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  • ARRA may newsletter

    May, 2005 Newsletter

    RTP Funding

    As I prepare this newsletter, the U. S. Senate is debating H.R. 3, the Transportation authorization measure. This is the legislation that would authorize funding for the Recreational Trails Program. We don’t expect final passage of this measure to occur before the second week of May. And, we remain concerned that the Senate will approve a funding level for RTP which is lower than the number authorized by the House. We are grateful that many ARRA members have contacted their Senators on this very point.

    If you would like to send a letter to your Senator or learn more about this issue, click here.

    Our hope is that this measure will be on the President’s desk for his signature before the Memorial Day holiday. In the meantime, we will keep you posted on every development until this measure has been signed into law.

    2005 Fire Season

    Summer hasn’t even officially begun and widespread concern exists among government officials throughout the western part of the U.S. over the potential for devastating forest fires in the coming months. The threat is especially great in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho due to the severe drought conditions in those areas. The winter snow pack is insufficient to ward off further worsening of the conditions associated with this serious drought.

    The ramifications of this threat will affect recreational interests in a big way. First, the obvious threat is the loss of valuable habitat as the result of forest fires. Second, as the fire season drags on, federal and state agencies will see their firefighting resources, personnel as well as budgets, depleted. Already, some federal agencies have begun reprogramming budgets to devote more financial resources to fire fighting activities. Some of this reprogramming means that recreational budgets are being cut. The Deputy Chief of the Forest Service recently directed regional foresters to consider closing trails, campgrounds and other recreational sites in an effort to direct more resources towards hazardous rules reduction activities.

    ARRA views these developments with increasing alarm. We recognize the need to devote more financial resources for fire fighting activities and hazardous fuel reduction efforts. We also know that there may be fewer National Guard troops available to fight forest fires because they are serving our country in Iraq. And, we know that fewer air tankers are available to fight western forest fires due to air safety concerns. This was brought home to us last week when a 40 year-old tanker crashed in California killing all three crew members on board.

    Rather than cutting recreation budgets, what needs to be done is for the Congress to appropriate more funds for our national forests. The need for more funds goes beyond firefighting capabilities. For example, a recent study by the Government Accountability Office reported there is a reforestation backlog of more than 900,000 acres destroyed by previous forest fires. This backlog exists because of inadequate budget resources for reforestation work on our public lands and the upcoming fire season means that this problem will only become larger.

    Closing trails and campgrounds will not make up for the budget shortfalls that currently exist for the care of our public lands. Congress needs to appropriate more funds for this purpose. In the coming months, millions of Americans will be planning to visit our National Parks, National Forests and other public lands. Let’s hope that the lack of financial resources doesn’t mean that these families will find a “Closed” sign on the very public lands they want to visit and enjoy.

    BLM Website Closed for Business

    Once again, the Bureau of Land Management has been forced to close down its website because of fears that cyber-space espionage might compromise the agency’s internal IT systems. This means that information normally available to the American public such as public meetings notices, trail condition reports, and campground availability, will not be readily available. No word yet as to when the website will be up and running, but the agency tells us that they are working to fix the problems.

    Meanwhile, if you have a question about using BLM lands for recreational activities, I guess the only recourse you have is to call the closest BLM office. Normally, I would refer you to the BLM website for a listing of those offices, but as we said, it’s not available. Your trusty telephone book may be the best available source. Good luck in finding a real person to answer the phone.

    Forest Service OHV Rule

    We are told to expect the release of the final rule governing OHV access to our national forests in late spring or early summer. Of course, once this happens the next phase is the development of designated OHV routes for each national forest and to do that, completing an accurate inventory of OHV trails is going to be a critical step.

    Once the rule is released, we will immediately notify ARRA members. And at that juncture, we will begin discussing ways to launch an effective inventorying process for every national forest. Stay tuned.


    Some issues just won’t go away and this is one that won’t until Congress does the right thing. Right now, insurance companies can discriminate against Americans who enjoy active sports. That can be skiing, motorcycle riding or horse riding. Fortunately, some members of Congress are taking steps to change this unfair practice. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) have introduced S. 577, “The HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act” to fix the problem.

    When the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted into law by Congress in 1996, it was intended to prevent health care providers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or participation in legal activities. The implementing regulations, however, contained a loophole that means while providers cannot deny coverage, they can deny payment of benefits for an injury occurring while recreating.

    Last year, the Senate passed S. 423, an identical bill to the recently introduced S. 577. Congress adjourned before the House of Representatives had time to consider the bill. With S. 577 introduced early in the 109th Congress, ARRA hopes to see the legislation pass both houses of Congress. The last time we looked, it’s legal to ride a horse or a motorcycle or to ski down the side of a mountain. Insurance companies shouldn’t be able to deny the payment of claims and the passage of S. 577 will put an end to this unfair practice.

    We will keep you updated on the progress of this legislation and we will let you know when its time to contact your Representative and your Senators to urge passage of this important legislation.

    Evan Haglund

    For the past two years, we have had the privilege of working with a remarkable young man on a variety of projects for ARRA. With this newsletter, Evan Haglund’s service with us comes to an end as he is about to begin an exciting career as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

    During the next few months, Evan will be taking classes at the Foreign Service Institute on how to become a diplomat. Along the way, he will also be sharpening his foreign language skills.

    While we are very sorry to see him go, we are also very proud of him and excited that he will soon be representing our government in a foreign capital. He doesn’t yet know where he and his family will be sent for his first foreign posting, but we have promised to visit as long as the food is good and the climate is to our liking.

    Thanks, Evan, for all you have done for ARRA. We will miss you.


    Larry E. Smith
    Executive Director
    1997 Jeep Wrangler