Legislative Updates-September 2003

                Submitted by Patti Wible-Crouch

                BCHW Legislative Chair

 

Have you visited our bchw.org web site recently?  If you have a computer or access to one; check it out!  Jim Thode is doing a wonderful job with the updates, and contact information.  It makes it simple for you to write your representative regarding the issues that we horsemen and women need to make our voices heard!

At the state level, just received this update from the IAC (Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation) regarding NOVA.  The Program Advisory Committee has just completed its second meeting en route to developing recommendations to the 2004 Legislature for updating the NOVA ACT and the related recreational grant program.  The best way to stay informed of the Committee’s work is to regularly check IAC’s website:  www.iac.wa.gov/

(under “News and Events” click NOVA.)  The website also has a link for providing feedback on the Committee’s work. 

Background:  The NOVA grant program is supported in large part by the gasoline taxes paid by people who recreate off gasoline tax supported roads.  In this program, funds are provided to local, state, and federal agencies to assist recreational activities related to gasoline use.  Typical activities include hiking, riding horses, mountain bicycles, and ORVs; and viewing wildlife.  Second Substitute House Bill 1698 (2003) established the Advisory Committee to recommend updates to the NOVA Program, including the fund distribution formulas.  Members of the Committee include representatives of county sheriffs, recreational land managers, and people with experience in off-road vehicles, hiking, equestrian activities, mountain bicycling, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing.  The equestrian representative is Robert Brooke.               

On the national front, Congressman Radonovich of California has introduced a bill HR No 2966 to preserve the recreational use of pack and saddle stock animals on public lands; cited as the Pack and Saddle Stock Use on Public Lands Act of 2003. Specifically the legislation mandates that the lands should be managed by the different federal agencies “to preserve and facilitate the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals on such lands, including wilderness areas, national monuments, and other specifically designated area, where there is a historical tradition of such use.”  As if that weren’t enough to get your attention; the legislation requires that “as a general rule, all trails, routes, and area used by pack and saddle stock shall remain open and accessible for such use”.

                In introducing the bill, Representative Radanovich stated that he wanted to preserve the tradition of horses in American culture.  “Riding livestock is a great way to explore and experience our federal lands”, he said,” and we must preserve our riding heritage.  Unfortunately, livestock use is under fire from national environmental fund-raising organizations who seek to restrict access to federal lands. 

 To date there are 7 cosponsors and it may or may not generate a lot of support.  The American Horse Council Recreation committee has recommended the AHC support it, as will BCHA.  We should all make the effort to contact all our congressional contacts with a letter of support.  Even if it does not move this year our position of support is important. 

Another “Action Alert” is regarding the TE Program.  The Transportation Enhancements Program was voted by the House Appropriation Committee to be eliminated for funding.  The TE program was established in 1991 by Congress as a guarantee to their constituents that a small percentage of their gas tax dollars would be targeted to a small-scale, community-initiated locally selected transportation projects.  Congress created the program because state departments of transportation were simply not investing in projects supporting bicycling, walking trails of scenic or historic preservation and other enhancements to the transportation system.  Proponents of the funding cut say revenues are falling and the economy is tight and therefore cuts must be made – but HR 2989 actually increases the transportation budget by $4.5 billion over the Administration’s funding request.

On September 4th the good news is that the amendment to restore the funds passed by a vote of 327 to 90!  But this is the first floor vote on Transportation Enhancements; there are many to follow in this appropriations and reauthorization process.  For more information on this and other national issues visit the website for www.americantrails.org  They have lots of great information, including resource material on grant writing. 

                On the discussion of  “outsourcing” ; Peg Greiwe BCHA let us know that Mt. Rainier National Park has been removed from the study list at least for this year.  The squeaky wheel does get the attention; Mt Rainer went from being first on the list to taken off; due to the overwhelming feedback from our Washington delegation. 

                On your local level; you know that zoning battles can arise in any community.  Sometimes they originate from the local government that wishes to change the laws to clarify regulations as an enforcement tool to deal with neighbor complaints.  As populations increase so do complaints and the responsibility of the community to respond to such complaints.  Sharon Call, Office Manager for Washington State Horse Council is also the Chair for the Kitsap Conservation District.  This happens to be the county I live in, and we are in the midst of a major rewrite of the land use regarding livestock.  As you can imagine, it is a lively discussion!  Next month I will go into more detail regarding local zoning issues.