Legislation would close 9 million acres of Utah public land to riding
April 23, 2013
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Bills that
would close 9.1 million acres of Utah public land to off-highway vehicles have
been introduced in Congress, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced H.R. 1630, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin
(D-Ill.) introduced S. 769, on April 18. Both bills are called America's Red
Rock Wilderness Act and would designate more than 9 million acres of Utah
public land as Wilderness. Once land is designated as Wilderness, no vehicles,
including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles or bicycles, are allowed on that
Included in the 9.1 million acres are existing OHV riding areas around Moab,
the San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock. These popular OHV areas represent some
of the most important remaining OHV recreation areas in Utah, and are some of
the most popular with responsible OHV riders. The targeted areas also include
existing roads and developments.
Passage of the legislation would have a significant, negative effect on local
economies already struggling to recover from the recession.
"It is outrageous that Rep. Holt of New Jersey and Sen. Durbin of Illinois
would attempt to bypass the Utah congressional delegation to shut down 9
million acres in Utah to just about everyone but hikers," said Wayne
Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "This legislation is
also puzzling because much of the land in question doesn't come close to
meeting the definition of Wilderness that's spelled out in federal law.
According to the Wilderness Act of 1964, Wilderness can only apply to land
'retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements
or human habitation.'"
On April 18, the Republican members of Utah's congressional delegation sent a
letter to their congressional colleagues asking them to withhold their support
for the legislation.
The lawmakers, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, and Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris
Stewart and Jason Chaffetz, wrote: "In fact, Utah elected officials,
including the governor, state legislative leadership, rural county
commissioners and Utah's Republican and Democratic members of Congress have
unanimously opposed this bill."
"The Utah delegation is not opposed to preserving wilderness-quality
lands," they wrote. "In fact, several members of the Utah delegation
are working on a Utah lands bill based on input from state and local government
officials, conservation groups and other stakeholders. This will be a balanced
bill that provides for both conservation and development opportunities in a
locally driven, transparent process."
Allard, a former U.S. senator representing Colorado, added: "The Utah
congressional delegation is doing this properly by making it a bottom up
process with input from affected citizens and communities instead of a top down
process from Washington. The Wilderness area the New Jersey member is
attempting to force onto the people of Utah is almost twice the size of his
state with no public input from the people of Utah."
The AMA is calling on all motorcyclists and OHV enthusiasts to help stop H.R.
1630 and S. 769. The fastest way to reach your U.S. representative or senators
is a telephone call. You can find contact information for your elected
officials by entering your zip code at www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/issueslegislation.
A pre-written email is also available there to send to your representative or
senators by following the "Take Action" option after entering your
information at the above website.