well as the development of alternative sources of energy. Republicans have generally been lukewarm to such ideas because they claimed such efforts wouldn't do enough to close the energy gap.

Could it be that we need to do both? What's wrong with increasing domestic oil production while at the same time seriously embracing an energy conservation program? Maybe we need to provide new tax incentives for solar, wind and other forms of energy. Maybe we need a basket of solutions rather than just being for or against oil production. Maybe we need a national collaborative effort on the part of Republicans and Democrats alike so that our country can eventually become energy independent. After all, such independence is in our country's self-interest both from an economic and national security standpoint.

Seeking a consensus on more effective forest management practices, meaning that harvesting trees is not a bad thing to do if done right, will go a long way towards minimizing the risk of wildfires. Managing floods may mean providing farmers with financial incentives to cultivate away from watershed areas while also focusing on the need to repair an aging levee system.

Having a national energy policy may mean coupling energy production with energy conservation, involving not only the traditional sources of energy but alternative sources as well. Maybe our national energy policy should provide incentives for car and truck manufacturers to find new solutions to energy efficiencies rather than maintaining the traditional adversarial relationship between manufacturers and the federal government.

Well, I could go on in citing other potential areas of collaboration for the national good, but I think you get my point. But you are probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with access to public lands? To me it's quite simple.

If people are worried about a wildfire or a flood, they are going to attend to the immediate problem and not something down the road. If they can no longer afford filling up their car with a full tank of gas or they are worried about losing their home to foreclosure, they aren't going to spend any time planning a trip to a national forest to camp, hike or ride their OHV.

My fear is that with pressing national problems (wildfires, floods, energy shortages, etc.) people are going to be distracted and aren't going to have the time to worry about policy issues affecting the use of our public lands. The national plate is full. Our challenge is to figure out a way to make sure that a small corner of that plate has space for our issues. I have no doubt that the anti-access folks will make sure their viewpoint makes it on the national agenda. And maybe, just maybe we need to think outside of the box and find ways to collaborate with the very entities who want to deny us access to public lands. We can't preach collaboration on other national issues without taking a look in the mirror and realizing we, too, need to change our way of thinking and doing when it comes to advocating for OHV access to public lands.

At ARRA, our job is to keep you informed and engaged in the public policy issues affecting access to public lands and we primarily do that through the ARRA website. I believe our job is going to become even more challenging in the months ahead as other pressing issues demand your attention. You can help us help you by letting us know how we can do a better job. We are constantly seeking new ways to become more effective voice in keeping our public lands open to you, the American people.

As we celebrate this Fourth of July with family and friends, as we celebrate all that this country means to us and to the world, let us think of ways we can all begin to work together, more effectively. As always, we welcome your ideas.


Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

  5259 Hits

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