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Monumental Problems for the Department of the Interior
While the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has diverted a lot of press attention away from the Monument designation controversy, the issue remains alive and will continue to dog the Secretary of the Interior until all documents surrounding these "brainstorming sessions" are released to the Congress. Last month, we sent out a special ARRA news bulletin on this very issue and we included some of the documents released by the department. We also asked some pointed questions about what has not been disclosed.
On May 25th, Reps. Hastings and Bishop wrote Secretary Salazar a letter requesting that he bring the missing documents when he testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on the very next day. The Secretary chose not to do so. This led the two congressmen to introduce on May 27 a second Resolution of Inquiry that, if passed by the full House of Representatives, would require the Department of the Interior to turn over to the House the documents in question. We anticipate the House Natural Resources Committee will vote on H. Res. 1406 sometime in June. We will soon be asking ARRA members to contact their Representatives to seek support for the Resolution.
Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R., Montana, posted all of the 383 pages of DOI documents released on the Monument issue on his website. If you are really into this issue, go to Rep. Rehberg's website and you will have some interesting reading. It's clear from the paper trail that the Administration was busy soliciting designation ideas from various environmental groups, despite earlier representations that this effort was strictly an internal departmental review process. Here's the link to the Rehberg website (rehberg.house.gov/uploads/DeptofInterior.zip). One can't help but wonder what other information is contained in the more than 2,000 pages being withheld by the Department.
S. 2921, the California Desert Protection Act of 2010
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D. California, introduced a remarkable piece of legislation called the California Desert Protection Act of 2010. The bill is the product of more than three years of intensive work by the Senator's staff, with a wide variety of user interests, ranging from environmentalists to energy producers, the OHV recreation community, various local and state government officials, and the U. S. Department of Defense. The scope of the legislation is far reaching in that it facilitates solar energy projects in the California desert, authorizes new monument and wilderness areas, sets aside federal land for Defense Department activities, and from our standpoint, designates specific areas as federally recognized OHV recreation areas.
The negotiations among the various interest groups, as facilitated by the Feinstein staff, were lengthy and difficult. No one group got all it wanted and everyone had to compromise on their own specific agenda. But, in the end, an agreement was reached that specifies how the California desert will be managed for the benefit of all Americans.
There are many more legislative miles to travel before this bill can become law. Already, one hearing has been held on S. 2921 in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It is clear from that hearing that questions remain about the solar energy aspects of the legislation, so it is difficult to provide any prediction of passage this year. One thing is clear, however, and that is that Senator Feinstein and her staff has been tenacious in their work on this legislation. They have been instrumental in bringing opposing sides to the negotiating table and they have been advocates for OHV recreation. We hope the Feinstein model of inclusiveness will become a model that others in Congress will use when developing legislation on federal lands issues.
Summer is upon us and that means that it is time to send out our annual appeal for responsible behavior. As adults, it's extremely important that we set an example for the younger folks by wearing the appropriate safety gear for whatever form of recreation we are enjoying. If we are in boat, that means wearing a life preserver at all times. On an ATV, motorcycle or a horse, that means wearing a helmet and other appropriate protective gear. Simple things to us, but lessons to be taught that will remain with them for a lifetime.
Enjoy the summer with your family and friends but do so safely.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access