Members of Congress oppose de facto wilderness designations

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The following is a news release of the Motorcycle Industry Council.

Key Members of Congress Oppose De Facto Wilderness Designations
MIC Applauds the 18 Representatives who Sent a Letter to the Forest Chief Opposing the Highly Restrictive Management of Recommended Wilderness Areas

Washington, D.C., April 20, 2010 — The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) applauds the 18 Members of Congress who wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell expressing strong objections to managing Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) as full-fledged, congressionally designated wilderness areas. Wilderness areas are specially designated federal public lands on which access is prohibited to particular uses including motorized (i.e. motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles) and mechanized vehicles, which include bicycles. The statute that provides authority to establish these areas, the Wilderness Act of 1964, defines potential wilderness areas as those that are “untrammeled by man” and that retain “primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation.” The Forest Service is currently in the process of reviewing its policies on managing RWAs.

The letter notes that only Congress has the authority to designate wilderness areas. “The law is crystal clear that the power to designate wilderness rests squarely and solely with the Congress. It is a baseless, twisted reading of the law to suggest that Congress intended to allow an agency to administratively declare an area as recommended for wilderness designation and then to manage that area exactly as if Congress had taken action to make such a designation.”

The 18 signers of the letter also point out the importance of involving the public in making wilderness designations, “Wilderness designations are not actions that should be taken lightly, which is why the Act was specific in restricting the ability to make designations to Congress so as to ensure a careful, public, and deliberative process. This is the proper approach. The congressional process allows for local stakeholder involvement and makes certain that those impacted have a true voice through the representative branch of government. While not perfect, this process allows local citizens, many of whom have livelihoods dependent upon activities potentially affected by the public lands in question, to have their voices heard.”

MIC Senior Vice President for Government Relations, Kathy Van Kleeck said, “We thank Ranking Member Hastings, Ranking Member Bishop and the 16 others who signed the letter as we have been concerned that the Forest Service is considering implementing a policy of managing RWAs as though they are congressionally designated wilderness areas. This policy would certainly mean a loss of access for off-highway vehicles and severely restrict the ability of the public, including motorized recreationists, to have their voice heard.”

Duane Taylor, MIC’s Director, Federal Affairs said, “While some areas may warrant designation as a wilderness area, it is important that the public processes established in the Wilderness Act remain in place. As the congressional letter points out, designating an area as wilderness imposes the strictest land use policies that can be taken, making it important that all affected constituencies have an opportunity to have their voices heard."

The Motorcycle Industry Council exists to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling through government relations, communications and media relations, statistics and research, aftermarket programs, development of data communications standards, and activities surrounding technical and regulatory issues.

It is a not-for-profit, national trade association representing manufacturers and distributors of motorcycles, scooters, motorcycle/ATV/ROV parts and accessories, and members of allied trades such as publishing companies, advertising agencies, insurance firms and consultants.

The MIC is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., with a government relations office adjacent to Washington, D.C. First called the MIC in 1970, the organization has been in operation since 1914. Visit the MIC at www.MIC.org.