ACSA Fly-In to Washington DC (Randy Toth)
Published on Sunday, March 25, 2012 in Guest Columns, Legislative Affairs, National, News & Updates
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SAM President Dan Gould and Legislative Chairman Randy Toth attended the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) annual Washington DC Fly-In from March 17 through March 20, 2012. To be more accurate we actually went via AMTRAK. On Sunday the delegates attended various Chapter Meetings and on Monday heard speakers from various government agencies, congressional offices, and ACSA trail partners. On Tuesday ACSA members “Stormed The Hill” (meaning they visited their congressional offices) to discuss the Recreation Trails Program (RTP) funding status. The following are a just a few of the more interesting notes grouped by subject matter:

Recreational Trail Program Issues

  • The Transportation Enhancements program permits snowmobiles on Rail Trails; but states have the final say.
  • RTP is on its 8th extension which expires on 03-31-2012.
  • The true funding for RTP is unknown. Currently the government says ~$70 million; but the true figure could be as much as $280 million. There is no current data and no easy way to estimate the total more accurately. Currently only about 42% of the moneys collected go to RTP and of that only 30% are for motorized use.
  • One way to increase moneys for trails and to make the system fairer, would be to tax bike tires, running shoes, hiking boots, etc.
  • Don’t forget to submit Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) nominations for awards.
  • Don’t bother writing letters of support to the government for your favorite RTP project. That is not how they are judged.
  • 1993 was the last year of a gas tax increase and the Federal Highway Trust fund will run out of money in 2013. Revenue is falling since hybrid cars, electric cars and mass transportation do not contribute to the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
  • The public generally supports the RTP – just consider the number of folks who attend a new bike trail opening ribbon cutting ceremony vs. those who attend a new highway ramp opening ceremony.
  • The current Senate and House versions of RTP are slightly different; but acceptable.
  • Question what you read in the newspapers. An article condemning the spending of Transportation Enhancement money of a squirrel viewing area seems bad until one realizes it gave folks a place to get off of a highway to see rare squirrels in a heavily trafficked area where there was a high incidence of accidents.

Federal Land Access Issues

  • Unelected bureaucrats continue to make key policy decisions in Washington – not the folks you elected.
  • Government decisions are politically motivated – what else is new?
  • There is even a regulation that says if a particular activity is available outside public lands then consideration should be given to banning it on federal lands – used mostly to bar motorized recreation.
  • Laws stating that federal land was open unless specifically closed would minimize litigation; but opposed by litigation activists.
  • Even some extreme environmental groups have problems with their own agendas. For example “Windmills are good; but they need roads which is bad”.
  • There are millions of acres of federal lands that have been declared unsuitable for wilderness designation by the forest service; but due to the way the law is written they are all in limbo and can’t be released for general use (including recreation) until congress acts.
  • Many government initiatives like “America’s Great Outdoors” lack motorized or even recreation inputs into the process. The extreme anti’s would really like the great outdoors without any recreation as we know it.
  • Federal land access fees will expire in 2014 resulting in a) no maintenance b) no access or c) all of the above? Guess who benefits??

Congressional/Regulatory Issues

  • Any single Senator can put a hold on a piece of legislation he or she doesn’t like.
  • Only 10% of the legislation Congress passed was real – the rest was for items like renaming things for constituents.
  • Congress can vote to defund regulations it finds objectionable.
  • Congressional redistricting is used to get rid of undesirable legislators.
  • One United States Circuit Court has been reversed on 28 or 29 cases by higher courts. This is a prime example of “judicial activism” vs. “constitutional law”.
  • Activists have turned increasingly to law suits to try and bar the public from public lands or at least bottle up regulations they don’t like for years while they hope for a better outcome.
  • Terms like economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, ecological sustainability, social sustainability, recreation sustainability, etc. continue to pop up in government planning despite leading to endless lawsuits trying to define what is meant or intended.
  • E15 fuel is still being pushed hard, and citizens must try to make sure future access to E10 fuel will be guaranteed.
  • Increased CAFÉ standards may mean you will be pulling your snowmobile trailer with a subcompact car in the future.

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