Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Transparent Failure: Public Shut Out Of Debate Over Fate Of 13 Million Acres Of Public Land, Including Off-Road Riding Areas

A key element of President Obama’s long list of campaign promises was a transparent administration. So how’s that working out so far? Not so well. Among the administration’s most recent closed-door maneuvers was the release of only 383 pages of a 2,000-plus-page document by the Department of Interior that has the potential to lock down as much as 13 million acres of public land to off-road vehicles, motorcycles included.

The following press release from the American Motorcyclist Association tries to let some light into the smoke-filled room where public-land policy is made. What are your thoughts on the issue? Let us know, then let your congressional representatives know, too.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is calling for full disclosure on current National Monument designations that could affect as many as 13 million acres throughout the West. This follows the limited release by the Department of Interior of only 383 out of more than 2,000 pages of internal documentation related to the consideration.

Earlier today, a markup in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources could have forced H.Res. 1254, which would require full disclosure, to the House floor. However, despite bi-partisan support, a motion to favorably report the measure was not agreed to by a vote of 20 yeas to 22 nays. In a separate motion, a voice vote agreed to report H.Res. 1254 without recommendation. That means the decision to bring the resolution to the House floor rests with Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) and House leadership.

At the heart of the issue are numerous potential National Monument designations, which would make it easier to close the affected 13 million acres to responsible off-road motorized recreation. The current effort draws on authority provided by the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows the President to exercise executive privilege to unilaterally designate national monuments without input from local officials and residents, or their congressional representatives.

"It is troubling that the Department of Interior has not released the full draft document for the public to review and consider," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland. "We are eager to understand the full scope of the document and the rationale for seeking these designations, and we will continue to ask for full disclosure on this matter."

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) also called for the Department of Interior to release all documentation behind the move.

"By refusing to turn over thousands of pages of documents to Congress about this administration's potential plans to lock up millions of acres of lands, they have destroyed any remaining illusions about being transparent," said Rep. Bishop, who serves as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. "If the DOI has nothing to hide on this issue, then why not hand over 100 percent of the documents to once and for all prove to the American people that they are not planning a massive land grab out West?..."

AMA Members and other concerned motorcyclists and off-highway vehicle enthusiasts can follow developments on this issue at

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