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Interior Department proposal could block riding on public land

The AMA keeps you informed!

On November 10, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) submitted a report to Congress entitled, "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 recently 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. Access to certain public land in these nine states could be lost to motorcyclists, bicyclists and others under the massive land-use designation proposal submitted to Congress.

To view a copy of the DOI report, click here.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is analyzing the report, but initial indications are that the proposal identifies more areas that should be designated as Wilderness or National Conservation Areas than areas that promote responsible motorized recreation.

The DOI report may include Wilderness proposals that do not meet the strict criteria of a Wilderness designation under federal law. 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.

Over the years, groups opposed to responsible off-highway vehicle recreation have been abusing the Wilderness designation process to ban motorcyclists, all-terrain vehicle 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.

This DOI report comes on the heel of another report related to public land access released on November 3, 2011. As mentioned in a previous AMA alert, the DOI released its 50-State America's Great Outdoors report. According to a DOI release, "The full report – which contains two projects per state – comes as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to establish a community-based, 21st century agenda for conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors."

The AMA and the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA) sent a letter, dated November 8, 2011, addressed to Salazar requesting clarification on issues of concern. Specifically, the AMA and ATVA are concerned about the following:

1) the incorporation of public comments;

2) examples of projects in the report promoting the use of responsible motorized recreation; and 3) the role of Congress in the implementation of the report.

For more information on the issue, click here.

The actions taken by the administration and the current Congress could have a profound impact on the ability of responsible off-highway riders. It's important that all responsible riders stay informed about the Interior Department's proposals and Wilderness bills in Congress and take action, when necessary, to help protect their right to ride.

The AMA and the ATVA will continue to inform members of the latest news as this issue unfolds. Updates can be found at AmericanMotorcyclist.com>Rights>Issues & Legislation.
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