Congress told that off-highway riding is an economic engine
June 23, 2011
Testifiers told a key U.S. House
subcommittee on June 22 that off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation puts
billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, and public land needs to be
opened up for motorized recreation, the American Motorcyclist
Association (AMA) reports.
Supporters of H.R. 1581, the
Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, testified that the
bill would free up almost 43 million acres of public land that now may
be off-limits to off-highway riding.
"As it stands, the BLM
[federal Bureau of Land Management] currently restricts activity on
nearly 7 million acres of WSAs [Wilderness Study Areas] despite the
fact the BLM itself has already determined these areas are not suitable
for Wilderness designation by Congress," testified Thomas Crimmins,
spokesman for the group Professionals for Managed Recreation.
"The situation with the Forest Service is even worse," he said, "as
access is restricted to over 36 million acres of IRAs [Inventoried
Roadless Areas] that have been deemed unsuitable for ultimate
designation as Wilderness."
The testimony came during a House
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands oversight
hearing on "Opportunities for Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands,
chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).
Besides Crimmins, others
who testified included Scott Jones, who spoke on behalf of the AMA and
the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition; Dick Lepley of the
Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association; Russ Ehnes of the
National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council; Don Amador of the
BlueRibbon Coalition; and Karen Umphress of the Minnesota Motorized
Trails Coalition and the Coalition of Recreational Trail Users.
The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 would remove
stringent use restrictions on 6.7 million acres managed by the BLM and
on 36.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land that was evaluated
for strict congressional Wilderness land-use designations.
The federal agencies have determined the 43 million acres aren't
suitable for Wilderness designation, yet because of various laws and
rules they must continue to strictly manage the land until Congress
"releases" it for other possible uses, which H.R. 1581 would do.
Crimmins, who worked for the Forest Service for 32 years, was involved
in the process for evaluating Forest Service land to determine whether
it deserved a Wilderness designation. A Wilderness designation bars
off-highway riding and most other uses.
"The intent of the
process was to identify any and all areas that could potentially be
considered for Wilderness designation and then, once and for all, make
recommendations for areas that should be considered for Wilderness
designations and areas that should be managed for multiple use,"
Crimmins testified. "This would allow the agency to move forward with
its mission to manage the national forests."
mangers expected that areas ultimately deemed as unsuitable for
Wilderness designation would be released, "this has not been the case,"
On the economic side, Jones testified that "OHV
recreation provided over a billion dollars in positive economic impact
and resulted in over 12,000 jobs in the state of Colorado alone."
Umphress said that all-terrain vehicle (ATV) activity alone in Minnesota contributed $2 billion to the economy in 2006.
Lepley, who also owns a motorcycle dealership, testified that the
estimated economic value of the OHV retail market was $14.6 billion in
2009, "bolstered by the sale of 131,000 new off-highway motorcycles and
321,000 new ATVs, which are now part of the estimated 12.2 million
dirtbikes and ATVs in America."
"Clearly, the powersports
industry contributes mightily to the nation's economy during both good
times and bad, but regardless of the economy, nothing threatens
dealerships and the industry at large like having no place to ride," he
To urge your federal lawmaker to support H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, go to http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/issueslegislation.