Talk about a policy of unintended consequences. In the January newsletter, you might have noticed that I made passing reference to recent Congressional action that will require the phase-in of energy efficient light bulbs and the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs (the kind that Thomas Edison invented).
The new fangled spiral fluorescent bulbs can cost two to three times as much as the old bulbs, but use 25% less energy and can last up to 10 times longer. So far, so good, except there is a little environmental problem with those new bulbs... they contain mercury. Granted, each bulb contains only 5 milligrams of mercury, but last year over 300 million bulbs were sold and soon the number will be in the billions. What happens when all of those burned out spiral bulbs make it to a landfill? The lights are on at the Environmental Protection Agency as it begins to figure out a solution to the problem.
Okay, where am I going with all of this? Well, the light bulb idea reminds me of the Forest Service Travel Management Rule. Going to a designated route system for OHV recreation was an idea whose time had come, we said. However, when we agreed to support the rule, we never envisioned that the Administration and the Forest Service would advocate a 33% reduction in the trails maintenance budget and an 8% reduction in the overall recreation budget.
It seems to me that if we are going to concentrate more and more people on fewer OHV routes, the maintenance requirements for those routes are going to increase dramatically. And, if we don't have enough money to maintain the trails/routes in the face of greater usage, land managers will have only one option and that is to close more trails.
We are encouraging ARRA members to contact their elected federal officials and ask them to restore funding to these two important budget accounts for the Forest Service. If you haven't already done so, please go to this link on the ARRA website (http://www.arra-access.com/ct/Z1zUY291bYej/). We need your help. If we fail in this mission we can expect only one long term outcome, closed trails.
Thomas Edison had a better idea. It could be that he still does.
OHV Hearing Before House Natural Resources Committee
On March 13th, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands of the House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing titled, "Off-Highway Vehicle Use on Federal Lands." At this point, the actual witness list is not publicly known, but we wouldn't be surprised if that list isn't peppered with some opponents to OHV recreation.
ARRA and other national OHV organizations are working closely with the Subcommittee to ensure that the voice of OHV enthusiasts will be heard at the hearing as well. In the meantime, we think it would be helpful to Subcommittee members if they heard from some of their constituents who happen to be OHV enthusiasts. If you would like to do your part, please visit the ARRA website and tell your Representative your thoughts about OHV recreation (http://www.arra-access.com/ct/KpzUY291bYeu/)
The wild ride continues. John McCain seems to have the GOP nomination all but locked up. While some conservative party activists aren't too happy that he is the likely nominee, we expect the Republican Party will close ranks behind McCain as it begins to prepare for the November election.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to fight it out. If Clinton falls short in Texas and Ohio, we expect that she will soon withdraw from the race, leaving the general fall match-up between Obama and McCain.
The Internet has changed so many aspects of our lives. Here at ARRA we use it to communicate with you and we encourage you to use it to communicate with your elected officials.
An internet communication on one hand can be more impersonal than a telephone call, but it can also provide a powerful means to link together family and friends living apart in this country and the world. In this way, it brings people closer together.
I recently received via email the news that a high school classmate of mine was dying of cancer. He had his wife send a message to his former classmates. His wife wrote, "Gus said to tell all of you that he lived his life to its very fullest with lots of happy memories and he is ready for his new life to begin."
"He lived his life to the fullest." How many of us can say that? I certainly can't. But Gus's simple act of communicating via the Internet has reminded me that life is but a fleeting moment and that we need to make the most of it by spending time with family and friends.
So much of OHV recreation is time well spent with family and friends and in the process creating "happy memories." While we instinctively know this by the experiences we share, I'm not sure we do a very good job of communicating this aspect to the foes who want to limit our access to national forests. Perhaps, through better practices on the part of the OHV community and better communication skills, we can bridge this gap of misunderstanding that exists between our community and those who want to deny us access.
The statement by Gus that he lived his "life to the fullest" is also a challenge to us to do likewise. It's a powerful challenge.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access