Motor Vehicle Registration Checkoff for Protecting Access to Public Lands and Off-Highway Vehicle Education
Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: hb97
Sponsor: Rep Mike Noel (R-Kanab)
Legislative Session: 2007 General Session
This legislation threatens more funding for suits that impair the ability of land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the forest service to protect wildlife, wilderness, and quiet recreation from off-road vehicles.
County commissioners in several rural counties are strongly opposed to wilderness. Some of them even oppose the idea of the federal government owning land in Utah. They want to be able to dip their hands in your pocket to fund lawsuits against the federal government.
Few of these counties have sufficient funds to pay for these suits themselves so they've used funds appropriated by the state legislature out of the general fund, money derived from federal mineral leases, and now checkoff money to pursue their destructive hobby.
This legislation provides that checkoff donations should be used for smothering federal land managers with lawsuits and for off-highway vehicle education programs. The bill provides no oversight whatsoever that both ends must be served.
OHV use on designated trails should be permitted, and most motorized users are respectful of the rules, other recreationists and wildlife. These people--many of whom are rightly concerned about improving OHV education--should not have to gamble that their donations might all go to lawsuits.
This legislation should therefore alarm both motorized and non-motorized users. Call your representatives and senators to tell them to oppose this bill unless lawsuits are prohibited. Imagine the uproar if a senator or representative from Salt Lake County were using public facilities to promote lawsuits against the State of Utah to protect wilderness!
Three senators, listed below, voted against this bill. Please take a moment to thank them. It's also important to call Governor Huntsman at 801/538-1000 or send him a message via his website at http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html.
Sen Lyle Hillyard
Sen Pete Knudson
Sen Scott McCoy
Check out the specifics of the bill language. To find your senator, have a look at the district maps.
Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) promotes motorized uses on public lands primarily by suing the federal government to prevent them from managing ATVs responsibly. They're delighted with this bill; they're likely to be the only organization able to apply for grants from this fund. Read their position at http://www.usaall.org/Legislation/H.B.%2097%20White%20Paper.pdf.
Some county commissioners in a number of southern Utah counties oppose any wilderness in their counties. They believe they can claim an extravagant network of county highways across publicly-owned lands that will prevent wilderness or other protection for public land.
At left is a photograph of former Sierra Club employee Linda Wilburn standing in the middle of one of the claims lodged by Garfield County, a highway claim to The Gulch. There are quite a few claims as absurd as this, including one made by the Utah Attorney General to the Angel's Landing Trail in Zion National Park. Some are not quite so obviously spurious, but are just game and hiking trails running through pinyon and juniper or sagebrush. The point is the vast majority of them are claimed in order to prevent the land from being managed responsibly by the federal government.
To see more footpaths and wash bottoms claimed as rural highways, check out http://members.aol.com/gshiker999/index.html. If this check-off is approved, state facilities will be used to funnel money to claiming such trails and wash bottoms as rural highways.