Law & Order


Proposals for new wilderness areas in the Southwestern portion of the country were approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. The bills were modified from their original versions to incorporate several technical changes at the request of federal officials and various stakeholders.

By law, wilderness areas generally prohibit roads and the use of motorized vehicles. The issue is consequential to SEMA members as off-roaders will have less riding areas in the region and potentially less demand for OHV equipment. Currently there are more than 20 other wilderness bills pending before Congress. 

Among the bills approved by the House was a proposal that would expand federal protection to 190,000 acres of Southern California desert and forest by creating four new wilderness areas and increasing the size of six existing areas. In addition, it would add about 5,000 acres to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Under the bill, 41,000 acres of Joshua Tree National Park would be labeled "potential wilderness" until the National Park Service settles property claims, at which point they would become true wilderness areas. 

A second California proposal creating a wilderness area in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park was also approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill would designate approximately 70,000 acres in the Mineral King Valley as wilderness. The area was added to the National Park system in 1978 after the Walt Disney Co. attempted to build a ski area there. The current proposal would also add an additional 43,500 acres to an existing wilderness area within the park.

After several months of negotiations, the Committee also approved a bill creating the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeast New Mexico. Through continued discussions with the Bureau of Land Management and other stakeholders, the amount of land in the proposal was reduced from 19,880 acres to 15,995 acres.

SEMA continues to support land-use decisions that allow local communities and government authorities to participate in the decision-making process. Within that context, SEMA supports the conservation of land and protection of wildlife together with appropriate, regulated use of motorized vehicles on federal lands.

Details: Jason Tolleson at