Obama raises questions about the fate of riding on public land

In a proclamation declaring September 2010 as “National Wilderness Month,” President Barack Obama extolled the virtues of federal Wilderness. The proclamation raises concerns indicating that the administration may press to close off more public land to responsible motorized recreation, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The president noted in the proclamation that last year he signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act — controversial legislation that permanently closed 2 million acres of public land nationwide to off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and all other motorized vehicles by designating the land as Wilderness.

“This month, we must renew our pledge to build upon the legacy of our forebears,” Obama said in the proclamation. “Together, we must ensure that future generations can experience the tranquility and grandeur of America’s natural places.”

The legislation consisted of a daunting collection of more than 160 pieces of legislation and more than 1,300 pages of text. Lawmakers complained that they didn’t even have the opportunity to review as many as 70 of the bills that were part of the legislation before being forced to vote.

The AMA questioned the Wilderness designation, and maintained that it was inappropriate because much of the land in question failed to meet the legal definition of Wilderness established by Congress in 1964.

“The AMA supports appropriate Wilderness designations,” said AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland at the time. “However, when those lands include roads, trails, power lines, dams, bridges and structures, they do not meet the clear definition of Wilderness. All recreationists must protest these unfair measures before responsible motorized access to public land is lost forever.”

Despite tens of thousands of e-mails and phone calls from riders, which were instrumental in derailing the original legislation, congressional maneuvering breathed new life into the measure by inserting its language into an unrelated bill, H.R. 146, known as the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Acquisition Grant Program. Congress then passed that legislation and the president signed it into law on March 30, 2009.

Under the law, areas where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed include parts of the Monogahela National Forest in West Virginia; Jefferson National Forest in Virginia; Mount Hood, Badlands, Spring Basin and Copper Salmon areas in Oregon; Sabinoso in New Mexico; Riverside County in California; and Washington County in Utah.

To read the president’s National Wilderness Month proclamation, click here

Through the AMA Government Relations Department’s Action E-list, riders can be notified by e-mail when they can make a difference on important issues. To sign up, click here

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