Senator Obama wins the Presidency and Democrats achieve major gains in the U.S. House and Senate. Those were the results of the November 4th elections after Americans went to the polls in record numbers to cast their votes to determine who will lead our country in the coming years. The Obama win is especially historic since he is the first African-American to be elected President of the United States and given the fact that most Americans (except for those in Illinois) hadn't even heard of him prior to 2004. His rapid rise to power is unprecedented in American history. He ran an almost flawless campaign and his campaign organization was one of the best in recent history. His ability to raise campaign contributions set records that heretofore were unthinkable. The only thing unknown is the extent of "change" he will bring to the federal government.
We will have to wait and see who the President-elect nominates to head up the Department of Agriculture (Forest Service) and the Department of the Interior (BLM and the National Park Service) to get a sense of the philosophical bent of his federal land managers. I think there is no question that OHV recreation will be on the defensive more than ever, and our approach to responsible recreation and stronger enforcement will be all the more important in the coming years. I remain optimistic that OHV recreation has a good story to tell. I also know that the burden will be on us to tell that story to the Congress and to the policymakers of the Obama Administration if we want to keep our access to federal lands.
We have to acknowledge that Obama was elected to office, in part, by people who generally are not considered OHV enthusiasts. We should assume, therefore, that these individuals and groups will lobby the new Administration to place further curbs on OHV recreation. We can no longer take anything for granted. Our future is what we make of it. If we fall short, then we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
In the coming weeks, as we get a clearer picture of what an Obama Administration means for OHV recreation, we will be in touch with ARRA members. A new era in American politics is about to begin and we stand ready to meet those new challenges that now stand before us.
Lame Duck Session
Congress returns to Washington next week and for some of its members, the time here will be bittersweet. Some are retiring on their own accord. Others are also retiring, but the decision wasn't theirs, it was made by their constituents. However, before they pack up their offices and leave Capitol Hill for good, some agenda items remain. For one thing, the Democratic leadership may try to bring up another economic stimulus package in hopes that it will lend additional assistance to those sectors of our economy in serious distress. Outlines of the proposed package have yet to be revealed so it's difficult to know whether this is a good thing to take on now or whether this is something that should be deferred until the new Congress and the Obama Administration take office in January, 2009.
The other unfinished business in the Senate is consideration of the infamous H. R. 5151, legislation that incorporates almost 150 separate measures including wilderness designations, national park expansion initiatives, water bills, historical designations, and not to be forgotten, the 26 million-acre National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) legislation. H.R. 5151 seems to have something in it for every conceivable political entity in the U. S. Congress. It is so sweeping in magnitude, it should die of its own weight, but it hasn't. H.R. 5151 should definitely be deferred until 2009 and perhaps, forever.
Once again, we ask you to contact your Senators and urge them to oppose passage of H. R. 5151. Contact them today, because this measure could be up for a Senate floor vote as early as November 17th. You can do so by visiting http://www.arra-access.com/ct/Q1zUY291bYyp/.
National Recreation Groups Meet on Land Use Issues
ARRA met with the leaders of 9 other national OHV recreation organizations in Las Vegas on November 6 to discuss a variety of land use issues affecting OHV recreation. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Mark Association (SEMA) annual convention.
Stakeholder organizations represented at the meeting included the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, the American Motorcyclist Association, ARRA, the BlueRibbon Coalition, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, the Off-Road Business Association, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and Tread Lightly!
This was the third time in 2008 that these groups have met. While we all have different approaches to solving public policy issues, we find it is helpful to meet, kick around ideas, and see where we agree and disagree. At this meeting, we focused on the 2008 election results and new challenges facing OHV recreation in the 111th Congress including the very important reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program.
During the past 60 days, we have witnessed some very troubling news about the global economy. The meltdown on Wall Street is affecting Americans of all walks of life. Daily we hear the sobering news of more foreclosures, layoffs, plant closures, and national retailers seeking bankruptcy protection. In short, these are trying times for all. Regardless of one's political persuasion, we are all hoping that President-elect Obama and the team he assembles will be able to work closely with the Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to fashion policies that will strengthen our national economy. If there were ever a time for bi-partisan cooperation, that time is now.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access