Americans For Responsible Recreational Access is an excellent resource for keeping our lands available to ATV recreation. In their October newsletter they had a great article on “Setting the Record Straight”.
Too often in politics, when someone feels threatened about a new idea or concept, they immediately try to derail it by spreading misinformation. A prime example of this would be the extraordinary lengths some in the environmental community have gone to in order to cause confusion and fear over H. R. 1581 and S. 1087, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.
The first thing the opposition did was to rename the legislation with a sinister title: “the Great Outdoors Giveaway Act.” Then, apparently thinking that the title change wasn’t enough to get your attention, the Wilderness Society decided it needed to take things a step further with this description: “H.R. 1581, the Great Outdoors Giveaway Act, will give away over 60 million acres of public lands to people who will pollute the air we breathe and water we drink.”
Hmmm… “H. R. 1581…will give away over 60 million acres of public lands…” Sounds to me like the famous Land Grants of the 19th century that spurred the development of the west. Well, nothing could be further from the truth in terms of the true impact of the proposed legislation. H.R. 1581 doesn’t transfer the title of one acre of federal land to private ownership. The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will still be the custodians of those lands.
What about the Wilderness Society’s charge that the legislation will give away land “…to people who will pollute the air we breathe and water we drink?” Fear mongering at its finest. If H.R. 1581 does that, why wouldn’t everyone oppose its passage? The reason we don’t is because the enviros aren’t telling the truth.
Here are the true facts about H. R. 1581 and S. 1087.
Official Title: The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011
What is the impact of the legislation? It only releases federal lands presently classified as wilderness study areas if the Bureau of Land Management has determined that those lands are not suitable for wilderness designation and therefore continued management as de facto wilderness areas is inappropriate. The same holds true for inventoried roadless areas within the U.S. Forest Service System. If the agency has determined these lands are not suitable for wilderness designation, then they should no longer be managed as de facto wilderness.
What happens if these lands lose their Wilderness Study Area status? Fear not, the BLM will still control all lands under its jurisdiction and the same holds true for lands under the U. S. Forest Service. Both agencies will be required to develop management plans for each area. To do so means soliciting public comment and following NEPA regulations, among other things before completing the management plan. No giveaway here. Rather, active multiple use management for the health of these areas rather than de facto wilderness status.
How much land are we talking about? The environmentalists are claiming that more than 60 million acres are at stake. BLM manages over 12 million acres of WSAs, of which it has said that more than 6.7 million acres are not suitable for wilderness. The Forest Service has 51.1 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) of which it has recommended 15 million as suitable for wilderness and 36.1 million acres not suitable for wilderness designation. Therefore, our calculation is that H.R. 1581 and S. 1087 of would affect the 42.8 million acres land determined by the federal agencies as unsuitable for wilderness designation. Far less than 60 million acres cited by the environmentalists.
Why all the fuss? Well, for the first time in decades, local communities will have a say in how federal lands in their neighborhood should be managed and some in the environmental community don’t like that idea. If the lands are being managed as de facto wilderness then there can be no debate. In other words, we have a power struggle going on here and the response by some in the environmental community is to make outrageous charges that the legislative result will be to “pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink.” Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is the pollution of the truth.
Why should we care? It is possible that some of the management plans developed will include new opportunities for motorized recreation. There is no guarantee this will happen until the management plans are completed, but at least we will have an opportunity to make the case. If these areas remain as WSAs, opportunities for motorized recreation are close to nil.
What to do? Write your Congressman and seek support for H.R. 1581 and your Senators to urge support for S. 1087. It may take a long time to pass this legislation, but this is a healthy debate, one that has been needed for decades.
ARRA intends to be active in this debate and we hope you will join with us. You can start now by clicking these links and sending such a message to the Congress:
- Legislation to Expand Multiple Use Access to Public Lands – Click Here to Learn More and Weigh In
- Senate Companion for Legislation to Expand Multiple Use Access to Public Lands – Click Here to Learn More and Weigh In
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
Source: ARRA October 2011 newsletter