U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), joined by other lawmakers, has introduced a bill to free up almost 43 million acres of public land that now may be off-limits to off-highway riding, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
Powerful lawmakers supporting the measure include Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.
"Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily," McCarthy said. "My bill acts on recommendations made by the government agencies managing these lands so they are opened up for increased public use. This is just common sense.
"By opening these lands up to residents of our local communities and across the country for their use and enjoyment, we can help create jobs, boost local economies and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires," he said.
The bill -- H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, which was introduced on April 15 and announced at a press event on April 29 -- would remove the stringent use restrictions on 6.7 million acres managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and on 36.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land that was evaluated for a strict congressional Wilderness land-use designations.
The federal agencies have determined the 43 million acres aren't suitable for Wilderness designation, yet because of various laws and rules they must continue to strictly manage the land until Congress "releases" it for other possible uses.
The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act would release the land, freeing up land managers to determine new uses, if any, such as allowing responsible off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation where it currently isn't allowed.
The bill also would prevent the BLM and the USFS from using other means to manage the land as if it had received a restrictive Wilderness designation that bars OHV use, such as the new, controversial U.S Interior Department's Wild Lands policy.
The Wild Lands policy essentially allows BLM bureaucrats, rather than Congress, to determine what BLM land should be managed as if Congress had designated it as Wilderness.
AMA Washington Representative Rick Podliska noted the 43 million acres have been locked up for years, if not decades, even though the land managers themselves note the land doesn't qualify for the very restrictive Wilderness designation.
"For years, groups hoping to keep responsible off-highway riders off public land have been able to get areas earmarked for possible inclusion in the nation's Wilderness system, which immediately bars off-highway riding, bicycling and almost all other activities while the study is under way," Podliska said.
"We commend Reps. McCarthy, Bishop and Pearce for introducing H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, and urge all riders who want to protect and promote responsible off-highway riding to contact their federal lawmakers and ask them to support the bill," he said.
The easiest way to contact your lawmaker is through the AMA website: AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation.