Former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is wrong to urge President Obama to use executive powers to close off public land, the American Motorcyclist Association said.
In a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, Babbitt, who served as Interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, said the current administration should use the Antiquities Act and other powers to protect public land from development.
But Wayne Allard, a former U.S. representative and U.S. senator from Colorado who now serves as the AMA vice president for government relations, said such actions would bypass the people's representatives in Congress. He called the Babbitt comments disappointing.
"The administration shouldn't unilaterally decide how public land should be managed," Allard said. "Those decisions need to be made in Congress, with input from citizens and officials in the affected communities."
The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president to declare national monuments. The federal law was initially passed to protect native American artifacts such as pottery from being taken from small tracts of federal land in the West. That is, Congress determined that national monument designations were to be confined to very small areas.
But presidents haven't interpreted the law to apply to small areas. Clinton created an uproar in 1996 when he designated 1.9 million acres in southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
President George Bush used the Antiquities Act to circumvent Congress and set aside the future use of thousands of square miles of the Pacific Ocean without public debate. In 2006, he designated 140,000 square miles of ocean and 10 islands and coral atolls in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a U.S. national monument.
National monuments don't automatically ban off-highway vehicle use but a national monument designation makes it much easier to ban their use without input from the public, elected representatives and affected communities.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the AMA honors the heroes and the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com.