American Motorcyclist Association decries bill to close off 850,000 acres of Colorado public land
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) told a key U.S. House committee that it opposes a bill to designate 850,000 acres in Colorado as federally protected Wilderness because, among other reasons, the public land contains dams, power lines, bridges and other structures.
The AMA noted its opposition in a formal letter dated March 10 to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands that will be part of the committee report for the bill — H.R. 4289, the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2009. The AMA also complained that the measure would designate the land as Wilderness without any input from local elected officials and affected user groups.
“By designating these public lands Wilderness, the legislation will close off responsible motorized access to hundreds of thousands of acres,” said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, in the letter.
Moreland sent the letter to committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) prior to the committee’s hearing on the bill, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
Moreland noted that the affected land isn’t in DeGette’s congressional district, and “to date not one Colorado representative has co-sponsored H.R. 4289. This is very telling — the local population in the area affected does not support this bill.”
At that hearing on March 11, U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) testified: “This bill in its current form will close numerous motorized routes, snowmobile areas and mountain bike trails. These are important activities in my district that contribute to both the quality of life that my constituents enjoy as well as being a major economic activity in these communities.”
Kent Holsinger, a Denver lawyer who specializes in land, wildlife and water law, testified that the proposal doesn’t meet the strict requirements of the Wilderness Act of 1964 “to protect lands untrammeled by man.” He added that “acreage crisscrossed by roads, trails, powerlines and pipelines should clearly be excluded from consideration” for a Wilderness designation, and that the AMA, Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), BlueRibbon Coalition, and Colorado Snowmobile Association all oppose the bill.
In his letter, Moreland wrote that public land is for the enjoyment of all Americans and not just those who are physically able to enjoy them.
“Enthusiasts who enjoy our nation’s public lands are not just the nimble and fit but also families with small children who wish to recreate together, as well as active senior citizens and handicapped who enjoy the freedom to access the outdoors that off-highway vehicles and all-terrain vehicles provide,” he wrote.
“The AMA opposes any process that does not allow full public debate on the disposition of public lands,” he added. “Indeed, these designations deserve to be considered to allow time or thoughtful deliberation and input from affected user groups, local and state elected officials and Congress. However, the AMA, Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) nor any of their individual members or member clubs were contacted or asked for input to avoid conflict with existing multiple-use (including, but not limited to motorized) activities.”
One reason Moreland and others are so concerned about H.R. 4289 being pushed in Congress without prior input from the local community and elected officials is because it is seen as a prelude to the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal, a project of the White River Wilderness Coalition, to designate more than 400,000 acres in Colorado as Wilderness.
To see the AMA’s letter to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands click here: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/legisltn/documents/ama_statement_oppose_h.r.4289.pdf. To read Holsinger’s testimony click here: resourcescommittee.house.gov/images/Documents/20100311/parks/testimony_holsinger.pdf.
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