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.
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 (www.ama-cycle.org).
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
“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