Top three pending land-use issues

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“Treasured Landscapes.” We’re very concerned about the administration’s public lands management agenda. Fears stem from the leaked Department of Interior memo detailing the administration’s proposed shift in the way public lands are managed. In February, certain pages from the memo were leaked that indicated the administration is considering designating 13 million acres of public land in Western states as national monuments.

In August, we finally obtained the full document. In addition to the pages addressing national monuments, there is an attachment that highlights wilderness bills that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) believes “may be appropriate for Wilderness or National Conservation Area designation,” including potential designations in six states. The document also lays out the BLM’s intention to “transition from the current land management system, which is based on jurisdictional boundaries, to a modern landscape-level management system.” Part of this transition includes supporting congressional efforts to designate wilderness, National Conservation Areas and other special designations, and the designation of new national monuments, which are outlined in the attachments.

The document also makes it clear that the BLM intends to use its own “land-use planning process to manage for conservation values” in areas where legislative or monument protection is unlikely. Further, the document lays out a clear desire to elevate managing for conservation over BLM’s mandate to manage for multiple uses. All of this is likely to have a negative impact on motorized recreation on BLM lands.

The administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The AGOI was launched in April by President Obama to reinvigorate the national conversation about the outdoors. The initiative is tasked with reconnecting Americans, especially children, to the outdoors and with receiving public input and ideas. Part of the initiative includes a series of Listening Sessions around the country to discuss land conservation, recreation, and reconnecting people to the outdoors.

It is unclear what the endgame of the initiative is; however, it is believed that the administration could be setting the stage for sweeping public lands announcements that may include new national parks, national monuments and other special land designations, as well as increases to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a potential public lands omnibus bill later this Congress. None of these initiatives would be beneficial for OHV recreation. MIC has been very engaged in efforts to include the motorized recreation perspective in the initiative and to highlight the role that responsible motorized recreation can play in getting Americans, especially children, outdoors.

U.S. Forest Service Land Management Planning Rule. The Forest Service is developing a new planning rule that will guide national forest management plans over the next generation. The proposed action lists several principles that could be included in a new rule that “must be responsive to the challenges of climate change; the need for forest restoration and conservation, watershed protection, and wildlife conservation; and the sustainable use of public lands to support vibrant communities.” The proposal ignores provision for recreational opportunities as a core USFS principle and focuses on restoration and management for climate change. The proposed rule is expected to be issued in December 2010 and the final rule in November 2011.

MIC has been very involved in efforts to ensure that recreation is incorporated in the final rule and that forest planning actively provides for and manages diverse public recreational uses of our forests.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews October 2010 issue.