December 2013 Newsletter

DECEMBER 2013 NEWSLETTER


This newsletter is available in PDF format
here.

In this issue:


legislation Introduced to Increase Federal Gas Tax by 15 Cents
EPA Proposes Slowing Move to E15 Fuel
NPS Releases Draft Plan to Keep Biscayne National Park Open to Boating and Fishing
New Research Explains Recent Increases in Hunting and Fishing




LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO INCREASE FEDERAL GAS TAX BY 15 CENTS

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced legislation on December 3rd to increase the federal gasoline tax by 15 cents from 18.4 cents to 33.4 cents per gallon. The bill, H.R. 3636, also known as the “Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act of 2013,” would phase in the increase over the next three years.

The federal gas tax provides funding to the Highway Trust Fund, which underwrites the nation’s surface transportation program, providing billions of dollars annually for construction of roads and other infrastructure. In addition, portions of the Fund are used to support other programs linked to the underlying “user-pay” philosophy of the program, including the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which receives funding attributable to recreational boating, and the Recreational Trails Program, supported with funding generated from the gas tax paid for nonhighway recreational uses of motorfuel.

The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, which has reduced its buying power by nearly 40% over the same period, based upon CPI adjustments. The result has been a shortfall in funding available from the Highway Trust Fund, which, in recent years, has necessitated the diversion of some $10 billion annually from general funds to the surface transportation program. The shortfall has also been exacerbated as cars have become more fuel efficient, requiring less gas to be purchased – and less gas tax to be paid – to travel the same distance.

The American Recreation Coalition has become very concerned about the deteriorating condition of roads that provide access to national parks, national forests and other federal lands covering nearly one-third of the nation and hosting well over one billion recreation visits annually. Deferred maintenance, failing bridges and unsafe roadways total billions in needed investment to allow access to campgrounds, trailheads, lakes and other recreation sites. ARC has urged consideration of earmarking a "Penny for the Great Outdoors," or "Penny for Parks," for use on federal lands. The concept is simple. Earmarking a portion of any increase in the federal gas tax would generate some $1.5 billion annually that could be invested in efforts that support transportation systems on federal lands vital to quality recreational experiences. Unlike virtually all other public roads in America, roads on America's public lands receive no funding from the state taxes levied on gasoline.

“Penny for the Great Outdoors” would most likely succeed as part of a broader effort to fund the nation’s surface transportation program. Such a broader effort has support from a wide variety of interests, including AAA, the AFL-CIO, the construction and trucking industry, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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EPA PROPOSES SLOWING MOVE TO E15 FUEL

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency recently published a proposed rule that would reduce the amount of ethanol required to be incorporated into the nation’s gasoline supply. This proposal, which was announced on November 15th and published in the Federal Register on November 29th, marks the first time that a reduction in ethanol has been recommended since the U.S. Congress approved the Renewable Fuel Standard and established a minimum volume of renewable fuel as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The deadline for comments on the proposal is January 28, 2014. Comments can be submitted online through www.regulations.gov, via email at a-and-rdocket@epa.gov or via mail to Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460.

EPA reports that nearly all gasoline sold in the U.S. is now E10 -- fuel with up to 10% ethanol. Fuel consumption has fallen below the levels expected when the Renewable Fuel Standard was approved. Use of the required quantity of ethanol would require greater use of gasoline with higher ethanol content. EPA contends that model year 2001 and newer cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUV’s) may all use E15 fuel safely. But key members of the recreation and tourism communities, including BoatU.S., American Motorcyclist Association, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and AAA, have all strongly opposed the introduction of E15 – with up to 15% ethanol.

BoatU.S. says that “these higher blends are poison to our marine engines” while the AMA calls the E15 “a potentially dangerous fuel that has yet to be proven safe for any of the 22 million motorcycles and ATV’s currently in operation.” ISMA notes that testing has shown that E15 fuel should not be approved for snowmobile use. NMMA has called attention to the proven damage to marine equipment caused by blends greater than 10% ethanol and also joined a coalition of fuel, manufacturing and food groups that petitioned the Supreme Court to block the EPA’s decision to allow E15 into the nation’s fuel supply (the fuel is currently sold in nine states). That petition was denied on procedural grounds. NMMA is greatly concerned that, with E15 in the marketplace, misfueling could occur, and is now involved in a second lawsuit challenging the agency’s misfueling mitigation rule. And AAA has noted that 90% of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including most 2001-2013 models. AAA has urged regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 gasoline altogether until motorists are better protected due to the strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.

The U.S. Congress is involved. Bills have been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate calling for reform and even repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Congressional hearings are underway, including a December 10th hearing by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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NPS RELEASES DRAFT PLAN TO KEEP BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK OPEN TO BOATING AND FISHING

The National Park Service (NPS) has released a Supplemental Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for Biscayne National Park in Florida. The supplemental plan was developed in response to the comments received when the initial draft plan was released in August 2011. The park, located south-southeast of Miami, includes 173,000 acres, mostly water, and is one of the largest marine parks in the national park system, attracting 500,000+ visitors each year. Its last General Management Plan was completed in 1983.

NPS published a preferred alternative plan in August 2011 which would have established a 10,000 acre marine reserve zone where fishing would be completely prohibited to promote a healthier coral reef ecosystem. The proposal also proposed “significant non-combustion engine zones,” further restricting boating access. Altogether, the angler and boating interests contended that up to 20% of boating and fishing access in the park would have been lost. The State of Florida opposed the 2011 preferred alternative, contending that the designation of a marine reserve zone could only be considered after less restrictive management procedures had been implemented and evaluated.

NPS has now released a new preferred alternative developed in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The proposed marine reserve zone has been replaced with what the agency calls “a new concept” – a 14,585 acre special recreation zone. Recreational fishing, with specific restrictions like no spearfishing, would be permitted year-round in the zone with a special permit. The State of Florida would be an active partner in the implementation of this alternative, including permitting, research and monitoring. A second alternative would have the same special recreation zone but would prohibit fishing from June through September. In both alternatives, the next 10 years would be considered an adaptive management period during which management procedures would be evaluated by a multi-agency team and adjusted as needed to meet the goals of the original proposal. According to the NPS, implementation of either of the new alternatives “within the framework of an adaptive management strategy represents a new opportunity to manage these special marine areas that are important to a diverse set of user groups.”

Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, supports the NPS preferred alternative. “NMMA is optimistic that this plan properly balances the need for resource conservation and robust boating and angling access,” he said. Mike Nussman, President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association, added, “The recreational fishing industry is pleased that all the agencies involved in the Biscayne National Park debate were able to come together and identify productive management solutions that still allow for public access while addressing resource concerns.”

Comments on the draft supplemental plan must be submitted by February 20, 2014. They can be mailed to: Biscayne National Park GMP, National Park Service, M. Elmer (DSC-P), P.O. Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287. Comments can also be submitted online here.

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NEW RESEARCH EXPLAINS RECENT INCREASES IN HUNTING AND FISHING

A newly released study, Exploring Recent Increases in Hunting and Fishing Participation, documents a number of reasons for the significant increases in both hunting and fishing participation between 2006 and 2011, as reported in the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The new research reports that there was no single reason for the 9% increase in hunting and 11% increase in fishing reported in the national study, but instead that there was “a perfect positive storm of reasons,” with each one contributing to increases in hunting and fishing participation.

The research, which included surveys of hunters and anglers in 10 states reporting large increases in one or both activities, identified 10 reasons for those increases:


• The economic recession providing more time for hunting among unemployed and under-employed hunters
• Higher income among some population segments providing more resources to spend on hunting and fishing
• Increased interest in hunting and fishing for food and increased interest in local and organic food
• State fish and wildlife agency recruitment and retention programs
• State fish and wildlife agency access programs
• State fish and wildlife agency marketing programs, including advertising of new or repackaged hunting and fishing licenses
• Higher participation by current hunters and anglers
• Resumed participation among returning military personnel
• Re-engagement of lapsed hunters and anglers
• Participation by new hunters and anglers, including women, young people and suburban residents

ARC President Derrick Crandall commented, “This new research clearly shows that proactive initiatives undertaken to change behavior – like the recruitment, retention, access and marketing programs undertaken by state fish and wildlife agencies – can make a difference. Plus it reminds us that it’s important to confirm that these efforts are really working – a good lesson for anyone trying to affect public attitudes and activities.”

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