I don’t know who or how many of you get the ARRA-Access (Americans for Responsible Recreational Access) update emails so I thought I would post the email I got from them in case you hadn’t seen or weren’t aware of the current status of some of the political stuff surrounding our sport. Including some new stuff. Yes, I know it’s just a cut and paste, but it’s important information that needs to be shared.
Sticky Fingers in New Mexico
The budget crunch is being felt in cities and states throughout the country. Legislators, governors and mayors are looking for any “free” cash they can get their hands on in order to fund new and existing programs. Strange things happen during difficult economic times and we only need to look to New Mexico for an interesting, but disturbing development.
OHV riders in New Mexico were sounding the alarm a few days ago when they discovered that the New Mexico State Legislature was getting ready to dip into the New Mexico OHV sticker fund to the tune of $500,000. Rather than use the money to provide public education on safe OHV practices and trail construction and maintenance, as it was originally intended, legislative language in House Bill 2 would direct the funds to an “eco-tourism initiative” by the State Tourism Department. Apparently, Governor Richardson wants to use the eco-tourism initiative as a way to promote “a nature-based form of specialty travel that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the local community.” I’m not sure what that means, but that is the legislative language and one has to assume that the Governor has a clue.
Governor Richardson, as you will recall, was nominated by President Obama to be the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Commerce. Richardson later had to withdraw his nomination because he is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of political fundraising laws. As far as we can tell, the investigation is ongoing and Richardson still has not been given the signal that he no longer has to worry about pending legal issues. Perhaps the federal investigators should expand their investigation to include “eco-tourism” and the potential misuse of the OHV sticker fund.
GAO Report on Proposed Merger of FS and BLM
Last year during an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on wildfire costs, Rep. Norm Dicks, D.-WA., Chairman of the Subcommittee, suggested that it might be time to merge the U. S. Forest Service with the Bureau of Land Management in an effort to manage federal lands in a more efficient manner. This consolidation would mean that the Department of Agriculture would lose jurisdiction over the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior would gain the responsibility.
The idea of a merger is controversial because both agencies have their own unique culture and practices. To move this idea forward, Dicks requested that the Government Accountability Office, GAO, conduct a study on the ramifications of putting these two land agencies together. Well, the results are in and as could be predicted, GAO’s findings are mixed. GAO said that such a merger would enhance the “effectiveness of federal land programs” but at the same time the upfront costs of completing the merger would be costly. Apparently, bringing together two diverse organizations with would be too difficult of a task and any efficiency hoped for due to the merger would be lost in the reorganization.
Despite Chairman Dicks’ efforts, our best guess is that at least in the short term inefficiency will win the battle and the federal government will continue to have separate agencies in separate departments managing the millions of acres of public lands.
S.22 Stalls in the House
The infamous Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 seems to be in a state of legislative limbo and its fate is uncertain. You will remember that at the end of the last session, Senator Coburn prevented passage in the Senate of this 180 plus public lands bill (that also included permanent designation of the National Lands Conservation System, NLCS) even though the measure passed in the House earlier in the session.
Now, it seems the reverse is true. In last month’s newsletter, we reported that the Senate passed S. 22 by a vote of 73-21. We assumed at the time that the House of Representatives would rush passage of the measure and quickly send it to President Obama for his signature. Well, not so fast. We were mistaken about the definition of speed. In an attempt to move the legislation quickly through the House floor, House leaders decided that they would not allow any amendments to S.22 when the House begins consideration of the measure. Such a maneuver requires a super majority for approval and it seems as though the leadership is short in getting the required number of votes.
House Democratic leaders are now trying to find a way out of this mess. One option is to begin breaking the Omnibus measure up into multiple parts and voting on each separate bill. If that happens, each measure would then go back to the Senate for approval, meaning that parts of S. 22 will have to go through the legislative process in dribs and drabs. ARRA members have consistently opposed this measure and have made their feelings known with Members of Congress and that opposition appears to be having some impact.
Consumer Product Safety Law Causes More Harm Than Good
Last year a serious problem arose when foreign produced toys which contained high levels of lead paint were found to be entering the U.S. marketplace. Infants and young children, doing what they do, were susceptible to lead poisoning when they placed the toys in their mouths.
Congress rushed to the rescue by enacting the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that included lead limits for products intended for use by children 12 years old and under. As the name indicates, the purpose of the legislation was to ensure that products are safe for use by the American consumer.
The rule of unintended consequences is coming into play in a big way as it relates to youth-sized ATVs and dirt bikes. It just so happens that these vehicles contain some levels of lead in parts such as terminals on batteries and tire value stems. There haven’t been any reports of kids placing such items in their mouths and suffering the perils of brain damage due to unusually high levels of lead. However, until the Consumer Product Safety Commission approves exclusion for these vehicles or Congress amends the law, dealers have to keep these vehicles off their showroom floors and cease any sales of either new or used youth-sized vehicles.
So the question is what will kids do in the meantime… ride adult sized vehicles? We certainly hope not, but we fear that the result will be a situation that threatens the safety of our children rather than protect them. In short, we have a law that misses the mark and runs amok.
If you have not already done so, you can weigh in with Congress on this important issue:
Send a Letter to Congress Today!
Beware, there is another ARRA in existence and it has nothing to do with maintaining recreational access to public lands. The recently passed economic stimulus package has a name. It is called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and its abbreviated name is ARRA. We hope the newly minted ARRA is a success because our economic future depends upon it. To avoid any confusion about our mission, our ARRA will continue to do what we have been doing and that is focus attention on the need to keep public lands open to all forms of recreation.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access