BlueRibbon Coalition BRC: BRC National Legislative Update

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    Date: 04/18/2011
    BRC NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
    Western lawmakers move key issues via budget battle

    Greetings BRC Action Alert Subscribers,
    We wanted to update everyone about some significant news regarding public lands issues and the federal budget Continuing Resolution approved last week by the U.S. House and Senate and signed by President Obama on April 15, 2011.
    We'll refrain from making any amusing comments about Congress approving our nation's fiscal year 2011 budget -- in the middle of April 2011. Mostly because we don't find it particularly amusing.
    Still, there is a very bright side to this year's budget kerfuffle, at least for public lands visitors and multiple use advocates. Below is a brief update on some of the more important recreational and public land use issues affected by the budget bill.
    Enjoy the good news and, as always, please feel free to contact BRC with questions or comments.
    Brian Hawthorne
    Public Lands Policy Director
    BlueRibbon Coalition
    208-237-1008 ext 102

    BRC NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
    Western lawmakers move key issues via budget battle

    No funds for Salazar's Big Wilderness
    Last week the U.S. House and Senate approved the final fiscal year 2011 appropriations continuing resolution (HR 1473). The 2011 budget deal hammered out between Democrats and Republicans was signed by President Obama on Friday. The bill included several key budget riders affecting recreational access and public lands management.
    Specifically, a provision pushed by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson and supported by Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, several western governors and others, precludes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from using any funds for the implementation of the Wild Lands policy.
    Simpson's budget line item was made necessary when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310 requiring all Bureau of Land Management planning decisions to first consider impacts on "wilderness characteristics," embedding what amounts to a "de-facto Wilderness" authority in the land managing agency.
    This provision is in affect for the 2011 fiscal year, so the Bureau of Land Management could begin finding more Wilderness beginning in October.
    Simpson said in a press release his line item was to ensure the Department of Interior remained focused on its core mission, "ensuring that agencies like the BLM, the Forest Service, and the National Parks Service can continue to carry out fundamental operations that serve the American people." Simpson chairs the House subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies appropriations.
    It remains to be seen what impacts, if any, the budget line item will have on the BLM's never ending Wilderness inventory. Frankly, it would be wise for recreational advocates to assume BLM will not cease its Wild Lands policy, which is currently being implemented in planning projects in Utah, Idaho, Montana and other western states.

    Wolves de-listed - environmental activists are howling
    A rider was inserted by in the Senate version by Sen. Jon Tester (MT) and in the House by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) that mandates the Secretary of Interior republish a 2009 rule that removed the Wolf from mandatory protections under the Endangered Species Act. The rider also seeks to restrict any future court challenge to the de-listing.
    In Idaho and Montana, the wolf population long ago exceeded the target numbers supposedly mandated under the Endangered Species Act. That is why Interior removed the listing in 2009. But environmental activists and the federal courts have kept wolf management under federal control. The removal of a species from the Endangered Species Act by Congress is an unprecedented move, and environmental activists are howling.

    More budget details
    Resources Publishing Co. is known for accurate reporting on the details how the budget impacts recreation and public lands management issues. Details below are from Resources Publishing's most recent reports.
    The 2011 budget reduced funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which makes taxes received from Oil and Gas development available for a variety of purposes, including purchasing private lands, taking them off the local tax rolls and adding to the federal estate.
    The original 2011 House spending bill (HR 1) had approved only $41.1 million for federal land acquisition. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposed to spend $232.6 million. The final bill provides $165 million for LWCF, $123 million less than the $277.9 million in fiscal year 2010.
    Resources Publishing reports the biggest single reduction comes out of emergency fire fighting by rescinding prior year money that has not been spent. The reduction is $529 million compared to fiscal year 2010.
    Altogether the Interior and Related Agencies portion of HR 1473 would provide $2.6 billion less than fiscal year 2010, $29.6 billion compared to $32.2 billion.

    Looking ahead
    The House began working on the 2012 budget before the 2011 budget was final. Last Friday, April 15, 2011, the House passed a fiscal year 2012 budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI). According to Resources Publishing Co., "That budget would do two things of major interest to the park and recreation community. One, it would, surprisingly, continue natural resources spending at the fiscal year 2011 level of $32 billion. That is surprising because the budget would cut almost all other domestic spending sharply. Two, it would devastate transportation-related recreation programs, such as transportation enhancements, by slashing transportation spending by $21 billion, from $85 billion to $64 billion."
    Resources Publishing reports that a big controversy for the 2012 budget continues to be funding for buying more private lands. The Obama Administration has focused much of its "American Great Outdoors" initiative to the acquisition of productive private lands via purchase and/or conservation easements. Despite the public relations pitch of the effort benefiting recreation, the actual implementation often reduces recreational access.
    Indeed, a recent object lesson for the way in which LWCF funding can eliminate recreational access is happening at Independence Lake, located in the heart of the Sierras, north of Truckee, California. www.friendsofindependencelake.org
    For nearly a year, local snowmobile enthusiasts have been battling with The Nature Conservancy, the new owner of 2,300 acres completely surrounding Independence Lake. TNC purchased this land with over 98.5% of public funds, some of which came via LWCF funding. Since the purchase, TNC has severely restricted access to the California-owned lake and is now seeking to eliminate the last available access via snowmobile.

    How you can help
    There are many other legislative issues aside from the budget battle, including pro-recreation legislation (public and congressional review of future National Monument designations and bills that will seek to release Wilderness Study Areas). Please keep in mind that you are a key resource to recreational advocates like BRC. When you see an Action Alert, please take a minute to respond. It's our membership that gives BRC its influence in Washington DC.

    The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org
    _______________________________________________________
    As a non-profit, grassroots organization funded primarily by membership dues and donations, we greatly appreciate your support. Visit http://www.sharetrails.org/make-a-difference-now to help fund our efforts to protect your trails!
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