Law & Order

Federal Agency Seeks More Wilderness Lands and Off-Roading Restrictions

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unveiled a regulatory initiative to identify unspoiled backcountry, which can be designated as “wild lands.” SEMA opposes the program since it usurps the exclusive authority of Congress to designate “wilderness.” The designation is consequential to SEMA members that produce equipment intended for off-road activities and their customers, since no motorized activities are allowed in “wilderness” lands.

The BLM manages more than 250 million acres across the western United States and Alaska, 22% of which already has the wilderness designation. The BLM has now been directed to review its inventory in search of more wild lands. The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service also administer wilderness lands. In total, about 5% of the United States carries the designation.

The BLM action overturns a 2003 Bush Administration policy barring the agency from identifying wild lands, also known as “wilderness study areas” (WSAs). The BLM’s legal authority to establish WSAs expired in 1991, but the BLM continued to pursue the initiative until 2003. The new BLM program will likely be challenged in court and reviewed by Congress. For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at