PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- American Motorcyclist Association (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). "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 the AMA website at AmericanMotorcyclist.com. The Issues & Legislation section can be accessed under "Rights" from the AMA homepage.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycling organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations.