Coalition Opposes Wild Lands Policy

On March 16, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL), Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), AMA-District 36, AMA-District 37 Off-Road Division and California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey opposing the new Wild Lands land-use designation policy. The letter expresses concerns about the definition of Wild Lands, designations, and implementation plans, as it relates to Secretarial Order 3310. Additionally, the letter seeks to clarify indications that Abbey believes there is no grass-roots opposition to the Wild Lands designation. This new order may affect off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts' ability to enjoy the public lands responsibly with their families and friends.

To view the letter, click here.

Regarding the recent interview with Abbey, the letter seeks to clarify indications that he believes there is no grass-roots opposition to the Wild Lands designation. A Denver Post article entitled "Western Republicans decry Obama wilderness policy," states:

_In an interview, Abbey said planning has already begun, and designation of the first wild lands could occur as soon as this summer in Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska. He denied that the plan is unpopular in the West, citing letters of support from recreation and conservation groups and the outdoor industry. _

The same article indicated Abbey believes people are hearing "rhetoric" from Western lawmakers, but no grass-roots opposition.

To read the entire article, click here.

The AMA and ATVA strongly disagree with Abbey's assertion that there is no grass-roots opposition. To the contrary, there is considerable and growing opposition to Wild Lands from those who have responsibly recreated on public lands for decades.

As the AMA mentioned in an earlier alert, on Dec. 22, 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed Secretarial Order 3310 creating a new land-use designation called Wild Lands that essentially allows officials in the BLM to manage public land as if it had received a "Wilderness" land-use designation from Congress, but without requiring congressional approval.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing on March 1 entitled "The Impact of the Administration's Wild Lands Order on Jobs and Economic Growth." To view AMA's comments that were submitted into the record, click here. To view an archive webcast of the hearing, click here.

Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) of the Committee on Natural Resources said, "The Wild Lands policy expressly circumvents Congress' statutory authority to establish Wilderness areas."

A 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 and ATVA support 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.

This new Wild Lands policy comes on the heels of a victory when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dropped his effort, on Dec. 21, 2010, to pass a massive omnibus public lands bill that would have inappropriately designated millions of acres of public land as Wilderness. The very next day Salazar signed Secretarial Order 3310 and the same day the 111th Congress adjourned sine die. On Dec. 23, 2010, Salazar held a press conference in Colorado announcing the new Wild Lands policy.

With the new Wild Lands policy, anti-access advocates and the administration are now seeking an end-run around Congress. Salazar's order has far-reaching implications because the BLM manages about 245 million acres of public land nationwide, primarily in western states.

Federal lawmakers quickly called the Wild Lands policy a "land grab" and a blatant attempt to usurp congressional authority. The AMA sent a letter, dated Jan.11, 2011, to Salazar asking him to explain whether the new Wild Lands land-use designation will block traditional routes of travel for OHV use. To view the letter, click here. To date, Salazar has yet to respond.

The AMA and ATVA need its members and other OHV enthusiasts to voice opposition to the usurpation of congressional authority regarding public land designations to Abbey today. You can follow the "Take Action" option to send a pre-written e-mail directly to Abbey to voice your opposition to the new Wild Lands policy.