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
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access