Shrinking National Monuments: An Unprecedented Attack on Our Public Lands
IMBA’s Government Relations department constantly monitors and responds to threats that would harm mountain biking, public lands, and the democratic ability to take part in the public process that helps determine how these places to ride should be managed. Here are three things the department has been keeping a beat on to make sure mountain bikers’ voices are being heard and at the table. Mountain bikers everywhere should take a moment to weigh in on these threats.
1. The “Resilient Federal Forests Act”
What can mountain bikers do?
The House is expected to vote on this bill very soon. Tell your representative this bill goes way to far way too far in eliminating environmental review and public process from decision making.
Under the guise of addressing fire, H.R. 2936, introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), proposes a number of deeply problematic provisions, including removing all required environmental analysis and public process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) from the development of forest plans. NEPA defines the management blueprints for national forests which determine 15 to 20 years of management, or more.
Forest planning is a cornerstone of how our national forests are managed. Mountain bikers engage in, and advocate for access through forest planning and analysis under NEPA is an essential part of that process. NEPA ensures that land management decisions consider environmental impacts, but it’s also an essential element of public process in decision making, allowing mountain bikers and the public to weigh in on alternatives under consideration.
NEPA is a big part of how public landowners (i.e., all of us) make sure that agencies are doing their jobs and considering things like existing mountain bike routes and future trail development opportunities. It goes without saying that developing a 15-to-20 year management plan also needs to include proper environmental analysis.
Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act is bad for mountain biking, and bad for public lands. It would:
Create “categorical exclusions” from environmental analysis for logging projects on areas up to 30,000 acres;
Drastically curtail opportunities for judicial review of land management decisions;
Imperil roadless areas and national monument protections; and
Fail to fully address the problem of fire suppression funding.
2. National Park Service proposes fee increase at 17 National Parks
What can mountain bikers do?
The 30-day comment period on the proposed fee increase ends on November 23, 2017. Please let Secretary Zinke know you believe national parks should remain accessible and affordable for all.
The National Park Service announced recently that it is considering an increase in entrance fees to $70 at 17 of its most popular parks—in some cases tripling the cost to get in.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said that the increase, “will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”
While that certainly sounds like a worthy goal, we strongly believe that entrance fees should never be set at levels where people are priced out of enjoying their public lands.
Addressing the effects of decades of systematic underfunding of the land management agencies is important for National Parks—and all of our public lands—and we accept that fees are appropriate or necessary in some limited circumstances. This fee increase, however, strikes us as unreasonably high, particularly when proposed in conjunction with overall Department of Interior budget cuts to the tune of $1.5 billion and proposals to massively ramp up energy development.
The fee hikes would affect visitors beginning May 1, 2018, at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion national parks; beginning June 1, 2018 in Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah national parks; and “as soon as practicable” in Joshua Tree National Park.
3. Defending the Recreation Trails Program
What can mountain bikers do?
Look for updates on this as the Senate Appropriations Committee starts its process to approve a budget bill soon.
IMBA is a partner in the Recreation Trails Program (RTP) via the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT). Together we fought against an amendment in the House Appropriations package that would eliminate an exemption from the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG), Highway Transportation Program, and Railway-Highway Crossings Program, making them subject to recession and ending the proportional drawdown of un-obligated balances.
U.S. Rep Woodall of Georgia’s amendment would allow states to draw funds disproportionately from programs that provide the greatest levels of support to local communities; meaning trails.
IMBA and the Coalition for Recreational Trail members are working together to build awareness and understanding of the Recreational Trails Program, which returns federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists to the states for trail development and maintenance of both motorized and non-motorized trails.
While the Woodall amendment passed the House, it is not law yet. The Senate still needs to pass their version of the budget, and then House and Senate budget leaders will need to find a compromise bill.
It is essential that we broadly recognize and respond to threats that go beyond our narrow ribbon of singletrack, for the very idea of “access” is threatened in a way we have never seen before. As mountain bikers, and a part of the outdoor recreation community who care about public lands, we must continue to fight for the places we care about.