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.



  1. WiseGuy says:

    It’s as simple as this:

    Congressman Kevin McCarthy is employed by lobbyists to take public resources and hand them over to private corporations where ever and when ever possible. Check his record. He’s consistent! Exploiting the public for the profit of a tiny number of private citizens and behind-the-scenes corporate interests is the game he plays. Check his record. He is a total tool.

    (-4) 4 Total Votes - 0 up - 4 down
  2. Numbersix says:

    Henry Ford started Ford with $1000 from a car race. Honda started Honda after working in a motorcycle speed shop. Harley-Davidson and Jeep helped win WW2 and Subaru used Rally racing through forests to help develop the Outback and Legacys.
    So put your motorsports bias aside and cheer for Greg Hancock right now.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
  3. Numbersix says:

    Be it the State or non-profits or you name it, everyone needs money. Truth is motorsports folk spend plenty of money. Instead of complaining about lack of money the State should be figuring out ways to use public property to generate money.
    It takes thousands of acres for a few off-roaders to enjoy their hobby. Others like our local local legends the Browns of Paso Robles can do their pastime with several hundred friends in a rodeo arena.
    Americans in motorsport fly the flag high great ambassadors for the country. We have just won the gold at the Motocross Des Nations and today in Croatia Californian Greg Hancock stands a great chance of being crowned World Speedway Champion for the second time. Sadly our news media will ignore these people until they start abusing drugs/women/dogs etc.

    (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
  4. whoowhoo says:

    There is a lot of ground that needs to be opened up to public access. Some for hiking some for camping, some for vehicular travel and some for off-roading. Charge fees as needed, most people don’t mind paying a small daily fee to access our lands. At the rate that we are going, there will soon be nothing to do or see in this state.

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
  5. Typoqueen says:

    There needs to be some middle ground here. I agree with the points that SLORider makes but I also agree that we need to keep some land free from destruction. I believe that there can be a middle ground here. I don’t like the way K. McCarthy is proposing a total lift and complete access to all wilderness areas. On the other hand I can see having off road trails that don’t ruin an entire ecosystem. The dunes is a good example. We have an area for off road and we have a lot of area where off roading isn’t allowed. That’s a compromise and although they’ve taken a bit too much from the OHV it is a compromise that I feel we can also achieve in our wilderness areas. But no mining, no logging, no developement, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I would like to have access to wilderness areas without hearing the buzz of saws or seeing the smog and distruction from mining or coming accross some housing developement. I used to love going back packing in secluded areas and those trips would always start off with us driving our 4Xs into the forest then we’d take off on foot to get away from even the 4X. We need both, wilderness without cars and wilderness with them.

    (12) 18 Total Votes - 15 up - 3 down
    • SLORider says:

      This is middle ground. This is NOT a “total lift” or anything close to that. Wilderness is ALWAYS off-limits and will remain so.

      The designation “Wilderness” is a specific legal term. NO MOTORIZED EQUIPMENT is allowed in wilderness, and this even includes firefighting equipment. This action DOES NOT open up wilderness.

      (13) 19 Total Votes - 16 up - 3 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        Well, I guess we read it differently. It looks as if McCarthy’s thing gets through that we will be losing much of our wilderness PERMANTLY. This is just one of the articles that I’ve read on this.

        It sure looks like more than just driving to me. In several articles that I’ve read it states that this land will be open to just about everything and when I said ‘total lift’ I meant that it doesn’t mean just driving. From what I’ve read it opens wilderness land to mining, logging etc.. I’ll have to go back and read more because I thought that I read that most if not all wilderness is covered under this act. If you have a copy of this bill then I’d like to read it. So far I’ve only read opinion and news sources, not the actual bill.

        (-6) 12 Total Votes - 3 up - 9 down
        • SLORider says:

          Opponents like when there is confusion between Wilderness and Wilderness Study Area. They are vastly different.

          Second, there is no “free for all”. Mining and logging are highly regulated and will still be subject to CEQA/NEPA, the permit process and public hearings. Again, opponents like when the facts are exaggerated.

          Also, McCarthy’s bill is separate from this Sacramento hearing, which is only discussion at this point–discussion that includes opposition.

          (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
        • Josixpack says:

          It’s just Kevin Rice Lobbying for off road vehicle use again! LOL

          (-5) 13 Total Votes - 4 up - 9 down
          • SLORider says:

            Yes, I am a proponent of our “Land of Many Uses” having reasonable designated areas for everyone. An older friend with heart problems was denied visiting a favorite mountain top for a last time and showing it to his son because the last half mile of the prior dirt road was closed to everyone but hikers. Closures have been overstretched and have locked out the disabled along with pack animals, mountain bikes, and everyone but the youngest and fittest persons.

            Contortionists will insert Yosemite and other Wilderness areas that are reasonable to limit access to into this argument, but that is disingenuous. The previously unheard of label “Wilderness Study Area” was invented and applied to lands that are not reasonable to close in order to keep the public out. EVERYONE should have places they can visit. That’s what civilized people call ‘reasonable’.

            (2) 14 Total Votes - 8 up - 6 down
      • oto says:

        If off-roaders want to take their vehicles on Federal forest land, they should be the ones paying for development, maintenance and restoration. Why don’t they? Why don’t they purchase private land for the purpose and leave wilderness available to the pedestrians? Why not more equestrian areas with similar provisions? You don’t take your elderly friend with a heart condition on the back of your motorcycle to go careening to “his favorite spot for one last time to show his son.” Why not take him on a non-mechanized bike designed for the purpose? His son could help him along. It would be slower, more peaceful, a better way to express love for your elder. Peace and quiet and contemplation.

        As for wilderness remaining wilderness, Kevin, you have a bit more homework to do. The U.S. Forestry Service was given the permit-issuing power by the Dept. of the Interior back in the 1980’s. The idea was to give Forest Service personnel living and working locally in the state, more authority to grant or deny gas and oil development. The intent was to give states more power to implement a regional plan for balancing development and preservation of the last of our forested land, which is under 4% of what it originally was, the last time I asked the Forest Service.

        And they have been developing gas and oil INSIDE protected sanctuarys such as the Sespe-Frasier Condor Sanctuary and the Red Wind Indian reservation’s Wild Horse sanctuary (forgive me for forgetting the exact name of that protected area, but you will find it when you start to do some genuine research within the bureaucracy you claim to know so much about. Good luck.

        (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • Citizen says:

      “I don’t like the way K. McCarthy is proposing a total lift and complete access to all wilderness areas”

      He’s not talking about wilderness areas, but mainly Bureau of Land Management lands, and other government owned lands that are not park or wilderness. Wilderness areas will remain wilderness areas.

      You’re right in that we need both.

      (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        I can’t really make a fair judgement without seeing maps of the areas that they want to open. On the surface it sounds bad but I really wish that I had more info.

        (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  6. SLORider says:

    Excellent. Poor reporting by the Sac Bee. Opponents will attempt to posture this as a “scorched earth” destruction of everything move–it’s not. This is relaxation of some rules to provide some semblance of the forest’s motto: “Land of many uses.” This opens up some low-quality lands that have been grabbed under the false pretense and label of “Wilderness Study Area” (WSA) that in no way resemble the characteristics required for Wilderness designation.

    This provides the possibility of some level of equality for disabled forest users to see the outdoors. It’s far from just off-road use; it’s hunting, disabled access. fishing, day/picnic use, and much more.


    Motorized mobility
    Written by Amy Granat

    As the motorized access landscape changes throughout the country, the new paradigm that widespread closures have wrought to American society must be examined. Much has been said about the vulnerability of endangered and threatened species, and access to public lands is often limited or prohibited by legal action in attempts to “protect” these species. But the effects of these closures on the human species are rarely, if ever, investigated.

    Although we have a great tradition in this country of standing up for those that have little or no voice, and for protecting the rights of the less advantaged in our society, those that depend on motorized vehicles for access, recreation, or any of the many other reasons that one uses motorized vehicles, have not been considered in the closure scenario. This includes the very young, the very old, and all those in between that suffer from one form or another of disability.

    Disabled people lose their rights of access completely when it comes to closing vast areas of land to motorized access. Congressional Wilderness designations, Inventoried Roadless Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, or rules such as the Travel Management Rule, particularly Sub-part A, represent land management plans that exclude the needs of a significant section of the population. The ever-increasing restrictions against motorized access by land management agencies constitutes a practice of discrimination that heretofore has been unrecognized.

    Discrimination is a strong term, but limiting access to only those that are the fittest and most able is a very real problem that has not only been allowed to persist, but to flourish.

    One small level of American society is being clearly favored over another. Wilderness and other large land mass closures have created an elite level of American society. The wants and needs of the very few who are able-bodied and physically fit, are elevated over those who are young, old and disabled. While those that can walk might marvel at the beauty of a desert scene, or the clarity of mountain stream, they do this to the disadvantage of those that lack the physical ability to do so.

    It is understood that there are special areas in the country that deserve some form of protection from development, but not protection from the very people who actually own this land — every member of American society. Access can be managed and does not have to include or encompass every square inch of an area, but there has to be a parity between what is able to be accessed by non-motorized means, and what is able to be accessed by motorized means.

    Similarly, to insist that “quiet” non-motorized recreation is more important or valuable than “quiet” motorized recreation is to acknowledge a bias and a blatant disregard for the needs of many members of American society.

    It is difficult to understand actions that endorse closure over management, and impossible to understand why agencies and organizations, governmental or non-governmental, would endorse or promote these discriminatory actions.

    I am not only issuing a condemnation of current land use policies, but I am offering a solution that will consider the needs of all Americans. To create a fair and balanced approach to treasured public land areas, we need a way to measure access that can be used to insure parity of opportunity. In response to this need, I have developed a process called Motorized Mobility to use as a means to fairness and non-discriminatory action when approaching land use plans and management.

    It’s become obvious that we can’t leave it to the goodwill of agencies and organizations to insure fairness in allocating road and trail mileage. History has shown us that they will not consider the needs of the less able. Motorized Mobility gives land use managers a new tool, a new way to reverse the long-standing history of discrimination against the disabled. The first step is the need for a legislative mandate to insure fairness, and we can all work towards this goal.

    Motorized Mobility should be incorporated as part of the public NEPA process, alongside the wildlife and hydrology reports, the identification of points or routes of interest will take place using a collaborative method with the public. Use of an expert in disability would be advantageous and recommended.

    1. What is Motorized Mobility? Motorized Mobility measures motorized access to identified points of interest in public lands, including open spaces, forests and wild-lands. This type of analysis would become mandatory during land use planning and management.

    2. How is Motorized Mobility used as a guideline? Unique points of interest or routes of interest will be identified during a scoping process, then these will be marked and defined either as Primary Access Routes, or Secondary Access Routes. One Primary Access Route constitutes the minimum necessary to be in compliance with the Motorized Mobility guideline. Motorized Mobility routes will be listed specifically on a map, and each land area will be rated for compliance on a scale from 0 to 100.

    3. What is the definition of compliance? If it has been determined that an area has 5 points/routes of interest, each point will need a Primary Access Route. The addition of a Secondary Access Route will increase the scoring for that land area.

    4. Who will measure and score a land area for Motorized Mobility? Each federal and state agency will need a specialist in Motorized Mobility to determine compliance. Each new land use management plan, amendment or rule, will need to add Motorized Mobility as one of the management criteria.

    (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down
  7. r0y says:

    Sure, open up smaller, select areas and charge for the use. We have a LOT of protected lands (federally and state). I’m sure when times are better, said areas can then be looked at to close or continue as needed.

    I’d love to see the parks pay for themselves or even be a source of revenue – but that will mean, we need to appeal to all types, not just the hippie nature lovers, but the redneck nature lovers as well.

    Same for hunting… controlled, limited access, paid for by user fees.

    (3) 17 Total Votes - 10 up - 7 down
    • zaphod says:

      Your wilderness experience today sponsored by Kawasaki and Pepsi Cola, please swipe your card quickly to enter.

      (3) 27 Total Votes - 15 up - 12 down
      • SLORider says:

        As I stated above, “Wilderness” is ALWAYS off-limits to motorized equipment.

        (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
        • zaphod says:

          the wilderness pass program was a thinly veiled attempt to privatize outdoor recreation..
          this was the !996 republican cut taxes / raise fees congress. the fiscal pressure is always maintaining increased military spending and debt service and letting private companyies administer public land for PROFIT.

          (-5) 15 Total Votes - 5 up - 10 down
          • r0y says:

            PROFIT is an excellent motivator to go above and beyond the minimum (which the government often can’t even achieve). Something wrong with profit?

            (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
            • zaphod says:

              put a toll booth on the road in front of your house and find out.

              (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
            • godislanguage says:

              Profit is for business.

              Government is for the people.

              The people’s property isn’t a business.

              (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
          • SLORider says:

            More accurately, the National Forest Adventure Pass program (it’s not a wilderness pass as wilderness is only a small part of our forests) began in 2004 under the “Federal Lands and Recreation Enhancement Act” which was part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The Adventure Pass replaced the “Recreation Fee Demonstration Program” which began in 1996.

            No one exactly knows how the Fee Demo program was tacked on to the massive Omnibus Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996. However, there is a very detailed history you can read here:


            Access passes became known as “Recreation Access Taxes” (RAT) by many users.

            (11) 17 Total Votes - 14 up - 3 down

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