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Media Advisory, May 9, 2008

Contact: Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603

Senator Bingaman Announces Congressional Hearings on
Off-road Vehicle Management on Public Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), has announced that an oversight hearing on “Off-highway Vehicle Management on Public Lands” will be held June 5.

"Every day, damage is done to habitat critical to the survival of threatened and endangered species. This happens on lands that belong to all of us, yet little is done to enforce the existing laws,” said Cyndi Tuell, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to push agencies to make sure visitors to these lands comply with the rules and stay out of sensitive areas.” In the arid Southwest, many species of plants and animals depend on rare and fragile ecosystems for their survival. Off-road vehicles can destroy miles of stream habitat in a matter of minutes.

Off-road vehicle use on public lands has increased dramatically over the past several decades. This increase, combined with a lack of law enforcement, has resulted in significant damage to public lands, causing erosion, air and noise pollution, and habitat destruction, and contributes significantly to global warming. Trails designed for hikers suffer considerable damage when used by motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Hikers and others seeking the quiet solitude of the forest are often confronted with the noise and pollution of off-road vehicles. As gas prices continue to rise, the use of off-road vehicles will become an increasingly expensive recreational choice.

In 2005, the National Forest Service began a process to rein in the damage caused by off-road vehicles through a process called Travel Management. This process allows the Forest Service to designate which trails, roads, and areas will be open to motorized travel to protect natural resources throughout the country. In Arizona and New Mexico, the Forest Service is currently designing plans to protect our nation’s rivers, forests, and endangered species from the ever-growing threat of unmanaged off-road recreation. These plans should be complete by late 2009.

What: Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Oversight Hearing Regarding Off-Highway Vehicle Management on Public Lands.

When: Thursday, June 5, 2008, at 9:30am, Eastern Time, 7:30 am Mountain Time, 6:30 am Pacific Time

Where: Washington, D.C.

Who: Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; witnesses will be announced.

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