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By: Robert Janis


Be a Vigilante

We all remember the story of Paul Revere. When he spotted the two lanterns shining from the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston, he mounted his steed and galloped off to warn the residents that the British were coming.

Well, today’s Paul Reveres are groups like the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA). Recently the AMA has been warning us about a bill that has just started to make its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Called H.R. 1925, the bill would designate more than 9 million acres of Utah forest as “protected wilderness.” This would close off the land from off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. It would affect some of the most popular areas of Utah for OHV riding--the Moab, San Rafael Swell, and Chimney Rock.

According to AMA spokesperson, Peter terHorst, the organization was aware of the bill because it has been re-introduced every Congress since 1989. “The AMA has been keeping it on our radar screen for some time,” he said.

It all started with former Utah Congressman Wayne Owens. He first introduced the wilderness bill. He retired in 1992, and Representative Maurice Hinchey of New York took over and has been re-introducing the bill since. Hinchey has been increasing the scope of the bill by nearly doubling the acreage set to be designated in the original legislation. The original bill called for about 5.7 million acres to be designated and through the years Hinchey has been introducing the bill he has expanded the designated area to a total of 9 million acres.

Believe it or not, since 1992 this is the first time the legislation has been scheduled for a hearing by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Hearings are scheduled to begin on October 1.

To say the least, there is a great deal of opposition. In fact, not one Utah representative supports it and terHorst pointed out that the Lieutenant Governor of Utah will be testifying against it. So, the obvious question is why is a representative from New York introducing a bill that concerns Utah without the support of that state’s Congressional delegation? The AMA didn’t wish to speculate.

The AMA opposes the bill because “. . . it misapplies the Wilderness designation to millions of acres of land at one time,” explained terHorst. “It severely restricts responsible OHV access on traditional routes of travel, and it does all of this without the support of Utah’s elected U.S.

Representatives. This is the type of legislation that destroys responsible family recreation and severely impacts the economy in a negative way.”
So, the AMA has been organizing opposition. Once it found out about the October 1 hearing, the organization started e-mailing out Action Alerts to inform its members as well as the motorcycling community. Then these people expanded the chain by forwarding the alert to members of other groups that had a vested interest. In addition, the AMA issued a nationwide press release, submitted official comments to the record for the hearing, has sent out a letter of opposition to all members of the subcommittee and has joined a coalition of other recreation groups with a vested interest to draft and send out a letter of opposition calling for the defeat of the bill.

The AMA has diligently tried to educate people with an interest about the legislation through the Action Alerts. “We explain how the bill would impact OHV recreation and that Congress will hold a hearing on October 1,” said terHorst. “The alert also encourages our members to contact their representatives in Congress. We provide them with a pre-written letter that urges the representatives to oppose H.R. 1925.” The letter can be found at the AMA website (

The AMA is also working closely with other organizations and encouraging them to alert their members to take action. The Blue Ribbon Coalition, for example, has an alert on its website ( “The AMA is interested in collaborating with all groups and individuals who are interested in preserving America’s public lands for future generations, instead of from future generations,” said terHorst.

Since the chairman of the subcommittee announced the October 1 hearing on September 25, it is not known for sure who will be testifying. It is believed that people representing local groups as well as individuals who have an interest will testify; and, again, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah is also expected to testify.

When asked what an AMA representative would say if he or she got the opportunity to testify before the subcommittee, terHorst said, “For the record, the AMA does not oppose appropriately designated Wilderness areas, and supports protecting certain lands that meet the definition of Wilderness as set forth by the Wilderness Act of 1964.

“That said,” He continued, “managed access to public lands benefits all Americans. Our public lands belong to everyone, and not just a select few. Enthusiasts who enjoy our nation’s public lands are not just the nimble and fit, but also include families with small children, senior citizens, and less able individuals who wish to experience the spectacular beauty of the American outdoors. Many thousands of citizens who enjoy the outdoors today will not be able to do so if H.R. 1925 is signed into law. H.R. 1925 is far-reaching legislation affecting more than 9 million acres, and its passage will have detrimental consequences to the riding community, as well as many local economies that rely on responsible recreational tourism, for generations to come.”

If the bill is passed out of the subcommittee, it will be taken up by the full Committee of Natural Resources. Also, if passed out of the full committee, it will proceed to the floor of the House for a vote.

terHorst said that the AMA will continue to draw attention to the legislation all through the process and encourage interested parties to let their Congressman know how they feel.

There is a similar bill in the Senate, S.799. However, no action has been taken on it so far. The AMA said that it will monitor that bill and will jump in to oppose it if any action is taken.

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