To: AHC Organizations
From: Alicia Cunningham
Re: Right to Ride Legislation Passes House Resources Committee
Date: May 5, 2004
The Right to Ride bill (H.R. 2966) was passed today by voice vote in the House Resources Committee.
Having this bill reported out of the House Resources Committee is an important step, regardless of what happens to this legislation in the remainder of this Congress. This vote is a recognition of the unique place that horses and saddle stock have, at least in the view of several Members of the Committee, in our heritage and in recreation on public lands. There were several statements made by Members of the Committee during the debate that were very supportive of the use of horses on federal lands, including Wilderness areas.
The bill, sponsored by Representative George Radanovich (R-CA) was openly criticized by Representatives Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, and Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands.
Both Representatives criticized the fact that the legislation seems to give a "leg-up" to horses above other recreationists, such as hikers and mountain bikers. Representative Rahall specifically stated that the legislation was unnecessary and unwise since horses are not being uniformly banned from federal lands and unfairly affected the management planning of local land managers. "Before we go galloping off and approve this, we need to take stock of the bill. We need to rein it in and say 'whoa'. Do not saddle land managers with this yolk," he said. Instead, "pack in this bill and let it ride off into the sunset."
When things seemed bleak for the bill, Representatives Radanovich, Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) spoke in support of the legislation.
Representative Radanovich pointed out that pack and saddle stock "have long been used on publc lands. This bill simply recognizes that traditional use in the U.S." Some feel that horses have been targeted for exclusion. I call this "management by closure."
Representative Abercrombie spoke up stating that the bill served a "serious purpose". He told the Committee that his grandfather was an original Teamster and was put out of business only with the advent of the internal combustion engine. "Horses and pack animals are special," he said, "particularly in the West. Their use should be encouraged." Representative Abercrombie also said that the legislation only provided for the continued use and its purpose was a valid one to prevent a reduction of use not to give horses a leg up on other recreationists. "Anything that we can do to preserve this use should be encouraged," he said. In addition, he stated his frustration that those who would oppose this bill were those who knew that somehow, somewhere, someone is having a good time and they want to put an end to it.
Representative Faleomavaega also stated his support for the bill pointing out that "this is our culture, this is our heritage. We want this sector of the society to continue." Representative Faleomavaega proudly pointed out that his father was a horseman.
Though both Representatives Rahall and Christensen spoke out in opposition to the bill, they did not vote against it. The bill was unanimously approved by voice vote.
H.R. 2966 applies to all federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
Specifically the legislation mandates that the lands should be managed by the federal agencies "to preserve and facilitate the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals on such lands, including wilderness areas, national monuments, and other specifically designated areas, where there is a historical tradition of such use."
In addition, the legislation requires that "as a general rule, all trails, routes, and areas used by pack and saddle stock shall remain open and accessible for such use."