Off-Highway Vehicle Trails in 11 Western States Could Be Threatened

A U.S. Department of the Interior document indicates that the agency plans to designate 14 new or expanded national monuments in the western United States. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar provided subsequent assurances that the plans were preliminary and that the Obama Administration would not bypass input from the local communities, governors and Congress if the plans move forward.

Unlike wilderness designations, motorized recreation is permitted within national monuments. However, closing off-highway vehicle (OHV) roads and trails is a frequent byproduct when land receives the National Monument designation. The potential monuments encompass nearly 13 million acres. Targeted lands include popular OHV areas, such as the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa (Utah), Berryessa Snow Mountains and Bodie Hills (California), parts of the Great Basin (Nevada), the Otero Mesa (New Mexico) and the northwest Sonoran Desert (Arizona).

SEMA supports land-use decisions that are reasonable and enjoy local community support. However, SEMA opposes unnecessarily restrictive land-use policies. Under current law, the president may designate national monuments without Congressional approval. However, legislation has been introduced in Congress to rescind this option. SEMA is urging the U.S. Congress to take an active role in determining the size of monuments if such a designation is deemed appropriate and for existing OHV roads and trails to be specifically included within the permitted uses on such lands.

To learn more about off-road issues, access SEMA’s “Land-Use Policies and Off-Road Recreation” guide. For questions, contact Ethan Landesman.