PICKERINGTON, Ohio --The American Motorcyclist Association told a Congressional committee on March 13 that motorized recreation is a "legitimate and popular" use of public land that needs more federal funding.
"Motorized recreation is a legitimate and popular use of our public lands," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, in written testimony to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands. "The AMA has long supported access to public lands for responsible motorized recreation. Motorized recreation is also compatible with other public land resource values."
The topic of the subcommittee hearing was "Impacts of Unmanaged Off-Road Vehicles on Federal Lands." Moreland told the federal lawmakers that recreation, like any other resource, must be managed.
"Too often motorized recreation has been managed by the extremes of either being ignored or prohibited," he said. "The land management agencies must recognize that they have many management tools that they can utilize to provide motorized recreation opportunities while protecting other resource values."
Moreland also made a case for more funding for federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management so that they can better manage motorized recreation. And he noted that the motorized recreation community has taken proactive steps, often in partnership with public land managers, to reinforce its land-use ethic through rider education and public awareness.
"Motorized recreation enthusiasts even support stricter penalties for anyone who damages our public lands," he said.
Besides benefiting riders and the off-highway vehicle industry, motorized recreation pumps funds into local economies, Moreland added.
"One of the most dramatic cases is that of the $7.7 million impact of the Hatfield-McCoy off-highway vehicle trail system in some of the most economically challenged areas of West Virginia," Moreland said. "According to Marshall University, the expansion of motorized trails has lead to the creation of 146 new jobs and an increase of over $622,000 in state and local tax revenue."
Moreland closed his testimony by noting that the motorized recreation community has a long history of volunteerism and is ready to help public land managers by maintaining trails, promoting the ethical use of the land and advocating for appropriate funding.
"The AMA is confident that with the continued commitment of the recreation community, coupled with a commitment to manage our recreation from our land-management agencies, and with adequate funding support from Congress, the management challenges facing our public lands can be addressed."
Other motorized recreation advocates who provided testimony before the panel include Russ Ehnes, executive director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council; Larry Smith, executive director of Americans for Responsible Recreational Access; and Greg Mumm, executive director of the BlueRibbon Coalition.
Ehnes testified in person before the subcommittee that the active management of off-highway vehicles on federal land is working, and that closing public land to the millions of Americans who enjoy motorized recreation would be a step backward.
Smith testified that the issue of "unmanaged" OHV recreation on U.S. Forest Service land was settled back in 2004 when U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth announced the Forest Service would go to a designated-route system for OHV recreation, rather than continue the policy of permitting cross-country travel on Forest Service land.
He also noted the federal Bureau of Land Management has begun active management of OHVs on BLM land.
"Some witnesses today will probably wring their hands and say that OHV recreation is a problem. We believe this (management) issue is already being addressed by the federal agencies," Smith testified. "However, a greater problem exists that deserves this subcommittee's attention and that is the lack of adequate resources for all forms of recreation on federal lands."
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Founded in 1924, the AMA is a non-profit organization with 290,000 members. The Association's purpose is to protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists, while serving the needs of its members. For more information, visit the AMA website at www.AMADirectlink.com.