PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Just three weeks after the bill was introduced in Congress, the House Resources Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee held a hearing on a proposal to crack down on people who willfully damage public land, reports the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

‘Congress is moving quickly because it recognizes that this is a problem that needs to be addressed,’ noted AMA Washington Representative Patrick Holtz.

The bill, HR 3247, is called the Trail Responsibility and Accountability for the Improvement of lands (TRAIL) Act. It would create consistent standards for law enforcement on federal land.

Also, the proposal substantially increases the penalties on recreational users of the land who willfully cause damage to public land. The fines would be used for rehabilitation, education, and awareness.

At the hearing, Mark Rey, U.S. Agriculture Department undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, and Larry Parkinson, U.S. Interior Department deputy secretary for law enforcement and security, offered support for the goals of the bill and offered to work with the subcommittee on the final language of the bill.

Meanwhile, Larry Smith, executive director of Americans for Responsible Recreational Access, which includes the AMA and other groups, testified that, ‘Clearly the present-day response of closing public lands is a flawed policy. All this policy does is penalize all Americans for the misdeeds of a few.

‘Fortunately, HR 3247 seeks a different solution,’ Smith said. ‘HR 3247 seeks to penalize only those individuals or groups who choose to misuse public lands and not those who abide by land use regulations.’

The AMA supports responsible riding on public land and believes that those who intentionally damage land should be punished, whether they’re motorized vehicle users, horse riders, campers or hikers. The AMA decided to endorse the Tancredo legislation, in part, because another measure — HR 751, commonly called ROVER — targets only motorized vehicle users, and doesn’t provide for consistent penalties among the various federal land agencies.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who sponsored the bill, said: ‘Outdoor recreation on our public lands and waterways will continue to grow, and it should. It is now time we equip our land managers with the means to appropriately and even-handedly enforce land use regulations.’

The bill’s 11 co-sponsors are U.S. Reps. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter (R-Idaho), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Anibal Acevedo-Vila (D-Puerto Rico), George Radanovich (R-Calif.), Michael Simpson (R-Idaho), Mark Green (R-Wis.), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), and Chris Cannon (R-Utah).


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