PICKERINGTON, Ohio — President Barack Obama has declared September as National Wilderness Month, touting his administration’s efforts to “preserve our outdoor heritage.” While the American Motorcyclist Association supports appropriately designated federal Wilderness, the nation’s largest advocacy group for motorcyclists strongly objects to the president’s vision because it does not include motorized recreation.
In the proclamation, signed on Aug. 30, Obama said that his administration “is dedicated to preserving the nation’s wild and scenic places. During my first year as president, I designated more than 2 million acres of Wilderness and protected over 1,000 miles of rivers. Earlier this year, I established five new national monuments and I signed legislation to redesignate California’s Pinnacles National Monument as Pinnacles National Park.
“To engage more Americans in conservation, I also launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative,” the president stated. “Through this innovative effort, my administration is working with communities from coast to coast to preserve our outdoor heritage, including our vast rural lands and remaining wild spaces.”
Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, said the association takes strong exception to the president’s proclamation.
“Off-highway riders have been shut out of the decision making for the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and the most recent America’s Great Outdoors progress report makes no mention of motorized recreation,” Allard said.
Concerning Wilderness, Allard said the AMA supports the definition signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Language in the Wilderness Act recognizes places “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” and that “there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motor boats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.”
“The problem today,” Allard said, “is that many Wilderness proposals introduced in Congress do not adhere to this strict definition. Right now, legislation being considered in Congress would designate 32 million acres — an area the size of Alabama — as Wilderness.”
For comparison, Congress has designated about 107 million acres of public land as Wilderness since 1964, an area bigger than the entire state of California.
The Wilderness Act gave Congress the power to designate federal public land as Wilderness, which 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, including off-highway vehicle and bicycle riding.
“We need to protect public lands for the people, and not from the people,” Allard said.
To stay on top of what is happening with the Wilderness proposals in Congress and the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, sign up to receive AMA Action Alerts and AMA News & Notes at www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/GetInvolved/ActionAlertSignUp.aspx.