2 Million Acres of Off-Highway Riding Stays Opened

U.S. House kills bill that would have closed 2 million acres to off-highway riding.

In a major victory for off-highway motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders, the U.S. House on Wednesday, March 11, voted down a bill that would have banned motorized vehicles from more than 2 million acres of public land, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The bill — Senate Bill 22: The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 — failed to get the required two-thirds vote of the House members for approval. The vote was 282 yes to 144 no, with six lawmakers abstaining.

The bill had raised the ire of the AMA and others not only because it was a package of more than 160 bills put together to form a single bill more than 1,300 pages long, but also because it was fast-tracked through the Senate earlier this year and then positioned for a final House vote without the consideration of House members on more than 70 bills in the package.

"AMA members played a significant role in the defeat of this bill," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "We asked all AMA members, off-highway motorcyclists, ATV riders and everyone who supports responsible outdoor recreation to immediately contact their congressional representative and ask them to reject the bill. And people responded, flooding their lawmakers with requests to vote ‘no.’"

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a leading voice opposing the measure, agreed: "This bill was the poor product of a poor process, and it would have cut off reasonable access for a whole host of activities on our public lands. I think it’s correct to say that the defeat of this bill today was a victory for Americans who appreciate access, such as the millions of folks who enjoy responsible recreation on our public lands.

"This specific fight is certainly not over, but the grassroots lobbying so far has definitely helped our cause," Bishop said.

Speaking on the House floor before the vote, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) warned that the bill "bans recreational access to millions of acres of public land despite proponents claims that it will protect vast new land areas for the appreciation of Americans. Lands that citizens currently use for enjoyment will be barricaded from recreational vehicle use."

Moreland noted that other land-access groups were also involved in fighting this measure, including Americans for Responsible Recreational Access, the BlueRibbon Coalition, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Off-Road Business Association, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations and others.

The bill was written poorly, lumping together so many different proposals, Moreland said. Additionally, it would have unreasonably banned responsible motorized recreation on more than 2 million acres of public land by inappropriately designating it as Wilderness. The procedures used for fast-tracking the bill through the legislative process also violated the spirit of open and democratic government.

Moreland warned, however, that while the AMA is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of today’s vote, this bill, or one very similar to it, could re-emerge in another form soon. Riders must remain vigilant.

An easy way to stay on top of issues affecting motorcycling is to sign up for the AMA Government Relations Department’s Action E-list in the Rights section of www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com. That way you can be notified by e-mail when you can make a difference on important issues.

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