The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a new “ecological restoration policy” that the American Motorcyclist Association fears could be used to arbitrarily limit access to motorized trails.

The proposed policy, published in the Federal Register on Sept. 12, “has the potential to create de facto Wilderness by administrative fiat,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, on Oct. 14.

In a letter to the Forest Service dated Oct. 1, Allard noted: “The AMA recognizes there are areas that should be preserved untouched for future generations. Congress recognized this as well. As a result, it passed the Wilderness Act of 1964. The AMA supports Wilderness designations as long as they meet the stringent conditions set forth in the 1964 law.”

According to the Forest Service, the proposed policy defines ecological restoration as “the process of assisting the recovery of resilience and the capacity of a system to adapt to change if the environment where the system exists has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Ecological restoration focuses on reestablishing ecosystem functions by modifying or managing the composition, structure, arrangement, and processes necessary to make terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems sustainable, and resilient under current and future conditions.”

Using this definition, Allard said, the goals of ecological restoration have the potential to directly contradict the Multiple Use Act of 1960, which specifically states “the national forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes.”

The Multiple Use Act considers outdoor recreation to be a category that also must be protected at a sustainable level.

“The policy of restoration will not do this,” Allard said. “Instead, it has the potential to limit the available areas of USFS land and prevent the USFS from being able to ‘best meet the needs of the American people’ and, if not applied judiciously, has the potential to arbitrarily close trails to responsible off-highway-vehicle recreation.

“In fact, the [multiple-use] law specifically states that all uses are to be treated equally,” Allard said. “This [ecological restoration] policy will upend the balance mandated by law by placing heightened priority on conservation at the expense of outdoor recreation and other forest uses. Does the USFS plan on prioritizing restoration above other forest uses?”

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Logo courtesy American Motorcyclist Association

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