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U.S. Interior Department eyeing possible closure of millions more acres to off-highway riding

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Recently revealed documents show that a federal land management agency has been talking about changing land-use designations on public land that could close from 35 million to 140 million acres to off-highway riding, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dated Aug. 9, Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations, noted that an internal government document indicates the Interior Department may have “a finely detailed plan to exclude Americans from accessing public lands despite the bureau’s assertion that these documents are simply the result of ‘brainstorming sessions.'”

Moreland asked Salazar to explain precisely what the language means in the internal memo produced by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is part of the Interior Department.

“According to a news report on Aug. 5 from Salt Lake City-based KLS-TV, a recently obtained BLM document outlines how the federal government is seeking to manage federal lands through more restrictive land management practices,” Moreland wrote. “The AMA seeks assurances from you that all dispositions of public lands will be publicly debated before new designations are made.”

The internal memo states that some 130 million to 140 million acres — an area roughly the size of Colorado and Wyoming combined — are under consideration for special land-use designations that could further restrict off-highway riding. This is about half of the 264 million acres of public land managed by the BLM.

At another point in the document, the BLM states that about 35 million acres of the land it manages “should be considered for a new and/or heightened conservation designation.”

The BLM memo spells out a proposed plan for public land-use designations that could ban off-highway vehicle riding by supporting certain congressional land-use designation proposals, having the president pull an end run around Congress by unilaterally naming areas as national monuments “should the legislative process not prove fruitful” and to use the agency’s internal land-use planning process to accomplish the bureau’s goals for managing “conservation values” when those other two efforts fail.

“This memo doesn’t read like a draft document,” Moreland said. “It reads like a playbook for shutting the public out of land-use decisions.”