ARRA Washington Newsletter - January 2011

The Lame Duck that Wasn't Lame
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I previously said that Lame Duck sessions historically have achieved very little in the way of legislative accomplishments. Well, the Lame Duck session for the 111th Congress proved to be the very opposite with the passage of the Bush tax cuts, unemployment benefit extensions, food safety legislation, the START treaty with Russia, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and medical benefits for 9/11 rescue workers. In other words, we saw a flurry of activity and a lot of bi-partisan cooperation.

What didn't happen was Harry Reid's idea of a major public lands bill...

Secretary Salazar Makes Sweeping Announcement/New BLM Wild Lands Policy
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A December 23rd announcement by Secretary Salazar on a new Bureau of Land Management Wild Lands policy was an early Christmas present for those who want more wilderness designations. For those of us concerned about keeping access to public lands however, Secretary Salazar's announcement was a troubling sign that the Administration might just be preparing to plant more "keep out" signs on many of the public lands managed by the BLM. Exclusion rather than inclusion might be considered his order for the day.

Read more about what it means...

Federal Spending
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One thing the Lame Duck session didn't accomplish was the passage of permanent appropriations for FY2011. Rather, a continuing resolution will fund the government until March 4, 2011. This means the new Congress must face old appropriations issues before it can address the new ones for FY2012.

We think the order of the day in terms of the federal budget is cut, cut, cut. Read more about how...

Looking Forward, 2011
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With a divided government in terms of party control, we expect some tough fights ahead over spending priorities. The Obama Administration will try to move its agenda forward by administrative action (like what we saw with Secretary Salazar's new Wild Lands Policy) and we think the Congress, especially the House of Representatives, will push back when it thinks such policies supersede congressional authority.

How issues like OHV access to public lands will fare is a tough call. I think we need to be very alert and aggressive in telling our story about how recreation on public lands benefits the American people in terms of a healthier lifestyle and those local communities whose economies rely heavily on recreation and tourism.

We are still waiting to see how the new Forest Service Management Rule addresses the issue of recreation and where the Administration ends up with recommendations coming out of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. I suspect in both cases the policy gurus are recalibrating those recommendations in anticipation of the changed political environment on Capitol Hill. ARRA will keep you informed as these issues unfold.

Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

 

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