“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)