How Will New Interior Secretary Affect Snowmobiling & Off Roading?

Pretty much like every second term for any president, there’s quite a bit of turnover in cabinet positions in the second Obama Administration. But while the president’s choices for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense grab all of the headlines, snowmobilers and other off-road riders might also want to pay attention to his choice to replace Ken Salazar as the Interior Secretary. That’s because the Department of the Interior oversees most of the public lands that snowmobilers and other off-roaders use, especially in the West.

Below is a press release from the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a watchdog group for off-roaders.


Obama’s pick to be the new Secretary of the Interior presents both challenges and opportunities for the OHV community.

POCATELLO, ID (February 7, 2013) — President Barack Obama announced yesterday his choice of Sally Jewell to replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Jewell is the current CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI). She is described in the media as a former oil engineer, commercial banker and a pragmatic business leader who will “work with both parties and interest groups on all sides.”

Greg Mumm, BRC’s Executive Director, said he hoped Jewell’s appointment would translate into expanding a diverse range of recreational pursuits on public lands and National Parks. “There needs to be a focus for providing both motorized and non-motorized uses. Recent management plans have closed nearly 50% of the roads and trails open for motorized recreation. There is a need for a better balance.” Mumm notes any loss of motorized recreation on public lands locks out Americans who choose or are required to use OHVs for recreation, and fails to take advantage of the economic benefits of sustainable OHV and snowmobile use.

But Jewell’s nomination comes with questions for the OHV and snowmobile community. One concern is the anti-OHV activism that has been a hallmark of both REI and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), where Jewell serves as a board member. REI has long supported anti-access groups such as the Sierra Club and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. The NPCA  has been at the forefront of many anti-OHV and OSV lawsuits at such places as Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.

On the other hand, Jewell’s private sector ties hopefully reflect her understanding of recreation’s unique place and potential importance to rural tourism and local economies. “We hope that, in her first role as a public servant, we see Sally Jewell balancing her personal predisposition to non-motorized recreation with legally supportable and just-as-popular forms of motorized recreation on both Park and non-Park lands,” Mumm concluded.

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