Law & Order

U.S. Senate Committee Considers Bills to Protect OHV Roads and Trails

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on SEMA-supported legislation to protect off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to public lands. The committee reviewed legislation already approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to reopen the 75,000-acre Clear Creek National Recreation Area (NRA) in California’s San Benito and Fresno counties for recreational use.

Clear Creek was closed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2008 due to concerns about exposure to asbestiform minerals that occur naturally in the area’s rock and soil. However, an independent asbestos risk assessment study requested by the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission concluded that it was possible to allow OHV use while shielding the public from unacceptable exposure risks. The “Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act” (HR 1838) would reopen more than 240 miles of public trails.

The committee also reviewed two bills that would reform the process for designating a “national monument,” which automatically prohibits new roads and trails and requires a new land management plan be drafted that could lead to more road closures. While current law provides the president with unilateral power to designate a national monument, the committee reviewed a bill that would also require approval by Congress and the impacted state legislature(s). The committee also considered a bill that would specifically prohibit the president from declaring a national monument in the state of Utah without Congressional approval—a restriction already enacted for Wyoming and Alaska. 

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