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By: Robert Janis

U.S. Department of Interior

Department of Interior Creates New “Wild Lands” Designation

Continued from page 1...

Swenson admitted that there are areas managed by the BLM that should be protected like remote places where there are no roads. “In some areas, not all, but in some, Wilderness might be an appropriate thing,” he said. “The problem we have is when the environmental groups and the federal government go into places that have been used for decades for camping, hunting, fishing and off-road recreation and turn these places into wilderness. It has the effect of often closing roads.” He explained that he has seen examples where environmental groups have tried to draw boundaries around a road to piece together enough land to get 5,000 continuous acres that the Wilderness Act requires. “It’s disingenuous. It’s not keeping to the spirit of what wilderness is as the Congress, who passed the original Wilderness Act in 1964, intended. It has cost us in Utah a major headache. It hurts our access and, frankly, it hurts us on many levels,” said Swenson.

He acknowledged that the Wild Land designation process may involve some sort of public process, but he doesn’t trust the BLM to follow the lead of the majority. “I have no faith that the federal administrative agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management or any other agency in the Department of Interior can fairly and competently conduct a public process and then do what the public wants,” he said. “I think that it is a dog and pony show. They know they need to have the appearance of being fair, so I believe they will hold public meetings and take public comments and then do what they want to do anyway.”

What he wants to see is an act of Congress that prohibits the Department of Interior or any other department or administrative agency from creating wilderness. “Congress did not give the BLM the authority to create wilderness and manage it as such. They gave them the authority to identify Wilderness Lands and manage them for wilderness characteristics until Congress decides it is Wilderness or release the lands back into multiple use,” said Swenson.
He asserted that the BLM is a multiple use agency. “They should manage the land for the greatest number of people for the greatest number of uses,” he said. “Sometimes that means preservation and sometimes that means recreation. Sometimes it means different types of recreation. Sometimes it means industry and extraction. Sometimes it means livestock grazing. They need to manage the land to benefit the most amounts of people and quit trying to be a preservation organization.”

Currently Swenson is trying to alert people in the OHV community about what is happening and how it may affect them. “We are trying to build a little land use activist army here in Utah,” he said. “We have a little more than 11,000 donors, and people who are involved are trying to get the numbers even bigger. We want to let our local elected officials know and our Congressional delegations know and a few folks in the Administration know that we are pretty darn serious about this.”

He concluded that OHV enthusiasts should mobilize now and lobby Congress to take action. He believes that it is not just an issue that concerns the western states. He asserts it is a national issue. “A lot of those folks who live in the east go west to recreate and enjoy millions of acres of public land. Now they can lose that. In addition, if the BLM wins on this issue, then precedence has been set and then another agency can take the BLM’s lead and step farther than Congress intended them to go. It starts to creep into our lives, in areas that may not involve OHV recreation. Also, if the roads in the west are closed, then an awful lot of OHVs aren’t going to be sold. OHV manufacturers won’t be able to make a buck, and they will go out of business. Manufacturers are already hurting in the west. They aren’t selling as many ATVs here because there is not as much access and the economy is hurting.

“This is the biggest thing to hit the off-road community maybe ever,” he warned. “There is a loaded gun cocked to our heads, and the trigger is going to be pulled. We have to decide now if we are going to step up and act.”

You can contact Mike Swenson via e-mail at mike@usaall.org or visit the USA ALL website at: www.usaall.org.

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