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Utah trail access for Americans with disabilities important aspect of new bill

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jun 17, 2024

MIDWAY, Utah — The new Outdoor Americans with Disabilities Act will require federal land managers to analyze the impacts of the plans they make on Americans with disabilities.

That would mean the Bureau of Land Management would need to either reopen closed motorized vehicle routes they have previously closed or build new ones if they get below a certain level of route density.

Many may not realize just how many people cannot recreate on public lands without motorized transportation.

“When you go around town, you will see ramps, you'll see elevators, you see all these accommodations for people that are disabled, but when you come out here in the outdoors, there is no accommodations,” said Bud Bruening, President of UTV Utah. “There really isn't, unless you're a healthy-bodied American that can walk and hike, you're really limited on where you can go.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R) recently introduced the new Outdoor Americans with Disabilities Act that aims to keep trails open for all Americans.

“Motorized recreation actually just kind of equals the playing field for everybody, for all taxpayers and every person to enjoy our public lands,” said Bruening. “It's a group of people that are really overlooked when it comes to the outdoors.”

UTV Utah, the Blue Ribbon Coalition and other off-roading organizations are supporting the new bill, which would require the Bureau of Land Management to keep a certain amount of routes open on public land that are already managed for multiple use.

“Federal land managers have to analyze if they close too many routes, they get below a certain level of route density, they have to either reopen closed routes that have been closed previously or build new ones,” said Ben Burr, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

The BLM has been closing off-road trails in new plans as part of a settlement agreement to protect wildlife and the environment. The bill isn’t looking for new trails to be built; it’s asking for something off-roaders have always had to not be taken away, said Burr.

“Americans with disabilities are a protected class under the law and under the constitution, and so we think it's important that they do consider this and that they have statutory rights codified into American law that spell out how they can do that meaningfully,” he said. 

FOX 13 News reached out to the BLM but they declined to comment on the bill.