More than 100,000 people have stepped up to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C., this year by using tools provided by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the AMA reports.
E-mails sent by riders registered for Action Alerts through the AMA website, as well as through the website of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA) -- the AMA's sister organization -- have let federal lawmakers and government officials know how they feel on issues ranging from an unreasonable law regulating the lead content allowed in youth-model motorcycles and ATVs to the inappropriate designation of new "Wilderness" that shuts out responsible off-highway vehicle (OHV) use.
"We're very proud that AMA and ATVA members are concerned enough about the issues that affect them to take action and let decision makers know what they want," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "Their opinions count, and it's clear that lawmakers and government officials take notice."
A new law that essentially bans the sale of dirtbikes and ATVs for use by children 12 and under sparked outrage and vociferous comment by riders who used the AMA tools to ask that kids' dirtbikes and ATVs be exempt from the law. Called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), the law took effect in February of this year and it states that all youth products containing lead must now have less than 300 parts per million by weight or they can't be sold.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has interpreted the law to apply to various components of youth-model motorcycles and ATVs, including the engine, brakes, suspension, battery and other mechanical parts. Even though the lead levels in these parts are small, they are still above the minimum threshold.
Through the efforts of the AMA and ATVA, their members, and the motorcycling community, the CPSC issued a two-year stay of enforcement for the CPSIA. Nevertheless, the motorcycle and ATV industry has stated that many manufacturers and dealers are no longer selling youth-model motorcycles and ATVs and, as a result, there is now limited availability of these products for consumers.
"The stakes are huge because if parents can't buy youth-model motorcycles and ATVs for their kids, then the kids may end up riding full-size vehicles," Moreland said. "And these full-size vehicles could be too big and too powerful for them to control safely, posing a danger to the kids. To enhance the safety of America's youth when participating in a treasured American pastime, they must have appropriately sized OHVs to ride.
"Also in jeopardy is the livelihood of the thousands of small businesses and their employees who sell and service youth-model motorcycles and ATVs throughout the country at a time when they may be struggling in the current economic climate," Moreland said.
The AMA and ATVA continue to ask all concerned riders to contact their federal lawmakers to change the law and exempt youth-model motorcycles and ATVs.
Inappropriately designated federal Wilderness is another area of concern to riders. Various legislative proposals currently under congressional consideration would set aside millions of acres, and effectively ban OHVs from many well-managed public lands. Some of the most far-reaching legislation under consideration in Congress are H.R. 980 -- The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act -- which would designate more than 24 million acres of public land in western states as Wilderness or Wilderness Preservation System land, and S. 799 -- The America's Red Rock Wilderness Act -- and its companion measure, H. R. 1925, which would designate some 9.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Utah as Wilderness.
"This is one of the biggest OHV land grabs in our nation's history," Moreland said. "To keep OHV riders from being shut out of even more public land, we have to let lawmakers know how we feel. Concerned motorcyclists, ATV riders and others have let their lawmakers know that they enjoy motorized recreation, and that we have a right to do so responsibly on America's public lands."
Riders also took the time to let their federal lawmakers know that they want them to reauthorize the Recreational Trails Program, which earmarks millions of dollars each year for motorized and non-motorized trail maintenance and construction. The RTP is a Federal Highway Administration-administered program that was first created in the 1991 transportation bill. The RTP operates through state trail programs, with the active involvement of diverse trail interests represented by mandated state trail advisory councils. Funding is provided by taxes on fuel used in off-highway recreational vehicles.
Enthusiasts also used the AMA tools to comment on issues such as health care, tax breaks for buying motorcycles, and on state issues.
"In the current legislative environment, where drastic proposals can be ushered through Congress at the last minute with little or no public comment, we have to remain vigilant in the protection of motorcyclists' rights," Moreland said. "We are proud to say that, when the AMA and ATVA issue Action Alerts, our members step right up and contact their lawmakers. Only by acting together in this manner can we advocate successfully for America's riders."
To sign up to receive AMA Action Alerts and be notified by e-mail when you can make a difference on important issues, go to AmericanMotorcyclist.com and select Issues and Legislation under the Rights menu. ATV enthusiasts can do the same by going through the Rapid Response Center at ATVAonline.com