AMA, BRC Testify Before Congressional Committee

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Numerous organizations have appealed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to open more funding for the management of public lands.

Organizations that testified or submitted written testimony included the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), Trout Unlimited, the Nevada Sheriffs' and Chiefs' Association, The Wilderness Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Countering criticism that off-highway vehicles damage public land, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) told the committee last week that lawmakers need to provide more people and money for federal agencies to responsibly allow for varied uses of the land. Ed Moreland, AMA VP for government relations, said that active management of different forms of recreation on federal public land is needed rather than trying to cut the costs of management or eliminating motorized trails.

"In both cases, everybody loses," Moreland said. "What we have yet to see is the adoption of full-scale active management, a truly collaborative approach and the budgets and people to accomplish an achievable multiple-use mission.

"The motorized recreation community has a long history of volunteerism and is already helping public land managers by maintaining trails, promoting ethical use and advocating for appropriate funding levels," he said.

Moreland pointed out that millions of Americans enjoy motorized recreation, and while the number has increased significantly in the past several years, funding, management and recreation opportunities have decreased.

"This has led to more concentrated impacts on those areas where OHV recreation is still allowed, increased the burden on land management staff and contributed to user conflicts," he said. "We recognize that this type of growth presents many unique challenges for public land managers. Additionally, as a primary stakeholder, the recreation community enjoys an impressive track record of collaborating with other users as well as land managers to create workable solutions."

During his testimony, Moreland also raised particular concerns about the designated motorized-route plans that each national forest is creating. The agencies were given tight deadlines to produce those plans but weren't given more money or people to do it and the federal Bureau of Land Management may soon face similar challenges.

"An inventory system that fails to provide adequate time and funding to do the job right is destined to fail," he said. "We urge the committee to be cautious as you consider similar planning for other land management agencies."

Greg Mumm, executive director of the BRC, noted that besides using OHVs just for riding, people also use them to reach remote areas for hunting, fishing, mountain biking and hiking.

"These enthusiasts benefit from using the very same roads, trails and areas as those who enjoy OHV recreation by itself," he said. "This 'shared use' activity takes place regularly. Virtually every public land user is motorized at some point in their visits to federal lands and it is simply a question of where they depart from their vehicle."

Mumm also said the economic benefits of OHV use can't be ignored. For example, a California state report in 2007 said that OHV recreation in the state pumped an estimated $9 billion into the state's economy every year. In Arizona, OHV use generated nearly $3 billion in retail sales in 2002. He added that the demand for public places to ride is increasing while the opportunities are limited.

"There are solutions to these challenges through appropriate planning, maintenance and monitoring," Mumm said. "Active management for OHV recreation activities is the key, and there are many working examples."

Moreland concurred. "While it remains incumbent upon the agencies to provide a managed setting for recreation, and a forum for users to engage in the debate and help provide resources, education and expertise, it is the responsibility of Congress to ensure that the agencies have sufficient resources to accomplish their mission."