U.S. House considers 9.4 million acre riding ban

In a surprise move, the chairman of a U.S. House subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for next week on a proposal that would ban off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and bicycles from more than 9 million acres of public land in Utah, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The AMA is urging all riders to contact their U.S. representatives immediately to ask them to oppose the proposal, H.R. 1925, which is the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. Concerned riders can contact their federal lawmakers by going to the Rights section of the AMA website at AmericanMotorcyclist.com and then clicking on the "Issues and Legislation" link.

While U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, has yet to officially announce his intention to hold the hearing, the AMA has confirmed that H.R. 1925 will be considered on Thursday, Oct. 1.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York, would ban motorized recreation on 9.4 million acres of public land in Utah by inappropriately designating it as Wilderness.

The devastating proposal would impact the Moab, San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock riding areas, among others.

"The measure is totally unreasonable and completely unacceptable," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "Continued responsible access to public lands is a vitally important right for current and future generations.

"This is just the latest step in a massive land grab being orchestrated nationwide by anti-access forces who are seeking to eliminate responsible off-highway riding on public lands by any means necessary," Moreland said. "They want to turn all public land into their own exclusive playground.

"It’s important to note that this legislation would make sweeping changes to existing riding areas despite the fact that much of the land to be classified as Wilderness is already managed by federal agencies through local processes and decisions," Moreland added. "The best management of public lands is through local input, and the fact that a member of Congress from New York is proposing closing land in a state where none of that state’s own representatives support the bill makes this measure even more unfair to those who live and recreate in Utah."

In 1964, Congress approved the National Wilderness Act that essentially set the criteria for designating land for Wilderness protection. That law was to preserve land that "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the force of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticed."

The law led to a nationwide survey of public land to determine whether it should be designated as Wilderness. Since 1964, some 107 million acres nationwide have earned the designation.

"The AMA strongly supports properly designated Wilderness areas," Moreland said. "But anti-access opportunists who oppose off-highway riding are misapplying the intent of Wilderness as a means to push responsible riders off our nation’s public lands. It is a disturbing trend that, if allowed to continue, may ultimately spell the demise of responsible motorized recreation on public lands. Indeed, as we speak, there are about a dozen Wilderness bills being considered on Capitol Hill that would close about 36 million acres to off-highway riding. It’s patently unfair that so many appropriate off-highway riding areas are being taken away without additional new opportunities being introduced."

Earlier this year, Congress fast-tracked a bill with little public input that President Obama then signed into law to designate as Wilderness some 2 million acres in several states nationwide.

"So with the stroke of a pen, off-highway riding was banned forever, and even more public land is threatened now with closure," said Moreland.

All riders who want to take action on this matter can immediately contact their federal lawmakers by selecting the Issues and Legislation link in the Rights section of the AMA website at www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com.

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