IB10141 - Recreation on Federal Lands
8-Jun-2006; Kori Calvert, Sandra L. Johnson, Carol Hardy Vincent, Ross W. Gorte, Nicole T. Carter, Nic Lane, David L. Whiteman, and M. Lynne Corn; 19 p.
Update: June 19, 2006
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:
Abstract: The growing and diverse nature of recreation on federal lands has increased the challenge of balancing recreation with other land uses, and balancing different types of recreation. Motorized recreation has been particularly controversial, with issues centering on access and environmental impacts. The 109th Congress is considering legislation and conducting oversight on issues involving recreation on federal lands, including traditional recreational pursuits and newer forms of motorized recreation. The Administration is addressing these issues through budgetary, regulatory, and other actions. Several prominent issues are covered in this report.
Motorized Recreation in the National Forests and on BLM Land. The use of offhighway vehicles (OHVs) on Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands has been particularly controversial. Both agencies decide the extent of allowed OHV use through their planning processes. The FS finalized new regulations (Nov. 9, 2005) governing OHV use that require designating roads, trails, and areas open for OHV use and prohibit OHV use outside the designated system. The BLM is addressing transportation issues through national strategies and other guidance. A July 13, 2005, House Resources joint subcommittee hearing examined motorized recreation use on federal lands. The FY2007 Administration budget request would cut FS recreation management by 3% and trails funding by 19%, and BLM recreation management by 2%. The Housepassed Interior appropriations bill restored or increased funding for these accounts.
Personal Watercraft and Snowmobiles. Personal watercraft (PWC) and snowmobile use in National Park Service (NPS) units has fueled debate over the balance between recreation on, and protection of, park lands and waters. Regulatory actions restricting use of these vehicles have been especially controversial. The NPS currently is evaluating PWC and snowmobile use in several areas. Service-wide management policies encompassing motorized and nonmotorized recreation are being reviewed.
Aircraft Overflights. Grand Canyon National Park is at the center of a conflict over whether to limit air tours over national parks to reduce noise. The NPS and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to work to implement a 1987 law that sought to reduce noise at Grand Canyon, and a 2000 law that regulates overflights at other park units. Recent regulations require air tour operators to seek authority to fly over park units; the agencies then must develop Air Tour Management Plans at those park units. Further, the FAA is developing final safety regulations for commercial air tours nationally.
The National Trails System. While designation of trails is often popular, issues remain regarding funding, expansion, and quality of trails. The 109th Congress is considering a variety of trail measures, including adding routes to the National Trail System, authorizing studies of routes for possible additions to the system, and authorizing land acquisitions from willing sellers. Legislation has been introduced to create a new category of trails, called National Discovery Trails.
Other Issues. Other federal land recreation issues of interest to the 109th Congress include recreational uses within the National Wildlife Refuge System, recreation at federal water sites (Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation), recreation fees, and Grand Canyon Colorado River management.