Bills that would shut down millions of acres of Utah land to OHVs are before Congress.
According to a report from the American Motorcyclist Association, bills that would close 9.1 million acres of Utah public land to off-highway vehicles have been introduced in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced H.R. 1630, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced S. 769, on April 18. Both bills are called America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and would designate more than nine million acres of Utah public land as Wilderness. Once land is designated as Wilderness, no vehicles, including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles or bicycles, are allowed on that land.
Included in the 9.1 million acres are existing OHV riding areas around Moab, the San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock. The AMA says these OHV areas are some of the most important remaining in Utah, and are some of the most popular with responsible OHV riders. The targeted areas also include existing roads and developments.
“It is outrageous that Rep. Holt of New Jersey and Sen. Durbin of Illinois would attempt to bypass the Utah congressional delegation to shut down nine million acres in Utah to just about everyone but hikers,” says Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. “This legislation is also puzzling because much of the land in question doesn’t come close to meeting the definition of Wilderness that’s spelled out in federal law. According to the Wilderness Act of 1964, Wilderness can only apply to land ‘retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation.'”
ATV and UTV enthusiasts are no doubt used to fighting for their right to ride and now they face two significant salvos – a potential end of the dedicated funding for recreational trails and a proposal that could block riding on public land in nine states.
We’ll look at the trail funding first. According to the American Motorcyclist Association, the U.S. Senate will vote on a bill that would end the dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which is considered to be one of the most important and beneficial laws for off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders ever passed by Congress.
The RTP, which provides money to states to develop and maintain trails, would lose dedicated funding under provisions in a transportation funding authorization bill — S. 1813, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) — which was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by an 18-0 vote on Nov. 9. It’s unknown when the full Senate will vote on the measure.
Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, was shocked by the committee vote and noted that abolishing the RTP dedicated funding would effectively create a tax increase on OHV riders because the RTP funds would no longer be designated for a program that benefits motorized trail users.
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