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  • DC Insider: A new way of thinking about federal Wilderness?

    To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the U.S. Department of the Interior is highlighting the benefits of Wilderness.

    The DOI writes that the act, “has allowed generations of Americans to enjoy the natural beauty of our nation.”

    The American Motorcyclist Association supports the new designation of public lands as Wilderness when all of the land receiving the designation meets the stringent definition set forth by the 1964 law:

    “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works
    dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and
    its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor
    who does not remain.”

    However, the AMA disagrees that Wilderness is the only – or most effective – manner to encourage Americans to enjoy our nation’s public lands.

    In fact, Wilderness designations often create roadblocks to average Americans who are trying to enjoy themselves on public lands.

    The Wilderness designation means motorized vehicles are banned, shutting out one of the country’s most popular forms of recreation.

    And those stringent restrictions penalize Americans who need mechanized help to gain access to Wilderness areas.

    Many Wilderness areas require permits that limit the number of people allowed in at any given time, making it difficult for outfitters and guides to operate a profitable business.

    While federal law states that Wilderness areas shall be devoted to recreation – among other things – the law clearly is not applied in that manner when Wilderness designations slam shut the gate to visitors.

    How could this be changed?

    The AMA urges land managers and lawmakers to shift their thinking on land use designations. We urge others to follow the model of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) in their bills regarding the Hermosa Creek Watershed in Colorado and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) with his Public Lands Initiative.

    Instead of going for an all-or-nothing strategy, Rep. Tipton and Sen. Bennet saw the need to compromise. As a result, their final bills codify a management area where motorized recreation will receive special protection. At the same time, the bills identify other areas that have not been used extensively and propose to designate them as Wilderness.

    This is a commonsense solution to a difficult problem.

    The AMA supports these bills – and the process that brought them about – because it will allow all to continue to access public lands.

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  • DC Insider: Privacy and data protection for all road users

    As the result of the introduction of new technologies – and revelations about how the information gleaned from this technology is being used – privacy and data collection issues are debated regularly in the media, Congress and the executive branch.

    A host of bills has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate aimed at protecting and clarifying the types of data which are owned by individual consumers – and cannot be used without consent – and which consumer data are available for marketing and legal proceedings.

    Several bills have been introduced that will clarify who owns and, as a result, who can access data from your vehicles.

    Like so many things in life, the bills are not equal.

    H.R. 2414, the Black Box Privacy Protection Act, is a broad proposal. First, it defines an event data recorder – commonly known as a black box – as “any device or means of technology installed in an automobile that records information such as automobile or motorcycle speed, seatbelt use, application of brakes or other information pertinent to the operation of the automobile or motorcycle, as applicable.”

    The bill goes on to say that “any data recorded on any event data recorder in an automobile or motorcycle shall be considered the property of the owner of the automobile or motorcycle.”

    H.R. 2414 would ensure that the owner of the motorcycle would own the data. No one else could access this data without the permission of the owner, a court order, or for diagnostic and maintenance purposes.

    This bill grants the same protections to operators of motorcycles as is granted other non-commercial vehicles.

    The American Motorcyclist Association fully supports this bipartisan bill.

    S. 1925, the Driver Privacy Act, is significantly narrower in scope.

    The bill would grant privacy protection only for data that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires to be collected under 49 CFR Part 563.

    This section of the Code of Federal Regulations requires only passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses to be equipped with the data recorders.

    Motorcycles are not required to have the devices.

    As a result, since event data recorders are not required to collect information in motorcycles, our data would not be covered under S. 1925.

    Simply because event data recorders or black boxes are not required to be placed onto motorcycles does not mean motorcycles are not equipped with them. In fact, some current models are equipped with a black box.

    While other motorcycle rights organization have supported both bills, the AMA is working with the sponsors and cosponsors of the Senate bill to ensure motorcyclists are granted the same protections as other non-commercial drivers on the roads.

    American Motorcyclist Association logo

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  • DC Insider: Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase access opportunities

    As Congress makes a last minute dash to wrap up its legislative business before campaigning begins in earnest, the American Motorcyclist Association urges recreationists, lawmakers and land managers to consider how recreational facilities are going to be maintained over the long term.

    As I have noted in other blog posts, if many recreational opportunities are to remain open, safe and environmentally responsible, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act will need to be reauthorized, albeit with additional transparency requirements.

    However, the FLREA will not be enough to reduce the maintenance backlog on federal lands.

    Instead, we urge lawmakers to look at the Land and Water Conservation Fund as an additional source of recreational funding.

    The president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposed $900 million for the LWCF. It states: “This funding will provide the stability needed for agencies and states to make strategic, long-term investments in the nation’s natural infrastructure and outdoor economy to support jobs, preserve natural and cultural resources, bolster outdoor recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife.”

    The AMA fully supports preserving resources and bolstering outdoor recreation. However, federal LWCF revenues are used predominantly for land acquisition – $214 million in 2010 – and other projects that increase the burden on land managers’ already strained budgets.

    This ensures the LWCF is not as effective as it could be in increasing recreational opportunities.

    We urge lawmakers to consider allowing a portion of LWCF to be used for maintenance and enhancement of current trails and trail-related facilities.

    Why buy more, you don’t use what you already own?

    The environmental upside is significant.

    With the proper funding, off-highway-vehicle trails can be built and maintained using the standard set by Joe Warnex and the AMA.

    This would significantly reduce the environmental impact of trails – a win-win for recreationists, conservations and land managers.

    The change in emphasis would reduce the maintenance backlog and increase existing recreational opportunities on federal land.

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  • DC Insider: AMA seeks transparency in federal recreation fees

    In 2004, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act became law – giving federal land managers the ability to impose fees to generate funding for enhanced recreational experiences.

    The law is certainly beneficial to many off-highway-vehicle riders – most recently demonstrated with the preliminary approval for the reopening of the Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail in Mississippi.

    However, there have also been complaints about the implementation of new fees – with some riders claiming that motorized recreationists have paid an unfair share.

    As the 113th Congress begins to consider the last pieces of legislation before political campaigning begins in earnest, the FLREA is being considered for reauthorization.

    This is an important piece of legislation for OHV riders.

    Without the FLREA, it would be impossible for federal land managers to issue special recreation permits that are essential for many OHV events. Recreational opportunities would be lost, as federal land managers would be forced to deal with reduced revenue that could have been spent on maintenance and trail building.

    The American Motorcyclist Association wants to ensure that the fees collected are directly benefiting OHV recreationists and not being used to subsidize other non-paying visitors. To this end we are working to put new rules in place that would protect OHV riders.

    The proposed rules would prohibit land-management agencies from using special recreation permit fees to fund costs that would be necessary even without OHV events. In the past, some agencies have inflated the price of special recreation permit fees to help offset operating expenses unrelated to the OHV event.

    To accomplish this goal, we are asking that the law be changed to require federal agencies to keep detailed records of fees collected and money spent.

    We want to pay our fair share, but we do not want to subsidize others.

    What other ways can we work the Congress to make the FLREA a better, more efficient program? Please send comments to

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  • DC Insider: Ethanol boosters attempt to distort the facts concerning E15 and motorcycles

    The American Motorcyclist Association has been working to educate its members -- and the entire motorcycle community -- on the need for an independent scientific test on the effects of E15 fuel on motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines and fuel systems.

    However, E15 (a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume) is already in the marketplace and inadvertent misfueling is a serious concern for our members. Moreover, E15 use can void manufacturers’ warranties. Because of these concerns, and in the absence of the independent testing that we seek, the AMA is opposed to the availability of E15.

    If you have been reading social media comments from ethanol boosters, you wouldn’t hear this. Instead, you read that the AMA is “back 2 old tricks fighting E15’s existence” or “just read the pump label.”

    This rhetoric doesn’t help inform motorcyclists. It just adds to the confusion. Perhaps this is their goal.

    But the pro-E15 rhetoric really misses the key concern of the motorcycling community, which is that 100 percent of the 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles on the road and trail in the U.S. today are not designed to run ethanol blends higher than 10 percent.

    Many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel.

    And yet the opportunity to misfuel and damage an engine with higher ethanol blends, such as E15, is very real.

    The bottom line for the AMA is this: Motorcyclists simply want safe fuels available at all fuel retailers and measures employed by retailers to ensure they cannot inadvertently put unsafe fuels in their tanks.

    Please be sure to share this with your fellow motorcyclists to counter the spin coming from the E15 lobby group that does not have your best interests at heart. The AMA is your voice.

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  • DC Insider: Motorcycle-only checkpoint bill arrives in U.S. Senate

    On March 5, a group of U.S. senators introduced the Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act.

    This bill – similar to H.R. 1861 – would prevent the Secretary of Transportation from providing any grants to state or local governments to pay for helmet-use enforcement or to create a motorcycle-only checkpoint.

    If you have not already, let your senators know how important this issue is to you. Please follow this link, fill in your information at the bottom of the page and click “Submit.”

    The introduction in the Senate of the Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act is an important step toward ending federal subsidies for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Now, it will be possible to demonstrate bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress to end this ineffective and discriminatory practice.

    As I argued in a previous post, the checkpoints threaten the freedoms of all riders – not just those that get ensnared in them.

    These bills send a message to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration that, while it can “consider any feasible approach” to reduce crashes, Congress is cognizant of the rights of motorcyclists and motorcycle-only checkpoints are not a feasible option.

    Currently, four U.S. Senators are on record supporting the legislation – Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

    The AMA will keep you posted on the progress of ending federal funding for MOCs as the 113th Congress begins its last push to consider legislation before campaigning begins in earnest.

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  • DC Insider: Victory at Rattlesnake Bay

    On Feb. 27, advocates for increased off-highway-vehicle access on our nation’s public lands took a major step toward reopening a popular trail in Mississippi.

    The Friends of Rattlesnake Bay, working with the American Motorcyclist Association, successfully petitioned the Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee to approve a new fee structure that the U.S. Forest Service said it needs to reopen and maintain the Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail in the DeSoto National Forest.

    Along with the daily use fees, the RRAC approved the creation of an annual pass that will allow riders to visit many of the trails in southern Mississippi for one low fee.

    The Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail had been closed due to funding issues since 2003. It was further damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Forest Service had said the reason it could not reopen the popular trail was a lack of funding for maintenance.

    Without the fee, the OHV trail would remain closed.

    Now, pending approval from the regional forester, the trail could reopen this year.

    The authority for federal land managers to levy fees comes from the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

    The FLREA is very specific about when land managers can levy a new fee and how the funds can be spent. For example, fees cannot be levied on areas without enhancements, and at least 80 percent of the fees collected at a specific area must be used within that area.

    Additionally, no fee could be approved unless it had been reviewed by a RRAC, a citizen group composed of varied interests.

    We hope that access advocates can build on the success in southern Mississippi and continue to increase recreational opportunities on our public lands.

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  • DC Insider: Contest to promote OHV use on public lands

    Do you know someone who has worked to spread the sport of motorcycling to younger riders?

    If so, please nominate that person for the federal Department of the Interior’s “Champion of Change” award.

    A Champion of Change is any person who is working to get young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. This can include getting young riders out on dirt bikes and volunteering to make our nation’s trails safer and more fun to navigate.

    As someone who started riding at a young age due to the example set by older riders, I urge you to think of someone who has been a role model for young racers or motorcyclists and nominate that person for this award.

    Not only is this a chance to recognize someone who is helping to grow the sport, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate to non-riders the benefits of riding!

    Don’t wait; applications are due this Friday, Feb. 21st!

    You can apply by visiting going to the application form here.

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  • DC Insider: Vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology is here

    The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles.

    What makes V2V work?

    V2V uses dedicated short-range communications, similar to Wi-Fi, that are combined with the Global Positioning System. This system provides a 360-degree view of similarly equipped vehicles within communication range. Nine indicators are used by a V2V system to help prevent crashes. They are GPS position, speed, acceleration, heading, transmission state, brake status, steering wheel angle, path history and path prediction.

    According to the DOT, information transmitted by each vehicle would be anonymous and won’t include personal identifiers, such as a name and license plate number. Additionally, a sophisticated security system would be in place to ensure communication between vehicles is authentic and can be trusted.

    When a crash is predicted, the vehicle will provide a warning to the driver with a seat vibration, visual display or a combination of these indicators. Automobile manufacturers will use different interfaces to alert the driver and passengers.

    How do motorcycles fit into this emerging technology?

    As envisioned, motorcycles would have similar equipment to other motor vehicles — such as an antennae and a module to store the short-range communication device and GPS. The rider would remain in full control of the motorcycle. The technology would make it possible for other similarly equipped vehicles to “see” the motorcyclist.

    "Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," said U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go, while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."

    What are the AMA’s concerns?

    With safety and privacy our utmost priorities, the AMA has some areas of concern with V2V technology. The DOT has stated that privacy and system are secure. We aren’t convinced. The AMA has provided comments to the Federal Communication Commission stating that the V2V technology may be compromised with unlicensed devices, such as other Wi-Fi networks. We asked the FCC for further testing to ensure vehicles using advanced crash-avoidance and vehicle-to-vehicle- technologies are not compromised.

    V2V technology presents another potential problem. With intersections already a well-documented problem for motorcyclists, can you imagine the false sense of security that drivers may have while relying on advanced safety technologies? They may listen and look for the bells and whistles on their cars rather than look out the windows to actually see motorcycles. Drivers may believe these technologies will protect them and other road users and may not be aware that these technologies could possibly malfunction at a critical moment.

    What is next?

    The NHTSA is currently finalizing its analysis of the data gathered as part of its year-long pilot program and is scheduled to publish a research report on V2V communication technology for public comment in the coming weeks. The report will include analysis of the department's research findings in several key areas, including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. NHTSA will then begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles, consistent with applicable legal requirements, executive orders, and guidance. The DOT believes that the signal this announcement sends to the market will significantly enhance development of this technology and pave the way for market penetration of V2V safety applications.

    As these new technologies emerge we must remain vigilant to ensure that motorcyclists, and motorcyclists’ rights, are protected. The AMA is at the forefront in this effort and we will continue to inform our members and motorcyclists about our concerns and possible

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  • DC Insider: Washington misinformed about the Recreational Trails Program

    In the past few weeks, several Washington-based think tanks have attempted to paint the Recreational Trails Program as a rentier program, that is, an unearned benefit simply taken from the federal Highway Trust Fund without contributing funds to it.

    That is a blatant mischaracterization.

    The RTP was created on a bipartisan basis in 1991 to provide funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. Funds for the RTP come from taxes generated by fuel used for off-highway vehicle recreation — by off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and off-highway light trucks.

    As an OHV rider, every time you fill your machine’s tank, you send money to the trust fund and, subsequently, to the trails program. In other words, (much of) what you pay is returned to recreationists through the RTP.

    The RTP provides concrete benefits that drive local economies and provide recreational opportunities for millions of off-highway-vehicle riders, who pay an estimated $170 million annually into the trust fund. In fact, OHV users pay more into the fund than all recreationists – motorized and non-motorized -- take out of it.

    The structure of the program ensures that RTP projects address local needs in the most efficient manner possible.

    Before the recreational trails program, OHV riders were paying into the trust fund while receiving no funding for recreational trails. To prevent this from occurring again in 2015, we are working with a broad coalition of recreationists and members of Congress to ensure the RTP is included and strengthened in the coming reauthorization of the nation’s highway and transit bill.

    Please continue to scan your inbox for AMA alerts regarding, not only the RTP, but the many issues that affect your right to ride. If you have not already, sign up for the AMA’s free alerts.

    Please follow the AMA on Twitter @AMA_Rights and like us on Facebook.

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