Bikers Won’t Steer Out Of Federally-Funded Land
A New England motorcycle club is hogging federally-funded land by refusing to leave its clubhouse years after a lease with a Massachusetts agency ended, according to a government watchdog.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife $20 million through 46 grants, according to a report by the Department of the Interior Inspector General publicly released Tuesday. One of those grants was used to purchase the Montague Plains Wildlife Area in 1999.
“The division, however, allowed a motorcycle club to remain on a wildlife management area, even though its presence was not an authorized use of the property,” the report says. “Continued improper use conflicts with the original intent of the land’s purchase, and may be detrimental to species that populate the” area.
The Massachusetts division received the grant at the same time it signed a lease that allowed the Mohawk Ramblers Motorcycle Club to use a clubhouse on the wildlife area until 2009.
The Ramblers, which claims nearly 100 members, have used the clubhouse since the mid-1960s, according to The Recorder. The club told the newspaper members felt tricked by federal officials for not making possible land trades clear.
After the lease expired, the state agency, “in trying to work with the Ramblers by giving them time to relocate, allowed them to continue to make yearly payments in the amount specified in the 1999 lease with no additional written agreement in place,” the IG report says.
The temporary arrangement continued until 2014 when state officials decided the Ramblers had been given ample time to relocate and that the land should be converted to the uses for which the federal government funded its purchase. But the bikers didn’t leave.
“The Ramblers did not want to vacate the premise,” the report says. The motorcycle club instead “took their fight” to the local government “and gathered support for the Ramblers to stay at the clubhouse.”
The state agency caved in 2015 and “drew up a new lease for the Ramblers that would extend its stay at the clubhouse until December 2016, but required quarterly progress reports from the Ramblers to the division showing that it had made progress toward final relocation,” the report says.
But federal grant regulations require that the state either reclaim the property or “replace the property using non-federal funds,” the report says.
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