Back to Driving Force, Summer 2015

Blazing Political Trails


The first half of 2015 has seen an enhanced focus on issues of critical importance to off-road enthusiasts. The SEMA Action Network (SAN) is actively engaged on legislation that could guarantee access to motorized recreation venues along with other issues that pose a threat.

National Monuments: Under current law, the President has the authority to declare public land with “historic or scientific interest” to be a National Monument. While this designation does not immediately close any roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and requires a new land management plan to be drafted. President Obama is under pressure to establish several monuments, including the 1.7 million acre “Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument” in Arizona. The SAN supports legislation providing checks and balances on the President’s power to designate national monuments, including legislation that requires the President to gain the approval of Congress and the state legislatures in the impacted states before designating a national monument. This proposal represents a more collaborative approach to land-use decisions and ensures public participation in the decision to establish a National Monument.

Utah Public Lands Initiative: The SAN is working with off-road groups, local communities, environmentalists, energy interests and a variety of other groups on the “Utah Public Lands Initiative,” which covers the state’s eastern counties (San Juan, Daggett, Uintah, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand and Summit). Under the initiative, these eight counties are in the process of putting forward individual plans to finalize land designations, which include protections for motorized recreation. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have led the effort to bring the various interests together and will introduce legislation finalizing the agreements. In total, more than 20 million acres of land will be impacted by the initiative.

Greater Sage Grouse: The U.S. Department of Interior is scheduled to make a decision by Sept. 30th on whether or not to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The issue is of critical importance to motorized recreation enthusiasts since the bird’s habitat spans 165 million acres across 11 western states and an ESA listing could threaten closure of roads and trails within that area. To date, there are two SAN-supported bills in Congress to address the issue. One would prevent the Interior Department from making a decision for a minimum of six years and the other would delay it for 10 years. A delay is necessary to provide state-based conservation efforts enough time to demonstrate that they are sufficiently protecting the greater sage grouse.

Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initiated a rulemaking to establish a mandatory safety standard for recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV) handling requirements. ROVs generally accommodate a side-by-side driver and passenger in a compartment equipped with roll bars and can attain speeds greater than 30 miles-per-hour. Currently, industry standards govern ROV safety and recognize that there are a wide variety of uses and terrains for which these vehicles are constructed, from utility to recreation. The SAN supports the industry standard and opposes the CPSC’s rulemaking, which could stifle future design innovations and create artificial limits on use. SAN also supports House and Senate legislation that prohibits the CPSC from adopting any mandatory ROV standard until the National Academy of Sciences completes a study of the rulemaking.

For the complete list of Legislative Action Alerts, visit www.semaSAN.com/Alerts.