Recreational Trails Program
The legislative process to reauthorize our nation's transportation programs, including the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), continues to take many interesting twists and turns. While the Senate passed a two-year reauthorization bill, the House of Representatives has only been able to pass short-term extensions each lasting only a few months. Both legislative bodies have now decided to appoint conferees so that a conference committee could meet to hammer out what everyone hopes will be a compromise measure that can eventually pass both chambers. The current short-term extension expires on June 30th, so it appears the goal is to try and finalize the compromise bill by that deadline.
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Power to the People
One of the themes we often touch upon in ARRA communications is that people can make a difference when it comes to shaping public policy. This became apparent when the Forest Supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon had to pull the plug on the proposed travel management plan because of citizen outrage.
The Forest Service originally announced its Record of Decision on the plan on March 15 with an April 30th deadline for public comment. The opposition to the proposed plan was swift and fierce. On April 6th, more than 1500 people showed up at a meeting convened to organize opposition to the plan. News reports out of Oregon indicate that thousands of people showed up at town meetings held by Oregon's Congressional delegation. People didn't show up to talk about taxes, health care, the national economy or international affairs. They showed up to express outrage that their access to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest was going to be seriously affected by the proposed travel management plan. Oregon's two U. S. Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley along with U. S. Representative Greg Walden heard that message loud and clear.
Oregonians also encouraged their local government officials to become involved and as a result commissioners from Wallowa, Baker and Union counties actively opposed the proposed travel management plan citing the negative impact that curbing access to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest would have on the local rural economy.
Hunting and Fishing Community Score
The issue of access to federal lands is not only a problem for motorized recreation. Our brethren in the fishing and hunting community also have concerns and they scored big when the House of Representatives passed H. R. 4089, the Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012, which would safeguard sportsmen's access to public lands. The legislation would require federal land managers to consider the impact on hunting and fishing when developing land management plans.
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