A U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on the SEMA-supported “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.” The legislation would release 42 million acres of land from “wilderness” designations that have already been set aside as “wilderness study areas” (WSAs) or “inventoried roadless areas.” WSAs are lands that have been identified as having wilderness potential. The bill would also officially terminate the “Wild Lands” order, which the Interior Department recently abandoned, that directed the Bureau of Land Management to recommend lands for wilderness designations and manage them accordingly. Wilderness designations are consequential to SEMA members since no mechanized equipment (off-road vehicles, etc.) is permitted within these lands.
At the hearing, supporters of the bill argued that it would immediately increase opportunities for multiple-use management—including motorized recreation, hunting and fishing. SEMA and other supporters contend that these lands are being unnecessarily restrictive of responsible recreation and that the legislation will allow greater public access to millions of acres of public lands. Opponents claim the bill would limit the government’s ability to preserve wildlife and other recreational opportunities while creating new land-management disagreements. The bill will remain under consideration by the House Natural Resources Committee.
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