* Hummer has announced that within the next three years, every Hummer product will offer biofuel compatibility. Keep in mind, this doesn't necessarily mean diesel, as it could include such fuels as E85.
* For an extra $11 a day, Avis will make your car a Wi-Fi hot spot using cellular technology at speeds that range between 400 kbps to 1 mbps (faster than dial-up, but slower than DSL)
* The next-generation Ford Explorer will lose its trucky roots with the elimination of body-on-frame architecture and will become a unibody crossover on the same platform as Volvo's XC90. (Bring it on!-Ed.)
Federal IssuesEndangered Species Act: The Senate was unable to agree on a bill to update the Endangered Species Act. The law impacts SAN members because the ESA has been used to close millions of acres of lands to four-wheelers and the equipment that they purchase, without direct benefit to the endangered animals and plants.Most lawmakers agree that the current law needs to be revised to provide more direct protection without closing so much land. However, it has been difficult to craft a bill that will garner the 60 bipartisan votes necessary for Senate passage. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last year that would focus more attention on fostering species recovery rather than simply locking up land preserves. The bill also calls for compensating private property owners for land-use restrictions due to the presence of an endangered species. Many Senators believe the House bill is too generous in compensating property owners and may not set aside enough land for protection.
Roadless Rule: A Federal court in California reinstated the so-called "roadless rule," issued by the Clinton Administration to prohibit development within 58.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands. The court ruled that the replacement rule adopted by the Bush Administration in 2005 violated existing federal environmental and endangered species laws. The ongoing political and legal debate over roadless designations is important to SAN members as it potentially denies access to off-highway vehicles. The court ruling conflicts with a 2003 decision from another federal court to strike down the Clinton roadless rule on the grounds that it was an illegal attempt to create wilderness areas. That court set aside its decision when the Bush Administration implemented a state petition plan to allow local input in making decisions on how each forest is managed. The Bush Administration intends to move forward with this process. The Supreme Court may ultimately need to decide the fate of the Clinton rule.
Wilderness Bills: House and Senate leaders crafted a compromise approach for designating as wilderness 300,000 acres in Northern California's Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties. Although OHV use is traditionally restricted in wilderness areas, provisions were included in the SAN-supported new law to establish adjacent or nearby areas that would be open to OHV use. This included "cherry-stem" roads as OHV corridors within the wilderness areas. Wilderness legislation is consequential since it potentially denies access to four-wheelers and the equipment that they purchase for off-pavement use. The SAN opposed other measures to expand wilderness areas in central Idaho and around Oregon's Mt. Hood on the grounds that they lacked local community support and did not sufficiently protect existing OHV roads and trails. The Idaho and Oregon bills died at the end of the year.
OHV Use in National Forests: In 2005, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it would begin regulating OHV use in national forests. The agency is now implementing the policy to designate roads, trails, and other areas for OHV use. Under the new policy, local agency officials are required to seek public comments from state and local officials and other stakeholders in determining OHV routes. Currently, only half of the 155 national forests and 20 grasslands have designated roads and trails, which include more than 200,000 miles of forest roads and 36,000 miles of inventoried trails. The USFS anticipates that it will take up to four years to complete the route designation process. The SAN has urged OHV enthusiasts to actively participate in the route designation process.
California OHVs: Following recommendations made by SEMA, the USFS announced new land management plans for four southern California national forests that open up more backcountry trails to OHVs. The management plans are for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests, which encompass 3.5 million acres. The new plans provide OHVs with greater access to roadless areas-allowing motorized recreation on approximately 25 percent of these inventoried areas, but only on designated roads and trails.
A comprehensive list of active issues and matters which are still pending can be found online at www.semasan.com.