April 2012 Update: The Motorize our Wilderness Areas Act was combined with other bills to comprise H.R. 4089 in the House of Representatives. It passed with minimal amendments, including an anti-Antiquities Act amendment that was modeled after H.R. 302. Characterized by proponents as expanding sportsmen’s access, the bill includes a Trojan Horse provision which will lead to motorized access in wilderness areas, threatening some of the nation’s best remaining hunting and fishing experiences in America. This bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
This benign-sounding proposal, “Sportsmen's Heritage Act (H.R. 4089),” would more appropriately be titled the Motorize Our Wilderness Areas Bill. Originally introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI), the bill contains within it a provision that would effectively destroy the Wilderness Act with wording that would allow motorized use in designated Wilderness Areas. Allowing motor vehicles in designated Wilderness Areas would would harm the very recreational fishing and hunting opportunities the bill is intended to protect.
Fishing and hunting are important activities on our public lands and forests, and a major contributor to local economies. And Wilderness Areas are especially attractive areas for hunting and fishing due to the high quality habitat in such areas, and for the unique outdoor experience they afford hunters and anglers. But H.R. 4089 has some “Trojan Horse” language in it which would result in the destruction of the very wilderness values that millions of American hunters and anglers cherish. To ensure protection of wilderness values, the Wilderness Act generally prohibits the use of motorized vehicles, motorized equipment and other forms of mechanical transport. However, a provision buried in H.R. 4089 would undermine the Act by opening designated Wilderness Areas to all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorbikes, motorboats and other motorized vehicles as long as they are used for hunting, fishing or shooting.
In addition to undermining the Wilderness Act, another part of the bill undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is vital for environmental review and public disclosure for all federal action. Recreational fishing and hunting are important and vital recreational activities on our federal public lands. But the anti-Wilderness provisions of H.R. 2834 should not be allowed to become law.