Off-Road Racing’s Uneven Footing | Performance Racing Industry
Off-Road Racing’s Uneven Footing
By Louise Ann Noeth on September 13, 2016

Every desert racing organization has been adversely affected by land closures, or use restrictions through the years, prompting each to develop an internal “early warning system” to ensure it walks in-step with government and advocacy groups.

“We work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and environmentalists to make sure all events are environmentally sound,” said Casey Folks of Best in the Desert (BITD), Las Vegas, Nevada. “We need to take care of the land we use to ensure the future of this sport.”

Best in the Desert, like other desert racing organizations, understands that losing access to public lands would lead to the collapse of off-road racing in the US, taking with it racing parts suppliers and service businesses.

“When Best in The Desert sought a permit application from the BLM for its proposed 643-mile Vegas to Reno race course, the application was challenged by the environmental community, since 37 miles were on existing dirt roads in the Basin and Range National Monument designated in 2015,” said Stuart Gosswein, Senior Director, Federal Government Affairs at SEMA, Diamond Bar, California.

“A national monument designation automatically triggers the need for a new resource management plan, which allows roads and trails to be closed. The plan has not yet been undertaken for Basin and Range, allowing the challenge despite the fact that the race has previously used the 37 miles of roads.
“To its credit, the BLM opened the challenge to public comment, and a number of organizations and off-road groups such as SEMA and the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) have supported access for the race,” he added.

“When federal land is designated as a ‘national monument’ or some other restrictive listing, access can be denied on a legal basis. Current law provides the President with authority to declare land of ‘historic or scientific interest’ to be a national monument,” said Gosswein.

Tens of millions of acres of land have been set aside in the process. Roads and trails for motorized vehicles are frequently closed as a result. 

Imagine the waking nightmare of planning an event where federal managers, mere days before an event, reach a compromise to provide the race with transition access, but at a strict, reduced speed limit of 35 mph and no passing.

“Looking at the bigger picture, these same organizations support legislation in the US Congress to curtail the President’s power to unilaterally designate national monuments,” Gosswein added. “The legislation would require such designations be approved by Congress and the impacted state legislature. The issue has widespread consequences. In the last eight years, President Obama has created 24 national monuments and is considering two more.”

About the Author
Louise Ann Noeth's picture
Louise Ann Noeth of LandSpeed Productions is an award-winning author and photojournalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Performance Racing Industry Magazine, among many others.
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