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Controversial Wild Lands policy dealt possible setback

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The funding measure that will keep the federal government operating through Sept. 30 includes language that bars the Interior Department from using any money to carry out the controversial Wild Lands land-use policy, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

If adopted, the language in the bill would be a major victory for off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders and others concerned with responsible recreation on public land. Language in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution negotiated by the House, Senate and White House and unveiled on April 12 specifically states that no federal money “may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order No. 3310 issued by the Secretary of the Interior on Dec. 22, 2010.”

The full House and Senate have yet to vote on the measure. They are expected to do so later this week.

“This is evidence that the voices of off-highway riders and others who want public lands returned to the public were heard on Capitol Hill,” said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations.

Secretarial Order 3310 created the Wild Lands land-use designation that essentially allows federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials to manage public land as if it had received a Wilderness designation from Congress, but without requiring congressional approval. This new policy was widely expected to restrict or eliminate responsible off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in the affected areas.

A Wilderness designation is one of the most restrictive 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 OHV recreation on public land.