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Interior Department proposal could block riding on public land

November 11, 2011
Filed under News

Access to certain public land in nine states could be lost to motorcyclists, bicyclists and others under a massive land-use designation proposal submitted to Congress on Nov. 10, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

The proposal, submitted by the U.S. Interior Department, has been identified as the “Preliminary Report on BLM Lands Deserving Protection as National Conservation Areas, Wilderness or Other Conservation Designation.” The report identifies 18 backcountry areas in nine states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar highlighted as deserving protection by Congress as national conservation areas or wilderness areas. Those states are California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, said AMA staff members are still analyzing the proposal, “but initial indications are that the report identifies more areas that should be designated as Wilderness or National Conservation Areas than areas that promote responsible motorized recreation.

“The AMA and many other groups have battled Wilderness proposals in the past that didn’t meet the strict criteria for earning a Wilderness designation under federal law, and the U.S. Interior Department’s new plan may include a lot of acreage that simply isn’t appropriate for Wilderness designation,” Allard said.

A Wilderness designation is one of the strictest forms of public land management. Once Congress designates an area as Wilderness, nearly all forms of non-pedestrian recreation are prohibited.

The AMA supports appropriate Wilderness designations that meet the criteria established by Congress in 1964. But over the years, groups opposed to responsible off-highway vehicle recreation have been abusing the Wilderness designation process to ban motorcyclists, ATV riders and bicyclists from public land, as well as to block access for the elderly, handicapped and children who rely on motorized transportation to enjoy public land.

Salazar indicated that he hopes this report is incorporated into an omnibus public lands bill similar to another public lands bill that passed Congress in 2009. The bill referenced by Salazar was the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. It was passed using rare parliamentary tactics that ultimately closed 2.1 million acres of public land.

“The actions taken by the administration, and the current Congress, could have a profound impact on the ability of responsible off-highway riders to enjoy their favorite outdoor view,” Allard added. “It’s important that all responsible riders stay informed about the Interior Department’s proposal and Wilderness bills in Congress and take action, when necessary, to help protect their right to ride.”

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