Congress votes to close more than 2 million acres nationwide to off-highway vehicles
MARCH 26, 2009, PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- By a 285-to-140 vote, U.S. House members on March 25 approved a bill that closes more than 2 million acres of public land nationwide to off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and all other motorized vehicles, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
Following congressional maneuvering that breathed new life into the measure after it was defeated just a couple weeks earlier, the lawmakers approved H.R. 146, known as the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Acquisition Grant Program. This bill was formerly known as S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.
Congress' first attempt to pass this measure, S. 22, was defeated two weeks ago in the House. However, following that defeat, the Senate leadership brought H.R. 146 to the floor, inserted the language from S. 22, and passed the bill on March 19 by a vote of 77 to 20.
It then went to the House for the March 25 vote.
"The measure unreasonably bans motorized recreation on 2.1 million acres of public lands by inappropriately designating it as Wilderness," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland. "This is a sad day not only for responsible motorized recreation but also for a democratic process that is supposed to welcome public input and the opportunity for congressional review.
"For example, House members never debated more than 70 of the bills included in this package before the vote," he said.
The measure, which now goes to President Obama to be signed into law, consists of a daunting collection of more than 160 pieces of legislation and more than 1,300 pages of text.
Under the bill, areas where motorized vehicles won't be allowed include parts of the Monogahela National Forest in West Virginia; Jefferson National Forest in Virginia; Mount Hood, Badlands, Spring Basin and Copper Salmon areas in Oregon; Sabinoso in New Mexico; Riverside County in California; and Washington County in Utah.
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) noted in a House floor speech on Feb. 9 that "there are recreation restrictions in this bill.
"These (the AMA and other responsible recreation) groups' members include millions of off-highway enthusiasts, vacationing families, and small businesses involved in the system. And what they have pleaded with us to do is, quoting from the letter that many groups signed, 'It is our sincere hope that this Congress will develop a thoughtful approach to managing our public lands more than simply eliminating public access and creating additional layers of bureaucracy. Continued reasonable access to public lands is vitally important for current and future generations.'
"So why the rush on this particular bill?" Bishop asked. "And who are the losers, other than Americans who enjoy recreating on public land?"
Moreland warned that these kinds of threats aren't going to end.
"This land grab is just the latest effort by the federal government to restrict recreational access to America's public lands," he said. "AMA members responded to our calls to action and helped us shape the debate of this legislation.
"Our voice must grow stronger if we are to head off these and other threats in the future, and I encourage all motorcyclists to sign up for AMA's legislative alerts," he said.
Through the AMA Government Relations Department's Action E-list, riders can be notified by e-mail when they can make a difference on important issues. To sign up, go to the AMA website at www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com, click on "Rights," then "Issues & Legislation," and then "Action E-list."