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For Immediate Release: Mar 13, 2008
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

KEY WITNESS AT OFF-ROAD CONGRESSIONAL HEARING PULLED

Deputy Sheriff Testimony Blocked as Anxiety Rises in Off-Roading Groups


Washington, DC — In a surprise last-minute move, a key witness will not deliver his testimony at the first congressional hearing on the threats to public safety posed by burgeoning off-road vehicle (ORV) damage to public lands. A deputy sheriff from New Mexico was slated to tell Congress about extensive damage caused by a growing “outlaw” element, according to testimony released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Deputy Sheriff Alan Franzoy of Doña Ana County was not allowed to board a plane to attend today’s hearing before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). His office offered no explanation for his abrupt withdrawal but off-road lobby groups have mounted a vigorous effort aimed at the first ever congressional oversight hearing on the topic, entitled “The Impacts of Unmanaged Off-Road Vehicles on Federal Land.”

In his un-delivered testimony, Deputy Franzoy, who is himself an ORV rider and instructor and chairs New Mexico’s Off-Highway Vehicle Safety Board, would have sounded this alarm:

“I’ve seen first hand that an outlaw contingent of ORV riders are destroying our land and endangering private property, livestock, wildlife, and other public land users.”

Doña Ana County covers an area nearly twice the size of Rhode Island and sits less than 50 miles from the Mexican border. In his testimony, Deputy Franzoy cited the use of ORVs “by illegal alien and drug smugglers to circumvent Border Patrol checkpoints…” His testimony details other dangers, including –

  • “There is absolutely no protection of the remnants of our prehistoric settlers of the Rio Grande Valley” from the ravages of irresponsible off-roading;
  • Huge assemblages of off-roaders in unofficial “party areas” which fuel “a variety of criminal activity beginning with underage drinking and drug abuse all the way to violent rapes and murders”; and
  • Extensive damage to landscapes. “The scars of misuse will be visible until the end of time.”

“There is no real mystery why this voice was stilled,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to a history of intimidation and threats from the off-road community that has caused some agencies to cancel public hearings on ORV issues. “No citizen should ever be afraid to testify before the United States Congress.”

In one off-road lobby alert, the fact that “a sheriff from New Mexico” would testify was known even before the witness list was published. The Blue Ribbon Coalition message urges off-roaders to directly reach out because while their lobbyists “talk to the media often, it's just that most of them are biased against OHV [Off Highway Vehicles] users and rarely print what we say.”

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Read the un-delivered testimony of Deputy Alan Franzoy

Look at the testimony of witnesses who will appear at today’s Congressional hearing

See ORV-group e-mail traffic about the hearing