Democratic News

“Today, the Committee will be examining the challenges of managing off-road vehicle recreation on public lands. While the use of off-highway vehicles is certainly an appropriate use in many places on public lands, its use has grown dramatically in recent years, and it has been accompanied by significant advances in the power, range and capabilities of off-road vehicles. 

“As a result, the challenges of managing off-road use also have grown dramatically, and it appears questionable to me whether the BLM and Forest Service are able to properly manage this use.

“A visit to any number of off-road recreation sites on public lands, or a review of law enforcement statistics, clearly demonstrates the scope and seriousness of these challenges.
 
“In New Mexico and throughout much of the West, there has been vocal concern from virtually the entire array of public land users about the agencies’ management of this issue.

“In this Committee, we are seeing a growing number of legislative proposals that mandate travel planning and off-road recreation management, which I think is further evidence of these concerns.

“Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service have shown – at least in theory – that they recognize that off-road use is a significant management issue.  For example, the BLM has identified travel management on its lands as ‘one of the greatest management challenges’ it faces.  Likewise, the Forest Service has identified unmanaged recreation – including ORV use – as one of the top four threats to the management and health of the National Forest System.
 
“Despite these statements, it seems to me that neither agency has been able to successfully manage off road use.  In some cases, it appears that plans are not being enforced, while in others, it appears that the agencies are simply ignoring unregulated use, with significant consequences for the health of our public lands and communities, and adverse effects on other authorized public land uses. 
 
“Given the history of repeated agency recognitions of the problems, mandates to solve them, and failures to act, we cannot afford to repeat that history again.
 
“I hope that we can use today’s hearing to get a better understanding of these challenges, the agencies’ current efforts to address them, and any ideas to improve the management challenge.”
 
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