Law & Order

Recent Land Use Decisions a Mixed Bag for SEMA Members That Market Off-Road Products

The U.S. Department of the Interior has withdrawn its controversial “wild lands” policy, which directed lands with potential wilderness qualities to be managed as wilderness. SEMA joined with a number of other organizations to oppose the program, implemented last December by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 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 on “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. Under the wild lands program, the BLM was directed to review its inventory in search of more wild lands. Program opponents noted that it did not take into account input from local communities and elected officials on how the lands should be managed, such as permitting multiple uses that provide jobs and economic benefits. The controversial program was being challenged in Congress and in the courts.

In a separate action, the BLM closed 37 miles of roads and trails in southwest Idaho to protect a rare plant—the Packard's milkvetch. Last November, the plant was listed as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection and off-highway vehicles were identified as a threat. The plant is known to grow in a small area of Payette County. The BLM closure of 37 miles of OHV recreation around Willow Creek will last at least two years as the issue is reviewed. While supporting the need to protect endangered plants and animals, SEMA has called on Congress to update the Endangered Species Act to allow the government to pursue recovery habitats rather than simply close huge tracts of land.

A federal judge has rejected Utah’s lawsuit claiming state rights to a 10.5 road in Canyonlands National Park. The National Park Service closed the road in 1998, blocking motorized access to Angel Arch. The state of Utah and San Juan County had argued that the dried-up Salt Creek Canyon riverbed had a history of continuous use by vehicles, homesteaders and cattle herders, which provided a right of way to the national park. Widely considered the most spectacular arch in the park, visitors must now walk about 12 miles to reach Angel Arch.

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at