Four wheelers negotiate a trail in the San Rafael Swell that is now open to mechanized travel. Opponents of the wilderness bill fear that many areas, even those with established trails will be closed if it passes.
The America's Red Rock Wilderness Act will have a hearing today in the natural resources committee in the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.
This recent announcement has met with a great deal of jubilation from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other wilderness advocates in the state of Utah and those out of the state as well.
However the announcement of the hearing didn't sit well with ATV clubs and organizations from throughout the state. The Washington delegation for the state of Utah includes Sen. Robert Bennett, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Jim Matheson, Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz; each of them have opposed the ARRWA.
Locally the Emery County Commissioners and the Emery County Public Lands Council have voiced their opposition to the bill and its would-be designation of nearly 45 percent of Emery County as wilderness.
Ray Petersen is the director of the public lands department for the county.
"Emery County Public Lands Council continues to work on a locally driven, grass roots effort at legislation intended to finalize the wilderness designation issue in Emery County," he said. "Emery County officials are united and unanimous in their opposition to America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009."
The American's for Responsible Recreational Access also had some comments.
"H.R. 1925 would eliminate motorized and mechanized access to over nine million acres of public land in Utah. If the bill were to become law, each of these 9 million acres would be made permanently off-limits to motorized and mechanized recreation, including off-highway motorcycles, ATVs, 4x4s, snowmobiles and mountain bikes."
"The House Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the legislation on Oct. 1. Wilderness bills like H.R. 1925 that designate mammoth tracks of land as wilderness without regard for current recreational opportunities and without input from the local and recreational communities are unacceptable to recreationists," said ARRA.
The Blue Ribbon Coalition also added some comments to the conversation.
"According to a Congressional Research Service report, 5.7 million BLM acres is nearly three times the BLM wilderness recommendations and 75 percent more than the BLM's wilderness study acreage. Did SUWA envision that 14 years later their 5.7 million acre bill would balloon to 9.4 million acres. That's over 45 percent of all BLM lands in Utah off limits to all mountain bike and motorized recreation.
Utah's political representatives need to know that the majority of Utahns oppose this. They need to hear it from those Utahns. None of Utah's Representatives or Senators support SUWA's madness. If you contact them now, you can make SUWA's bill like toxic waste, so that none of Utah's representatives will ever come near it. Ever," said representatives from Blue Ribbon.
The American Motorcyclist Association said, "Specifically, H.R. 1925 would directly affect the Moab, the San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock areas (to name a few) in Utah. These popular OHV areas represent some of the most important remaining OHV recreation areas in Utah, and are some of the most popular with responsible OHV riders. The proposed Wilderness designation would also make the land off limits to ATV riders and mountain bikers.
Coming on the heels of the recently enacted Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which closed two million acres of public lands, this vast Wilderness bill will take away additional recreation opportunities currently enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike."
USA-ALL representatives have been very vocal in their opposition to the ARRWA.
"We have been on the phone with key staff members of Congressman Bishop," said Mike Swenson, USA-ALL executive director. "They have welcomed our support in opposing this bill and we are communicating with them on a regular basis. USA-ALL will play a key role in stopping this bill by possibly testifying in the committee hearing, submitting written opposition for the record, assisting with strategic planning, organizing grass roots opposition, communicating information to the public, and placing political pressure in key places.
USA-ALL was created for the very purpose of stopping SUWA and their greedy wilderness grab. There is nothing of higher importance to us than stopping this bill. We will pull out all the stops for this one."
Swensen said USA-ALL first learned of the bills progress late on Sept. 15
"We sent out our first alert to our entire email list on Sept. 18. We wanted to let people know of the pending Utah wilderness bill and the urgency of stopping it now," said Swensen. "We had been warning of this for years now. We also wanted people to know we are willing to do anything we can to stop this. Huge wilderness designations in our state will close access to the most valuable land in our state. It will deny us of recreational opportunity, It will deny us of resource development. It will deny us sources to fund Utah's education system. It will place huge financial burdens on surrounding communities, It will deny land managers from truly managing land and resources. If we lose, it will be because a small vocal, well funded, group of radical environmentalists cared more and worked harder than we did. I find this unacceptable. USA-ALL is taking a stand. We will fight.We need to be able to tell our side of the story to anyone in Congress who will listen. We need to unite and direct the energies and voices of tens of thousands of Utahns and other Americans. It will take expertise and know how, which we also have. It will take some time, and we have very little, but we can make do. It will take thousands of active individuals, (of) which we need many more," said Swenson.
Emery County will send Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth has gone to Washington D.C. to testify in the hearing. The county will prepare a letter with a statement in behalf of Emery County which Pitchforth will present at that time in opposition of ARRWA 2009.