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House Subcommittee Oversight Hearing Update

Update May 7, 2013:  House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Oversight Hearing on "Impediments to Public Recreation on Public Lands"

After watching the May 7, 2013 US House Subcommittee Hearing on impediments to recreation on public lands, there seems to be quite a lot of bipartisan agreement that bureaucratic regulations are one of the biggest problems on public lands today.

The hearing focused on the problems commercial recreation providers are having with the federal land managers. But Congress needs to clearly understand that your local OHV or snowmobile club is subject to the exact same process just to have a club ride.

We wanted to encourage you to watch the hearing HERE. Normally, these congressional hearings can be pretty boring. Not so with this hearing. It should be mandatory viewing for anyone interested in public lands issues. In addition to problems with permitting, it was interesting to hear the panelists talk about land management designations such as National Monuments and Wilderness.

Some highlights: Bannon, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director for the National Outdoor Leadership School

We have seen this approach unfold across the three federal land management agencies. In the mid-1990s, Canyonlands National Park reduced overall group sizes to seven, a number we could not sustain economically. We were forced to cease our operations there. In 2005, we saw group size levels in the Dirty Devil drop from 20 to 12.

Nevertheless, the bureaucratic morass that has become the new normal is stifling creativity and growth in the outdoor industry.

David L. Brown, Executive Director, America Outdoors Association

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) includes all congressionally designated areas and other lands such as Wilderness Study Areas (WSA's). The NLCS was authorized in 2009 to conserve landscapes for scientific, cultural and ecological values. Overnight, the NLCS went from "working landscapes" to educational preserves. Recreation and outfitted recreation activities are not an emphasis on NLCS lands unless the congressional designation makes recreation a purpose and management plans specify recreation management areas (RMA's). We suggest some legislative adjustments to the BLM's NLCS authorizing language to give recreation a higher status.

Brian I. Merrill, CEO, Western River Expeditions

In reflecting on the prospect for designating lands under the Bureau of Land Management's authority, I want to focus on concerns about the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) and what is an inherent bias against recreation in the authorizing legislation and in the NLCS management manuals. As you know the NLCS was established in 2009 to include all congressionally designated areas "to conserve, protect, and restore nationally landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values". Recreation is not a value for which an NLCS unit is managed unless it is included as a purpose in the authorizing legislation for the area. Recreational use may be allowed but it is secondary and tolerated only if it is not in conflict with the other purposes for the NLCS, the values prescribed by the congressional designation, and the direction given in the NLCS manuals and BLM handbooks.

Either specifically include recreationally significant lands in NLCS management plans or leave recreationally significant lands outside the NLCS. This would require Congress to come up with a specific new designation, exclude recreationally significant areas from the boundaries of the designated area, or alter the existing NLCS authority to give recreation higher standing.

Create a designation other than wilderness, such as a "backcountry" designation, where recreation is the primary purpose for the area without the restrictions imposed by wilderness, the NLCS and Monument status? A backcountry designation would allow new uses to be considered and recognize historic and multiple recreational uses where appropriate.

Oversight Hearing on "Impediments to Public Recreation on Public Lands"