Off-roader federal land policies under scrutiny
September 23, 2011
Increased regulation of off-road vehicle use on forest lands got roasted this week at a congressional hearing in Sacramento, setting the stage for a GOP-led legislative effort to open more land to grazing and mining, and banning future national monuments. [SacramentoBee]
The field hearing by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands was heavily stacked with off-road recreation groups, ranchers and others critical of current federal policies. The party controlling the committee — in this case, Republicans — traditionally stock the witness list with those supporting its agenda.
No Democrat members of the subcommittee attended the hearing.
Most of those who spoke advocated a reversal by the U.S. Forest Service of current practices which emphasize habitat protection and recovering costs of maintenance through higher user fees.
Controversy surrounding the national policy has its share of irony: it was then-President George Bush who established rules many off-roaders consider too restrictive. Bush wanted off-road recreation routes established so that many more illegally created roads could be abandoned or restored.
Fees for events and private cabins on forest lands have increased sharply as the government seeks ways to pay for the Bush directive.