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Jarhead
January 5th, 2012, 10:55 AM
 We are still waiting for the release of the Forest Service Planning Rule. Our expectation is that the final rule will be released within days from now. We remain in "wait and see" mode, not exactly sure as to how the new planning rule will facilitate or hinder recreation on Forest Service land. It will be interesting to see which interest group is the first to head to court seeking judicial intervention.

 As we wrote in the December newsletter, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) remains a major concern of ours. Nothing has changed much from when we last wrote, but as we have continued our visits on Capitol Hill, our worries have not diminished. We face enormous obstacles in getting this program reauthorized.

We expect that both the House and the Senate will attempt to move forward sometime in February and March to reauthorize the transportation programs since the current authorization is set to expire at the end of March. A simple extension of the authorization for a period of a year or so might well keep RTP intact whereas reauthorization for a longer period of time, say two to six years, might mean more restructuring of the current programs due to the funding shortfall.

The good news is that everyone who cares about RTP understands what we are facing. No one is asleep at the switch. The discouraging news is that we have our work cut out for us. In the coming days we will continue to ask you to contact your Representative and Senators about this critically important program for recreation, motorized and non-motorized alike.

 Finally, the issue of sequestration is looming out there like a very dark, menacing cloud. Remember that congressional "supercommittee" everyone was praying would find the magic solution to our federal budget woes? Failure on the part of the supercommittee to come up with a deficit reduction plan means the clock is ticking on massive budget cuts beginning a year from now. Unless Congress finds new sources of revenue or agrees to specific spending cuts, the sequestration process will begin. Federal land agencies are likely to feel the fiscal pain as well other federal departments including the Department of Defense. Having less means that programs are likely to be eliminated or curtailed. Closure of important recreation areas due to the lack of trail maintenance might well be the result of some of these budget cutbacks. Agencies will need to rely even more on the good works of volunteers to do trail maintenance.


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