Now you can intervene in environmental disputes over federal land

Dailies -



“This result will forever enhance the ability of riders to protect their access to public lands,” says the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Paul Vitrano of a court decision that will allow rider’s groups and other entities to intervene in cases of environmental disputes over federal land use. Previously, all non-Federal entities were prohibited from intervening in any cases involving the National Environmental Protection Act in western states. Basically, if OHV access to federal land was threatened, the people using their vehicles off-highway couldn’t do anything about it. Now they can.

Photo: Grant Ray

The MIC and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America led an argument that led to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the “Federal Defendant” rule which prohibited anyone other than the federal government from having a say in the main legal mechanism for disputing government action that could threaten the environment. If an organization like a logging company, tribal organization or environmentalists challenges OHV access to federal land in the future, the riders who use that land will be able to contest that challenge in court.

It’s somewhat wordy and confusing to describe all this, but its an important ruling that will dramatically impact our ability to protect existing riding areas in the west. Access to riding areas on federal land suffers from several angles, including the federal government’s limited tool chest for protecting land from mining, logging and other commercial interests that frequently limits or removes access inadvertently in the process of preventing exploitation. Noise complaints, erosion caused by OHVs and our own bad behavior also play a role. Now, thanks to the MIC and SVIA, we can at least have a say in the court cases that define where we’re able to ride.

Here’s the ruling. (PDF)

via MIC

  • Beale

    This is huge. I grew up around 1970′s desert racing in Southern California. The time I spent in the desert as a kid had a huge influence on me as an individual and on my views on land use and government protection of our land. I absolutely want to see some forms of protection in place but flat out restricting any use is ridiculous. Worse, it prevents our children from being exposed to wild environments and just how beautiful this country truly is. More than ever, kids today need an alternative to glowing screens for entertainment. Responsible OHV use is a great way to provide that alternative.

    • Wes Siler

      Agree on all points. What I’d love to see is some movement to remove the federal government’s ability to define an area as “wilderness” which means no access for anyone, usually not even bicycles. Unfortunately, that seems to be their one and only tool for keeping mining companies and loggers out. Putting more tools in the toolbox, ones capable of preventing strip mining while still allowing access for vehicles and other recreational uses would make a huge difference.

      Unfortunately, our rights groups are frequently left to complain that access has been removed while the government didn’t set out to remove them, just protect the land from other threats.

      How could we do that? Maybe it’s a case of banning together with cyclists and other people who have threatened access and lobbying for changes to the overall law? I’m no expert, but we’d love to give voice to someone who is.

  • parkwood60

    This is good news. There usually is a big schism between the street rider and the off-road rider. The street riders are always bitching about loud pipes and helmet laws, meanwhile the off-road riders are being herded into smaller and smaller “reservations” where they can ride. Most street riders don’t care about the closing of off road areas, while the off-road riders are fighting for survival.

    This is also the issue that for some reason leads to the NRA assuming I want their mailings because I’m anti-government take over of the desert. And I assume why I got an autographed picture of George Bush Jr from the RNC.

    If you haven’t read “Monkey Butt” its got to be the funniest account of the fight for the desert, if not the best. I like to tell Sierra Club types these days “If the government can’t patrol the border effectively, what makes you think they are going to devote resources to keep me from riding in these so called closed areas of the desert?”

    I realize I have been ranting, but I haven’t eaten lunch yet.

  • jphphoto

    A friend of mine directed me to the blue ribbon coalition.