U.S. Interior Department reverses Wild Lands policy
June 01, 2011
In a victory for off-highway vehicle
(OHV) riders nationwide, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has
reversed his position on his controversial new Wild Lands policy, the
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
announcement made June 1, Salazar said the federal Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) wouldn't designate any Wild Lands, which would have
been managed as if they had received the restrictive Wilderness
land-use designation from Congress.
Instead, Salazar said the
BLM, which is a part of the Interior Department, will work in
collaboration with members of Congress and others to identify public
land that may be appropriate candidates for congressional protection
under the Wilderness Act.
"We will focus our effort on
building consensus around locally supported initiatives and working
with members [of Congress] to advance their priorities for Wilderness
designations in their states and districts," he said.
Rob Dingman, AMA president and CEO, said he was pleased by the news but cautioned that OHV riders must remain on guard.
"This is a major victory for motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle
riders and others concerned about appropriate access to public land,"
Dingman said. "But we must remain vigilant. Anti-access groups will
continue pushing for legislation to inappropriately close off millions
of acres of public land to OHVs. Not only are BLM lands under attack by
these groups, but U.S. Forest Service land as well.
to thank all the AMA members and others who attended meetings and
contacted their federal lawmakers to oppose the Wild Lands policy," he
added. "Your voices helped put pressure on Secretary Salazar to
convince him to abandon his ill-conceived Wild Lands policy."
In December, the AMA and OHV enthusiasts won an important battle for
responsible riding on public land when U.S. Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dropped his effort to pass a massive omnibus public
lands bill that would have inappropriately designated millions of acres
of public land as Wilderness, barring OHVs.
But then just
days later, on Dec. 22, Salazar signed Secretarial Order 3310 creating
the Wild Lands land-use designation that essentially allowed BLM
officials to manage public land as if it had received a Wilderness
designation from Congress, but without requiring congressional
approval. This new policy was widely expected to restrict or eliminate
responsible OHV use in the affected areas, and was seen to be
orchestrated by anti-access groups to pull an end-run around Congress.
It also was expected to have a far-reaching impact because the BLM
manages about 245 million acres of public land nationwide, primarily in
12 western states.
Federal lawmakers have considered the Wild
Lands policy a "land grab" and a blatant attempt to usurp congressional
authority. Off-highway riders sporting "Stop the Land Grab" stickers
produced by the AMA and distributed by the Utah Shared Access Alliance
(USA-ALL) turned out in droves for a meeting of Utah's Governor's
Council on Balanced Resources that featured BLM Director Bob Abbey
trying to explain the new policy.
Several governors were very
vocal in their opposition to the Wild Lands policy as well, including
Wyoming's Matthew Mead, Idaho's C.L. "Butch" Otter and Utah's Gary
Because of opposition from powerful federal
lawmakers, governors, the AMA and other OHV enthusiasts, the Wild Lands
policy hit a major snag on April 15.
That's when President
Obama signed into law the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution -- the
funding measure that keeps the federal government operating through
Sept. 30 - that included language barring the Interior Department from
using any money to implement the Wild Lands land-use policy to manage
land as if it had been designated as Wilderness.
designation is one of the strictest forms of public land management.
Once Congress designates an area as Wilderness, nearly all forms of
non-pedestrian recreation are illegal. The AMA supports appropriate
Wilderness designations that meet the criteria established by Congress
in 1964, but anti-access advocates have been abusing the legislative
process to ban responsible OHV recreation on public land.