The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources is considering a bill that would designate 24 million acres of public land as wilderness.

H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act would designate parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming as wilderness, closing the area off from off-highway vehicle access.

Ed Moreland, vice president of government relations for the American Motorcyclist Association submitted his comments to the Committee on Natural Resources to argue against H.R. 980.

In his submission, Moreland argues the lands in question do not meet the definition of Wilderness as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964. The act defines Wilderness as areas in a natural state where changes are produced by the environment. Much of the 24 million acres include man-made roads, trails, power lines, dams, bridges and other structures.

“Our public lands are for the enjoyment of all Americans and not just an elite few who would have you build a fence around them for those who are physically able to enjoy them,” Moreland writes in his submission. “Enthusiasts who enjoy the public lands of our nation are not just the nimble and fit but also families with small children who wish to recreate together as well as active senior citizens and the handicapped who enjoy the freedom to access the outdoors that OHVs and ATVs provide.”

H.R. 980 was proposed by Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., on Feb. 11 and referred to the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on Feb. 20.

Moreland also takes exception with H.R. 980 because it was proposed by and supported by representatives from areas outside of the affected region.

“This bill is especially disconcerting due to the fact that it’s being proposed by a representative from a densely populated urban area, New York City,” says Moreland. “In fact, it is being considered without the support of a single member of Congress who represents the affected districts. Shouldn’t the people who live in these areas have some say in whether or not they should be banned from riding in them?”

The AMA encourages concerned individuals to contact federal lawmakers through the Rights section of its website

“To keep OHV riders from being shut out of even more public land, we have to act immediately,” Moreland says. “Concerned motorcyclists, ATV riders and others must let their lawmakers know that they enjoy motorized recreation, and that we have a right to do so responsibly on America’s public lands.”

Related ReadingCongress bars 2 million acres from OHV access



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