Lawmakers Vote to Close 2 Million Acres of Public Land

Federal lawmakers have approved a bill that closes more than 2 million acres of public land nationwide to powersports and other motorized vehicles.

U.S. House members voted 285 to 140 to approve H.R. 146, known as the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Acquisition Grant Program. This bill was formerly known as S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.

Congress' attempt to pass S. 22 was defeated two weeks ago in the House. However, following that defeat, the Senate leadership brought H.R. 146 to the floor, inserted the language from S. 22, and passed the bill March 19 by a vote of 77 to 20. It then went to the House for the March 25 vote.

The measure, which now goes to President Obama to be signed into law, consists of a collection of more than 160 pieces of legislation and more than 1,300 pages of text.

Under the bill, motorized vehicles will no longer be allowed in parts of the Monogahela National Forest in West Virginia; Jefferson National Forest in Virginia; Mount Hood, Badlands, Spring Basin and Copper Salmon areas in Oregon; Sabinoso in New Mexico; Riverside County in California; and Washington County in Utah.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) lobbied against the bill and organized a letter-writing campaign in the days leading up to yesterday’s vote.

AMA VP for Government Relations Ed Moreland said House members never debated more than 70 of the bills included in legislative package before going ahead with the vote.

"This is a sad day not only for responsible motorized recreation but also for a democratic process that is supposed to welcome public input and the opportunity for congressional review,” Moreland said in a prepared statement.

- Submitted by Guido Ebert