President Barack Obama's designation of three new national monuments in California on Friday penalizes off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts by eliminating existing trails and riding areas in the Mojave Desert, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
"The American Motorcyclist Association is calling on all off-road enthusiasts to press Congress for the restoration of lost riding areas," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations. "We cannot allow our responsible access to public lands to be further eroded."
In his announcement Friday, the president designated the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments, using his authority under the American Antiquities Act of 1906.
The designations affect 1.8 million acres that were excluded from the 1994 California Desert Protection Act and eliminate 142,000 acres of off-highway-vehicle recreation areas.
"This executive order from the president goes against the intent of Congress," Allard said. "We had supported bills that would have allowed the monument designations while preserving existing areas for responsible off-road recreation."
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has pushed bills in Congress to obtain monument status for the land. And U.S. Rep. Paul Cook, whose district encompasses the area, introduced a similar bill. Both bills also would have protected OHV areas already in use.
However, when her efforts proved unsuccessful, Feinstein petitioned the president to use his authority under the Antiquities Act.
"The AMA encouraged Sen. Feinstein to manage her legislation through the legislative branch," Allard said. "We are disappointed that she chose to lobby the White House for an executive action, rather than continue to work through Congress to achieve her goals."
Feinstein's political maneuvering came at the behest of well funded national environmental lobby groups determined to include the largest swath of land possible in the monument designation. The Obama designations run counter to the Antiquities Act, which restricts presidential designations to the "smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected."
Since assuming office in 2009, President Obama has used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 17 national monuments covering more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters -- more than any other president.
"We believe the president has consistently overreached his authority as outlined in the Antiquities Act," Allard said. "Monument designations that go beyond the original legislative intent and impact large areas should be determined by the Congress, under a process in which there is public input, not behind the walls of the White House, with very little, if any, public input at all."
Cook said Friday that he plans to continue his effort to get his bill -- HR 3668, the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act -- passed.
Feinstein pledged Friday to introduce new legislation in Congress that would provide permanent protection for five off-highway recreation areas covering about 142,000 acres within the new monuments. She said protection of the OHV areas could not be included in the president's action.
"We sincerely hope that Sen. Feinstein does introduce her bill," Allard said. "If she does, we will work hard to see that it gets passed and signed into law. Access to public lands is one of the most important issues for our members. And we need all off-road enthusiasts to join the AMA and support us in this effort."
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