AMA staff was on-site to monitor a U.S. House subcommittee hearing today, Oct. 1, on a measure aimed at banning off-highway motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATV) from one-sixth of the state of Utah.
The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), held the hearing to consider H.R. 1925, the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. The proposal would close off 9.4 million acres of Utah’s public land to motorcycles, ATVs and bicycles, and would even restrict horseback riding. Popular off-highway vehicle riding areas included in the legislation are Moab, the San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock, among others.
The legislation was first introduced 20 years ago by then-Rep. Wayne Owens (D-Utah). Owens sought a Wilderness designation for 5 million acres. Under a Wilderness designation, no vehicles, including motorcycles, ATVs or even bicycles, are allowed on affected public land.
The latest legislation was introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), who has been introducing similar bills to create Wilderness in Utah since 1994. He has done so over the protest of Utah’s congressional delegation and governor, who have fought the proposals, saying that the land Hinchey has proposed for Wilderness doesn’t even meet the Wilderness definition because it includes roads and developments. Additionally, they argue, the creation of more Wilderness would hurt local economies.
“We can find a balanced approach to land management that meets the needs of preservation, energy production, recreation and multiple use, but this bill doesn’t do that,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who’s shown in the above photo. “This flawed bill is a top-down approach that would arbitrarily lock up huge portions of our state, and it doesn’t even fit the definition of Wilderness. Thankfully, it is not supported by a single federally elected official in the state.”
“We need to protect public land for the people, not from the people,” said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. “There’s absolutely no reason to shut out those who enjoy responsible motorized recreation, including bicyclists, the handicapped who enjoy the outdoors on ATVs, and others. This is simply another land grab pushed by anti-access groups who want to close land access to motorcycle and ATV riders and their families, as well as bicyclists.”
Proponents of the Wilderness bill argue that proposed restrictions would be discussed, reviewed and debated in congressional committees, and then the full Congress. But Moreland noted that recent history proves that isn’t always the case.
For example, earlier this year, Congress fast-tracked a 1,300-page bill that President Obama then signed into law to designate Wilderness in some 2 million acres in several states nationwide. That legislation, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, was a combination of more than 160 bills, and some lawmakers complained that they had never even seen almost half of them, let alone debated them, nor had time to get constituent input on them.
“There are already mechanisms in place at the local level to manage this public land in the best interests of all users,” Moreland said. “There is simply no reason to dismantle that. Decisions about the disposition of lands in Utah should not exclude the residents and representatives who call Utah home.”
All riders who want to take action on Wilderness proposals in Congress can contact their federal lawmakers in the Issues & Legislation section of this website.
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