While the off-roading season is coming to a close in some areas, it’s continuing to heat up in others. Luckily, the Specialty Equipment Market Association has enthusiasts covered no matter where they live as the organization continues to fight for fair legislative action regarding the hobby and off-road recreation areas. Check out what SEMA has been working on lately below in this month’s Law & Order update!
For the last five years, there has been debate about the use of Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and the expansion of the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, California. Recently, the US House of Representatives ended the debate by signing the 2014 National Defense Authorizations Act (NDAA) which includes a provision to put an end to the fight over Johnson Valley’s use.
Under the provision, the Marine Corps base will have access to Johnson Valley for 60 days out of the year, while the remaining 300+ days would be reserved for off-highway vehicle recreation.
Now approved by the House, the NDAA moves on to the Senate for consideration.
Another area gaining attention in the off-road community is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In 2012, a management plan issued by the National Park Service banned use of major sections of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore by off-road vehicles. Currently, 39 percent of the seashore is closed to off-highway vehicles while another 19 percent is only open for part of the year.
The proposed bill would reverse the 2012 management plan and allow a better management strategy to maintain responsible off-highway use of the land as well as continue wildlife protection measures. Currently the bill is pending under the House Judiciary Committee. An amended bill aiming to do the same thing proposed by the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee asks that the Secretary of the Interior do a one-year study that would look at the minimum amount of land needed to protect wildlife species and the size and amount of buffer zones needed between wildlife protection areas and off-road recreation areas.
Also this month, SEMA is reporting that a U.S. House of Natural Resources Subcommittee has recently held a hearing on how to manage off-road trails for motorized and non-motorized recreation across the country.
As noted in the hearing, many trails currently being used for off-road recreation were originally intended for other uses, such as firebreaks, mining roads or hunting/game trails. Consequentially, these trails are not being maintained properly.
At the hearing, witnesses suggested a collaboration between off-road trail users and local stakeholders in order to best determine the best plan of action for maintaining such trails as to continue to support off-road enthusiasts as well as protect the land and environment in these areas. It was also stressed that “wilderness” or “National Monument” designations could actually hinder this effort by completely closing off large areas and trails for responsible public use.
SEMA is supporting measures aiming to maintain the current trails by off-road recreational area users and stakeholders. This would help with the estimated $314 million trail-maintenance and improvement backlog by the U.S. Forest Service cited in a 2012 Government Accountability Office report.
SEMA supports countless manufacturers and organizations that cater to the off-road community and continue to maintain the best intentions when it comes to fighting for the continuation and improvement of the off-road hobby.
Be sure to check back next month for the latest Law & Order update and for immediate access to SEMA’s work on off-road related topics, be sure to join the SEMA Action Network.