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BlueRibbon Coalition - Congressional Hearing on OHV Use

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:32 am    Post subject: BlueRibbon Coalition - Congressional Hearing on OHV Use Reply with quote

March 13th, 2008

Brian Hawthorne, BRC Public Lands Policy Director
Phone: 208-237-1008 (x102)
Fax: 208-237-9424
Email: brbrian@sharetrails.org
Webpage: http://www.sharetrails.org/staff/#BrianH

POCATELLO, ID (March 13) The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national recreational access organization based in Pocatello, Idaho, today offered qualified support to federal off-highway vehicle (OHV) policies and responded to anti-access groups' campaign to nearly eliminate OHV use in National Forests and other public lands.

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the impacts of unmanaged off-highway vehicles on federal lands. The hearing appears to have resulted from a previous effort by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an anti-OHV activist group, which previously had demanded congressional oversight of the ongoing OHV planning undertaken by federal land managers.

Both Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service representatives gave testimony at the hearing. Both agencies spoke about their policies to address the increase in popularity of OHV use on public lands. The U.S. Forest Service published directives in 2005 that limits all motor vehicle use on National Forests to designated roads, trails and areas. The BLM is in the process of implementing similar directives. Testimony was also given by several anti-access groups, including PEER.

"The hyperbole of the anti-motorized crowd surprises no one anymore. These groups are beyond predictable," said Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Policy Director for the BlueRibbon Coalition. "Leave it to the well-funded anti-access lobbyists to find fault with policies that attempt to bring management consistency and further controls on vehicle access," Hawthorne observed. "These groups will not stop until they've closed most of the roads and trails to wheeled vehicles. The responsible recreation community and hopefully the public have grown weary of the distorted perspective offered by these groups."

Hawthorne noted these groups overlook the fact that the Forest Service has made significant road and trail closures in recent years. Indeed, many of these closures were a result of lawsuits from these very same groups. "Every year more and more public lands are off limits to people who choose or are required to use vehicles, yet these people are never satisfied".

In its written testimony, the BRC made it clear that the OHV community supports a policy of vehicle access limited to designated roads, trails and areas. BRC supports an open and public process to properly designate recreational trail systems. Importantly, BRC noted in its testimony that the agency's allocation of budget, staff, and management effort should reflect the developing reality that outdoor recreation on public lands is increasingly valued by Americans. The time has come to make managed recreation the top priority for federal land managers.

"It would be nice to have PEER's support and cooperation, but it worries me that they seem bent on the elimination of vehicle access to most public lands. In the end, our energies would be better spent providing information to the agencies and working toward management solutions that can allow more Americans to visit our public lands while preserving the natural beauty that makes these lands special," Hawthorne concluded.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742.
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