U.S. Senate poised to shut Off-Highway Vehicles out of more than 1 million acres of public land
The U.S. Senate is poised to act as early as Sunday on a massive package of public lands bills that would shut motorcyclists and ATVs out of more than 1 million acres without adequate public comment, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
The last-minute move just as the newly elected Congress takes over has raised the ire of the AMA and at least one congressman, who believe the proposal and process deserve more public participation.
"Those who say things get better with time obviously never encountered the public lands omnibus bill," said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). "This bill was a bad idea last Congress, and it's only gotten worse over the past month."
Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, agreed.
"It makes little sense to lump together more than 160 very important public lands bills into one package that is nearly 1,300 pages long, and then expect the public to digest it all -- and to rush a vote through the Senate on a weekend," Moreland said.
More than 160 public lands bills have been grouped together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The package would create more than 1 million acres of designated Wilderness land, which would shut out all motorized vehicles.
The last-minute congressional maneuver would also make the National Landscape Conservation System permanent. This system creates an additional level of bureaucracy for the National System of Public Lands and would remove much of the authority of the existing agency in managing those lands.
"Congress should put together a new package and pass it through committee rather than debate legislation carried over from the previous Congress," Rep. Bishop said. "Poor process produces poor product, and this is an example of congressional process at its worst. Parts of this bill are good, and parts are very bad. Each part deserves to be discussed and voted on its own merits."
"Continued responsible access to public lands is a vitally important right for current and future generations," added Moreland. "This measure deserves to be fully analyzed and thoughtfully debated in the next Congress prior to a final vote."
All AMA members and anyone else who enjoys outdoor recreation are urged to contact their U.S. senators and ask them to oppose the omnibus public lands bill. An easy way to contact your senators is in the "Issues & Legislation" area of the Rights section of the AMA website at