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AMA Life Member testifies before U.S. House in opposition to inappropriate Wilderness designation
Dennis Larratt, a Charter Life Member of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), offered testimony on behalf of the Association as well as the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives in opposition to H.R. 3914. The bill, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009, would inappropriately designate 44,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and private land as federally protected Wilderness.
The hearing was held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands of the Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). H.R. 3914, introduced by Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), would designate about 44,000 acres of public lands as Wilderness.
"Colorado already has 3.5 million acres of designated Wilderness, and does not require additions," Larratt testified. "H.R. 3914 is a piece-meal approach, with many small areas proposed for designation."
AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland said that the AMA is eager to work with Rep. Salazar and other interested parties to address Larratt's concerns regarding H.R. 3914.
"The AMA supports Wilderness designations for land that meets the statutory definition of Wilderness -- land 'primarily affected by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable' -- but there are still oustanding issues to be resolved with the local and state OHV community," Moreland said. "The AMA is proud to partner with organizations such as COHVCO to provide Congress with a local perspective of the impact on riding areas.
"Mr. Larratt provided numerous logical and clearly stated points against the passage of H.R. 3914," Moreland continued. "We're grateful for his testimony and looking forward to the opportunity to help better shape this legislation going forward to benefit all Americans with recreational and economic interests in Colorado's ample natural resources."
As part of his testimony, Larratt, who represented the AMA, COHVCO and the AMA's sister organization, the All-Terrain Vehicle Association, cited the massive amount of land being considered for Wilderness designation in Colorado, such as the Hidden Gems proposal that will designate 400,000 acres of public land as Wilderness. Combined with federally protected Roadless and Wilderness Study areas, the acreage in the state that is off-limits, or being considered for protection, is staggering.
"While there is obvious overlap with some of the proposed Wilderness and some of the Roadless Areas, a simple summation results in approximately 11 million acres, or half of all federal public lands in Colorado, being contained in designation and proposals," Larratt testified.
Larratt also questioned the suitability of the land proposed for Wilderness designation under H.R. 3914.
"Congress has charged the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture through the USFS and BLM with identifying areas for additional Wilderness designation," Larratt testified. "The sum total of the USFS Inventoried Roadless lands that were recommended for designation is only 11,000 acres. Let me repeat that the USFS only identifies 11,000 acres of 4.8 million IRA lands as suitable for Wilderness designation, yet H.R. 3914 alone is four times that size, and the other various proposals are a total of almost 300 times that quantity."
Other problems with H.R. 3914 include fairness (some areas would allow exceptions for the sake of helicopter skiing and mountain-bike racing); limits on fresh water projects in a state with limited fresh water resources; vague buffer language that may not protect remaining trails on adjacent properties; and no consideration for historical trails.
"Inappropriate Wilderness designations are often simply a land grab by special interests, and the AMA will continue to vigorously oppose such efforts," Moreland said. "All Americans have a right to enjoy the beauty of our public lands, including the young, elderly, handicapped and others who may only be able to share in the wonder of the environment by using an off-highway vehicle. Wilderness designations close off these areas to those Americans."
Larratt has been a member of the AMA since he was 13 years old. In 1987, he helped found the COHVCO and has served in various organizational roles, including chairman

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Composed: 01/22/2010 | Modified: 01/22/2010
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