|Proposed Stimulus Bill Does Little for Small Business
Under the section on Construction on Public Lands and Parks, $3.1 billion is proposed for infrastructure projects on federal lands including improvements to visitor facilities, road and trail restoration, preservation of buildings of cultural and historic importance, rehabilitation of abandoned mines and oil fields, and environmental cleanup projects. This spending includes $1.8 billion for the National Park Service, $325 million for the Bureau of Land Management, $300 million for the National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries, and $650 million for the Forest Service.
We had hoped the stimulus package would provide strategies to boost small business. While there are some good national projects in the bill, such as improving the electricity transmission grid, most of the spending is for public works projects or transfer payments to state and local governments. For small businesses, the net operating cost carry-back will not help Subchapter S corporation or partnerships and the provisions to allow expensing investments up to $250,000 is of little help to small businesses who are unable to get credit or justify new purchases.
Notice to Forest Service Outfitters on Temporary Permits
Here’s what you need to do prior to September 17, 2009 to avoid loss of your temporary use. Outfitters who qualify may transition from temporary use to priority use at the discretion of the Forest Service. To qualify, the use must have been recurring and the outfitter’s performance “satisfactory”. You must also advise your authorizing officer that you wish to apply for a transitional priority use permit to convert to priority use on or before September 17, 2009 or you will lose the opportunity to transition under the new directives.
America Outdoors Association (AOA) is preparing a model letter for you to use to request transitional priority use permits. The Forest Service is planning to send a letter to outfitters who have held temporary use permits explaining the process. However, rangers have yet to be trained on the new directives, so few of them are up to speed on the new directives.
After 2009, the Forest Service permitting directives call for elimination of permits for temporary uses except for permits for 200 user days or less. America Outdoors Association has asked the agency to delay the elimination of temporary permits because the agency is not prepared to complete the documentation necessary to convert to the permit to priority use. Also, some outfitters may face cost recovery bills for a portion on the National Environmental Policy Act documentation required to transition to priority use if the time required to complete it exceeds 50 hours.
New Dates for Confluence in Reno - December 7 – 10, 2009
America Outdoors Association's Marketing and Management Conference returns to Reno in 2009. But we are moving the meeting up a day. The conference will begin with registration and the opening social on Monday December 7. Sessions will start on Tuesday, December 8 and end on Thursday, December 10. A new Reno Ballroom near the Silver Legacy is the venue for the seminars. The tradeshow will open on the afternoon of December 8th and wrap up in the afternoon on December 10th at the adjacent Reno Events Center in downtown Reno.
Huge Omnibus Lands Bill Passes Senate
After being blocked last year by the threat of filibuster by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Senate passed the huge Omnibus Land Bill with support from key Republicans. The bill establishes or authorizes:
• Funding for the National Park Service projects;
• Numerous wilderness designations in Oregon, Idaho, West Virginia; New Mexico, California, Colorado, Utah and elsewhere;
• 82 Wild and Scenic River designations, including Owyhee and Snake River Headwaters;
• A Cooperative Watershed Management Program, which establishes authority for watershed stakeholder organizations under the auspices of the Secretary of Interior and provides authority to award grants to the groups for watershed related projects;
• The Bureau of Land Management Landscape Conservation System, comprised of Wilderness, National Monument, Wild and Scenic Rivers to conserve, protect, and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values;
• A number of water projects and other resource management projects.
When areas are designated Wild and Scenic or Wilderness by Congress, a “needs assessment” may be required to determine the “need” for outfitting and guiding under 41.53 e of the Forest Service directives.
A searchable copy of the Omnibus Lands bill is available at americaoutdoors.org http://www.americaoutdoors.org/member_docs.php?doctype=2 under Legislation.
TVA Employees Release Mud into the Ocoee River
By now you have heard about the Tennessee Valley Authority’s massive, billion gallon fly-ash disaster http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28572025/. Lesser known is TVA’s release of muck into one of the nation’s most popular whitewater rivers. Two weeks ago employees at the Ocoee River project deliberately released tons of mud and muck that had collected behind the Ocoee No. 3 Dam into the whitewater stretch. Upstream of the whitewater stretch of the Ocoee, the Copper Basin, an old copper mining, now superfund site, was denuded around the turn of the century by open pit copper smelting. Runoff from the vast denuded area silted in the lake above the Ocoee No. 3 dam long ago. Usually water is released from the top of the dam so the silt and its contaminants are no problem. But in this instance, local TVA employees deliberately released water from the bottom of the dam. The State of Tennessee is testing the muck for toxicity and there are fears that recreation on the river could be disrupted.
Shortly after the release of muck, the Polk County Commission, which recently lost a multi-million dollar tax case against Ocoee River outfitters, passed a resolution warning rafters, boaters and swimmers against visiting the Ocoee because of possible toxicity. The state has not determined that there are any health risks to boaters. Last week the county attempted to post warning signs along the river, but was challenged by the Forest Service. The County appears to be retaliating for its loss of tax revenue.
High water may flush out the river before the start of the season, but the massive fish kill resulting from the release of mud set back the river’s ecological recovery by years. TVA has already been fined by the state for violating water quality laws. TVA, a federal agency and the nation’s largest utility, is facing scores of law suits from the fly-ash disaster. We are waiting to see if anyone gets fired.
Need Credit Counseling to Lower Your Interest Payments?
In these days of tight credit, some businesses are tempted to use credit cards to finance their operations. We have talked to a few members who have developed a little problem after using this strategy to finance their operation. So, you may be thinking about credit counseling and, like anything else, you need to be careful about whom you choose to help. One source to consider is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Members are independent, tax exempt non-profits located throughout the country, accredited to employ people trained in the NFCC program. NFCC accredited counselors will contact your creditors to negotiate lower interest rates and take over payments after you have signed an agreement with them and , of course, agree to pay them. The catch: the fee they will quote you for this service may be as high as 7.5% of your total debt. You may be able to negotiate a lower fee if you have a high debt load. Then you’ll have to figure out if the total payments made through the credit counselor are more than you would be paying creditors straight out. The counselor should be able to give you some idea in advance of how much lower they can get your interest rates, so you can calculate whether the service is advantageous. The fee you are paying the counseling service may relieve enough headaches to be worth it to you long term. Ask for references before signing up but realize they may be limited by the reluctance of businesses to admit to a credit problem.
This information is provided as one option, but should not be construed as an endorsement of these credit counselors or of any credit counseling service.