It seems every time I pick up a newspaper or watch TV, I see another story about federal budget cuts and continued budget shortfalls. This is especially true for federal land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.
With budgets being cut, many – including myself – are worried how these cuts will affect access to our public lands, especially for responsible off-highway-vehicle use. This is particularly concerning because one of the most frequent reasons given by land managers for closing an OHV trail is lack of funding for trail maintenance.
However, we are not getting the whole story.
As federal agencies are faced with shrinking budgets, instead of working to reduce inefficiencies and wasteful spending, the Department of Interior is attempting to expand the area it already manages. Let me say that one more time: As its budget is shrinking and federal land managers are curtailing operations, the DOI is purchasing more land!
I am not the only one to notice this disturbing trend.
U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop recently said, “It’s ironic that the Department of Interior can’t find money to keep normal operations at our parks, yet they always seem to have money to buy more land.”
I find it sad. As OHV trails, campsites and visitor centers across the country are delaying opening day to save money, the DOI is trying to increase the size of its domain. We need to ask the people’s representatives in Congress to keep a close watch on the budgets of federal land agencies.
We -- the OHV community – also need to be involved in maintaining trails and creating a proper and responsible riding environment so that federal land managers don’t have excuses for closing trails.
We can do this in several ways. First, by following all posted rules and regulations regarding where we are allowed to ride. Second, we must always pack out what we bring in. Third, we must remain vigilant and keep our lawmakers informed when government tries to limit access to our lands for responsible recreation. Lastly, we can volunteer with the BLM, USFS and NPS to help ensure the trails we all enjoy are well maintained, safe and fun.
The AMA is currently attempting to secure a list of trails that were closed due to lack of funds. With this information we hope to work with federal, state and local land managers and volunteers to reopen trails across the country.