Industry’s Motorized Recreation Access Agenda Is On-the-Move for 2011
IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 18, 2011 – Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a busy year of OHV access advocacy and looks forward to the next decade with an ambitious agenda.
ARRA is an MIC/SVIA/ROHVA government relations program and the face of the industry’s public lands access advocacy. Under this umbrella approach, ARRA brings a much larger voice to bear on behalf of all motorized recreation than any one particular segment of the motorized community can alone.
ARRA’s Executive Director Larry Smith said, “It is hard to believe that ARRA has been fighting for responsible access for 10 years; however, the need for ARRA as an organization continues to grow. It is imperative that we continue to engage agencies and the Congress, not only to push back against unnecessary closures, but also to make sure that decision-makers better understand that there are millions of motorized enthusiasts who responsibly recreate on our public lands.”
ARRA has created and supports Professionals for Managed Recreation (PMR) as another resource. A group of retired U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials, each with decades of experience in successfully managing OHV recreation on public lands, PMR is designed to promote environmentally sustainable recreation and counter anti-access groups’ misinformation about OHV use on public lands. PMR is used strategically for access efforts, providing an authoritative voice in support of managed OHV recreation to Congress, land management agencies and the media, and lending stature and credibility to the debate.
ARRA’s grassroots component enables all enthusiasts, dealers, MIC/SVIA/ROHVA member companies, industry and anyone interested in access to public lands to make their voices heard. Numerous grassroots campaigns on legislative and regulatory issues have generated well over one million letters to Congress and federal agencies. The ARRA website provides information on land use issues and relevant meetings across the country and makes it easy to send comments on OHV issues to Members of Congress and other policy makers.
MIC’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Kathy Van Kleeck, said, “The best spent five minutes would be to register for ARRA for free at arra-access.org. The larger our voice, the larger our influence.”
Many OHV organizations represent niche segments or memberships. ARRA brings all the major national OHV-related stakeholder groups together through its facilitation of bi-weekly conference calls. Through these calls, ARRA is able to develop and coordinate best strategies for collective group action. For example, in 2010 ARRA sent numerous letters signed by as many as 13 national groups, to Congressional leaders and federal land management agency officials, demonstrating a united voice on behalf of motorized recreation. With unified positions and information shared during ARRA-led calls, MIC, SVIA, ROHVA and other groups collectively and individually are better equipped to influence important land use issues.
Duane Taylor, MIC’s Director of Federal Affairs, said, “ARRA is free to join and provides a significant opportunity for riders and others to have their voices heard. It is important to note that ARRA is meant to enhance and amplify the valuable contributions of local, state and other national OHV organizations, not replace them. The OHV community as a whole is much more effective when we work together.” ARRA and MIC/ VIA/ROHVA thank the national groups that regularly participate in its strategy sessions and joint activities including:
- American Council of Snowmobile Associations
- American Motorcyclist Association
- BlueRibbon Coalition
- National Marine Manufacturers Association/Personal Watercraft Association
- National OHV Conservation Council
- Off-Road Business Association
- Specialty Equipment Market Association
- Tread Lightly!
ARRA will be looking ahead to these land use issues in 2011:
BLM “Wild Lands” Wilderness Initiative – The “Treasured Landscape” document made it clear that BLM intends to use its own “land-use planning process to manage for conservation values” in areas where legislative or Monument protection is unlikely. In fact this process began in the waning days of 2010 when the Secretary of the Interior issued a Secretarial Order on December 22 directing BLM to inventory and designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as “Wild Lands” and to manage them to protect their wilderness values. In effect, this would allow BLM to manage lands as Wilderness, a classification that prohibits any form of mechanized use, and one which only Congress has the power to designate.
The national OHV groups immediately sent a joint letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings (R-WA) and Rep. Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, expressing our concern about the Order and its effect on management of public lands. ARRA will continue to work closely with Representatives Hastings’ and Bishop’s staffs on this issue. Rep. Bishop has indicated that this will be the first issue on the Subcommittee’s agenda in the 112th Congress.
Interior Secretary Salazar acknowledged that only Congress has authority to designate wilderness, but said BLM has authority to protect lands as wilderness on its own authority, raising serious legal questions. Chairman Hastings has questioned the legality of the Order and 59 Representatives and Senators have recently sent a letter to the Secretary urging withdrawal of the new policy.
U.S. Forest Service Travel Management Rule – Subpart A – In November, USFS headquarters directed Forests to begin implementing Subpart A of the Travel Management Rule, with completion by 2015. Subpart A requires Forests to identify a minimum road system and decommission unneeded roads or convert them to trails. ARRA drafted a letter to USFS Chief Tidwell, signed by 13 national OHV stakeholder groups, expressing its concerns and encouraging the Chief to issue a revised directive instructing each Forest to recognize roads already identified on Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) and to meaningfully consider converting “unneeded” roads to trails. ARRA will remain fully engaged in this emerging issue and will hold follow-up meetings with Forest Service officials.
New 2011 ARRA initiatives include:
Collaboration with BLM to Provide Enhanced OHV Recreation Opportunities – BLM is increasingly challenged in providing for OHV recreation as OHV use increases and budgets decline at the same time that BLM units are undertaking Comprehensive Trails and Travel Management planning and implementation efforts to manage OHV areas and their route designations.
MIC, SVIA and ROHVA, working in conjunction with the National OHV Conservation Council (NOHVCC), are in discussions with BLM Washington Office and field office staffs regarding partnering with BLM on its travel management planning and implementation. As BLM transitions to OHV route designations, ARRA will provide needed assistance to BLM in order to preserve and enhance OHV recreation opportunities on BLM land. BLM areas for possible pilot projects in 2011 designed to bring OHV management resources to the ground are currently being identified.
Examples of ARRA’s advocacy initiatives in 2010:
Withdrawal of Omnibus Public Lands Legislation – In anticipation of attempt by some in Congress to move an overreaching omnibus public lands bill, ARRA undertook extensive efforts to oppose an omnibus throughout the year. In August ARRA sent a group letter, signed by 9 national OHV stakeholder groups, to key Congressional leaders and issued multiple alerts, which generated thousands of letters in opposition to Congress. Senate Majority Leader Reid’s (D-NV) attempt in the waning days of the 111th Congress to push omnibus public lands legislation that incorporated well over 50 separate bills failed when Reid withdrew the legislation from consideration, in the face of substantial opposition. ARRA had also met with staff of multiple Member offices to express opposition and worked with and offered support to Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Coburn (R-OK) who were leading the charge to oppose the public lands omnibus.
Development of New US Forest Service Land Management Planning Rule – The USFS is developing a new planning rule that will significantly impact future recreational opportunities on its 193 million acres. The December 2009 initial notice on the rulemaking ignored any consideration of recreation as a core USFS principle and focused on restoration, conservation and climate change. ARRA worked extensively throughout 2010 to influence development of the new rule to ensure that recreation plays a key role and that forest planning provides for diverse recreational uses of our forests. ARRA briefed thought leaders on the proposal, submitted extensive comments, participated in a National Science Forum and four National Roundtables, sent letters to the USFS Chief on specific concerns, and participated in several meetings with the Chief and other agency officials.
The proposed rule was released on February 11 and officially published in the Federal Register on February 14, starting the clock on a 90-day comment period. The Forest Service will hold another National Forum on March 10 in Washington, D.C. according to the Forest Service, “Provide stakeholders an in-depth understanding of the Proposed Rule and continue to build a foundation for collaboration when the final Rule is implemented.” It also plans regional roundtables throughout March in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Alaska. ARRA is in the process of thoroughly analyzing the 94-page just-issued draft to assess its impact on the future of OHV recreation on Forest Service lands. While it is clear that the word “recreation” has been added multiple times to the draft, the devil is in the details and ARRA is undertaking a careful study of the draft and its implications in order to develop comments. MIC will be attending the national forum and will alert all ARRA members living in the vicinity of the regional meetings. Since the beginning of the Rule development process, the Forest Service has vowed to issue the final Rule on November 11, 2011.
Administration’s Public Lands Agenda
Treasured Landscapes – 2010 brought fears about the Administration’s public lands management agenda, stemming from a leaked Department of Interior “Treasured Landscapes” document. The document outlined the Administration’s consideration of designating 13 million acres of public land in 11 western states as National Monuments and additional lands that BLM believes may be suitable for Wilderness or National Conservation Area designation. Further, the document laid out BLM’s desire to elevate managing for conservation over its multiple-use management mandate. In all, more than 100 million acres were under consideration for special designations. All of these actions would likely severely restrict OHV access on BLM lands.
ARRA had numerous meetings with Congressional staff, brought its concerns to the attention of senior Department of Interior officials in meetings and in written comments, and undertook an ARRA campaign that generated over 22,000 emails to Congress on this issue.
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGOI) – Launched in April 2010 by President Obama with great fanfare, this initiative was tasked with reconnecting Americans to the outdoors. While the endgame of the initiative was unclear, ARRA believes the Administration was setting the stage for sweeping public lands pronouncements that may include new National Parks, National Monuments and other special land designations, including those outlined in the “Treasured Landscapes” document. ARRA has been very engaged in efforts to include the motorized recreation perspective in the initiative, highlighting the role that responsible motorized recreation can play in getting Americans outdoors. MIC/SVIA and ARRA met with the lead senior officials for the AGOI from the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and prepared on behalf of 11 organizations an extensive white paper examining the positive impacts of OHV recreation and provided recommendations. Twenty-six listening sessions were held across the country and ARRA encouraged riders living in areas where sessions were scheduled to participate and to submit comments, providing talking points for their use.
Because outreach to motorized recreation interests was ignored by AGOI officials and certain anti-access interests were alerted about the sessions before they were publicly announced, ARRA worked with Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) and Representative Bishop’s (R-UT) staffs on a joint House and Senate letter to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture and the EPA Administrator, ultimately signed by 18 Members of Congress. The letter encouraging them to consider input from all stakeholders in developing the AGOI and requesting documents and correspondence from the involved agencies regarding the listening sessions. Initially the AGOI recommendations were due to the President on November 15; however, that date was pushed back. The release of the report is expected any day.
The Motorcycle Industry Council exists to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling through government relations, communications and media relations, statistics and research, aftermarket programs, development of data communications standards, and activities surrounding technical and regulatory issues. As a not-for-profit, national industry association, MIC seeks to support motorcyclists by representing manufacturers and distributors of motorcycles, scooters, motorcycle/ATV/ROV parts and accessories, and members of allied trades such as insurance, finance and investment firms, media companies and consultants.
The MIC is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., with a government relations office in metropolitan Washington, D.C. First called the MIC in 1970, the organization has been in operation since 1914. Visit the MIC at mic.org.