Author Topic: A New Beginning  (Read 3450 times)


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A New Beginning
« on: February 05, 2009, 01:13:45 am »
A New Beginning
The 44th President of the United States took his oath of office (twice - due to the difficulty the Chief Justice had remembering the correct version of the oath) and the new Congress is up and running. It's a new beginning here in the Nation's Capital and with that comes a certain amount of excitement as well as a great deal of nervousness. Despite the fact that we are waging war in two countries, the overriding issue in every debate is the state of our national economy. The White House, the Congress and the Federal Reserve are all searching for new approaches to create jobs and to stem the rapid increase in unemployment.

NLCS Passes Senate
In one of the first actions of the new session, the Senate approved by a vote of 73-21, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a package of more than 180 public lands bills along with the permanent designation of the National Lands Conservation System. This was done despite the valiant efforts of Senator Tom Coburn to stop the bill. During the closing days of the 110th Congress, Senator Coburn was successful in preventing a final Senate vote on this measure. Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, vowed to make the public lands bill a priority when the Senate convened in January, 2009, and indeed, Senator Reid followed through with that threat in the second week of the session.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for action. We anticipate the House will approve the measure and that it will eventually be sent to the President for his signature.

Billions, Billions and Billions
I have never seen our government authorize and appropriate such a large amount of money in such a short period of time as with the passage of the economic stimulus package. The House of Representatives approved its version of the measure on January 28 and the Senate is set to begin debate on its version the first week of February. The goal is to get a bill to the President's desk by February 16th, at the latest.

The dollar figures in the stimulus package are simply staggering in size. The House version totals $819 billion and the Senate version is now approaching $900 billion. No doubt the conference committee will come up with something in between.

The order of the day is "shovel ready." President Obama and the Congress want to fund as many federal projects as soon as possible in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs. While this is a worthy and necessary goal, the rush to judgment resembles a fire drill in that none of these spending bills have had the benefit of Congressional oversight hearings. Rather, the federal agencies have sent their wish lists to Capitol Hill saying this is what we can do within a certain time frame, and by the way, it will cost X amount, and that's how we have arrived at a stimulus package in the range of 800-900 billion dollars.

Public lands agencies stand to benefit. In the bill reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service will receive additional funding for activities relating to recreation.

Bureau of Land Management

A total of $135 million for management of lands and resources with a recommendation that funds be allocated as follows:

$80 million for deferred maintenance projects
$25 million for recreation maintenance, especially for rehabilitation of off-road vehicle trails
$20 million for trail maintenance and restoration
Forest Service

$100 million for trail maintenance and improvement
At the moment, these are lump sums. We don't know where the money will be spent or on what projects. I suppose some auditor working for the Forest Service and/or the BLM knows where the money will flow, but for now we seem to be just working with big figures. I hope we will have more information for you in time for the March newsletter.

If these numbers fail to get your attention, the Treasury Department is in the process of developing a new rescue package for the banks. The reported cost this time around: $2 trillion!

Working Together
A trail incident last month in California has brought together a number of equestrian and OHV groups with the realization that working together advocating trail safety practices is of critical importance to the recreation community at large. Rather than pointing fingers at each other, the immediate response was to work together to foster greater cooperation and understanding among all users of trail systems. Involvement included local, state, and national equestrian and OHV groups.

This is a very positive development, one which we need to continue to cultivate wherever people are using the public trail system. Now, if we can only get the two political parties in Washington to follow the same philosophy (and there are some signs this is beginning to happen), maybe things will start looking up for the national economy.


Larry E. Smith
Executive Director
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
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Re: A New Beginning
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2009, 11:44:43 am »
This is good news.  I think that with the economy the way it is, more people are going to be "getting back to nature" and spending less money on resort vacations and more time / money on camping, day trips, etc.   Maintaining the public access lands in anticipation of this only makes sense. 
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