On July 19, 2011, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a press release announcing that it will solicit recommendations from “state and local elected officials, Tribes, and other federal land managers on areas that deserve wilderness protection and that have broad support for congressional designation.”

In a previous June 10, 2011 American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) alert, the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also announced in a letter that he will solicit recommendations from members of Congress about potential new Wilderness designations in their states and district, which will then be submitted to Congress by October 15 for consideration. This announcement comes on the heels of the Secretary’s June 1 memorandum directing the federal BLM Director Robert Abbey to not designate any lands as “Wild Lands.” This memorandum reverses Secretarial Order 3310, hereon referred to as the “Order.”

Secretary Salazar’s Order, issued December 22, 2010, would have created a new land-use designation that essentially would have allowed BLM to manage public land as if it had received a “Wilderness” land-use designation from Congress, but without requiring congressional approval. This new policy, if remained in place, would have restricted responsible off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding in the affected areas.

Secretary Salazar cited the passage of H.R. 1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, which includes a provision (Section 1769) that prohibits the use of appropriated funds to implement, administer, or enforce the Order in Fiscal Year 2011 as his reason to reverse this policy.

A Wilderness designation is one of the strictest forms of public land management. Once Congress designates an area as Wilderness, nearly all forms of non-pedestrian recreation are illegal. The AMA supports appropriate Wilderness designations that meet the criteria established by Congress in 1964, but anti-access advocates have been abusing the legislative process to ban responsible motorized recreation on public land.

Federal and state lawmakers called the “Wild Lands” policy a “land grab” and a blatant attempt to usurp congressional authority. The AMA sent a letter, dated January 11, 2011, to Secretary Salazar asking him to explain whether the new “Wild Lands” land-use designation will block traditional routes of travel for off-highway riding. To view the letter, click here. To view the BLMs response, click here.

The reversal of the Order is a major victory for responsible OHV riders and others concerned about appropriate access to public land. Anti-access groups will continue to push for legislation to inappropriately close off millions of acres of public land to OHVs. Not only are BLM lands under attack by these groups, but U.S. Forest Service land as well. Therefore, the riding community must remain vigilant. To thank the Secretary for his decision to reverse the Order, click here.

The AMA needs its members and others to send a message to their state lawmakers that all Wilderness proposals submitted to the BLM and ultimately to the Secretary meet the criteria established by Congress in the Wilderness Act of 1964. You can follow the “Take Action” option to send a pre-written e-mail directly to your state lawmakers.

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