April 4th, 2007, 08:00 AM
81 inches of fun
Join Date: 11-10-05
Location: Lennon, Mi
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I do not know if anyone else gets this newsletter, so I thought I might post these here in an effort to help us keep informed on what is going on in Washington, not just our state.
Besides the cherry tree blossoms, another sure sign that spring is here are the thousands of high school students visiting the Nationís Capital during their spring break. The halls of Congress are full of students and even the sidewalks of downtown Washington are packed. Sainthood status is deserving of those sleep-deprived adult chaperones accompanying the students on these trips.
New Federal Interagency Website for Recreation Reservations
We have complained at times that the federal government hasnít been exactly user friendly when it comes to welcoming the American public to federal lands. Well, that seems to be changing now that the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture and the Army Corps of Engineers all joined together in sponsoring an internet site that facilitates making reservations for all federal recreation lands and facilities. In a sense, itís one stop shopping when it comes to exploring whatís available on federal lands and we applaud this initiative on the part of these federal agencies. So, as you begin to plan for your summer vacation, check out this website at www.recreation.gov. And yes, there is even a special section on the website featuring OHV recreation. Take a few minutes and find out what this website has to offer. It will be time well spent on your part.
Access issues seem to have been at the forefront these last several weeks. Sometimes we think it is only an OHV issue, but it isnít. Other recreation groups are also concerned about access as well. Just this past week, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the subject: ďAccess Denied: The Growing Conflict Between Hunting, Fishing, and Energy Development on Federal Lands.Ē The age old issue of access and use goes back to the early days of western expansion when cattle interests conflicted with homesteaders. Today, as the need for new energy resources grows, conflict between the oil and natural gas industry and hunting and fishing enthusiasts is becoming more pronounced. What policymakers do about it is another matter.
Two weeks ago I attended a conference in Denver, jointly convened by the BlueRibbon Coalition and the National Cattlemenís Beef Association, for the purpose of opening up a dialogue among representatives of the livestock industry and motorized recreation to discuss mutual goals on the use of public lands. In addition to a wide range of user groups, representatives from the U. S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management were also present. The group spent two days meeting to discuss ways to be ďsupportive of the multiple use of public lands as well as working together to protect public lands resources in the future.Ē The meetings were productive and efforts are underway to continue this dialogue among the various parties.
Then, later in the month, I was in Charleston, West Virginia attending the annual meeting of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). Much of the conference was spent discussing ways to access public lands for motorized recreation and doing so in a responsible and respectful manner. Representatives from state recreation agencies as well as the U. S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U. S. Department of Transportation participated in the conference in addition to OHV enthusiasts.
Whether it is a congressional hearing focusing on access to public lands or national meetings and conferences on the same subject, more and more people are recognizing the importance of federal lands for a whole host of uses and activities. Having an attitude of accommodation to others goes a long way towards ensuring that access is not denied to all those who wish to visit and enjoy our public lands responsibly.
Yellowstone Controversy Continues
I get tired writing about it and you probably get tired reading about it, but snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park continues to stir controversy. The latest salvo is that seven former directors of the National Park Service wrote to Secretary Kempthorne requesting that he overturn a proposal that would continue to permit up to 720 snowmobiles access to the park each day.
We continue to believe that the current plan is a workable compromise especially now that snowmobile groups are required to use a commercial guide and that snowmobiles must adhere to stringent emission controls.
Public comments on the Yellowstone winter use proposal can be filed up until May 31st. Between now and then, we can expect that more comments, both pro and con, will be filed on the plan. Itís a good thing this winterís snowmobile season is over. Letís hope for a permanent solution to the issue before the start of the 2007/08 winter season.
Presidential Fever Sweeps the Senate
Political candidates work very hard to get into the United States Senate. Now a whole slew of Senators seem to be anxious to leave the institution for higher office. At a minimum, presidential fever has swept through the venerable institution. So far, this is how things look: three current Senators who once considered running for the Presidency have withdrawn their candidacy having decided that being a U. S. Senator is not so bad after all; six current Senators are running hard for the Presidency; one current Senator called a press conference to announce that he couldnít decide whether to run for the Presidency and told everyone to stay tuned; one former Senator is running; and another former Senator and current actor is thinking about it. There are so many players or former players (or should we say candidates) itís hard to keep track of all of the comings and goings. Pretty soon the Senate will have trouble keeping a quorum.
Fear not, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The 2008 presidential primary process has gotten started so early that it is currently scheduled to end early as well. By the 1st week of February 2008, we should all know the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. Thatís the good news. The bad news is that presidential campaigning for the general election will begin in earnest and will last for nine months!
Larry E. Smith