Americans who enjoy motorized recreation on federal public land deserve fair and equal treatment from land managers, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) told a U.S. House subcommittee on Sept. 19.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind land managers that the OHV [off-highway vehicle] community is a ready partner,” said AMA Western States Representative Nick Haris before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “The riding community has long proven their willingness to ‘pay to play’ on our nation’s public lands and, in return, we simply ask for fair and equal treatment when making management and policy decisions.”
Haris testified during a hearing on “Restoring Public Access to the Public Lands: Issues Impacting Multiple-use on Our National Forests.” held in Sacramento, Calif. The hearing focused on the restrictive policies of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for users to access public land.
Representing the AMA and its partner organization, the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA), Haris told Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and subcommittee members that restrictions and requirements for special events, as well as the increasing costs of obtaining special use permits (SUP), are creating hardships.
“For example, the Polka Dots Motorcycle Club, a 55-year-old club, was told they had to apply for a five-year permit for their annual family enduro, and were required to prepay approximately $50,000 for related environmental analysis and monitoring,” Haris said. “This was despite the fact that the enduro had been held in the Eldorado National Forest [in California] for the past 40 years.
“This event was to have been held on existing routes that had previously gone through a thorough environmental review…” Haris said. “Cost recovery was typically minimal, and given the long and successful history of this event, the riding community was simply stunned by this sudden increase in fees as well as the agencies’ request for prepayment of the entire amount.
“Needless to say,” Haris said, “the event was canceled, and similar issues have forced the cancellation of other enduros as well as equestrian events.”
Haris also noted that riders have felt left out of the processes for developing new travel management plans for public land, and are frustrated that established routes are being left off travel management route maps.
“The decision to include or exclude a specific route must be based on a full review and consideration of its role in the entire system…” Haris said.
Haris emphasized that public land is intended for the enjoyment of all Americans.
“Outdoor 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 (all-terrain vehicles) provide,” he said.
To read a transcript of Haris’s remarks, go to http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/RestoringPublicAccess_9_19_11.aspx.