Banned in the USA: Part 3

Jul 28, 2016
by Vernon Felton  


Mountain bikes and Wilderness—the topic is making headlines once again. Why? Because for the first time there’s a bill in Congress that proposes to end the blanket ban on mountain biking on the 110 million-odd acres of Wilderness in the United States. Will the bill actually become a law? Are we on the verge of finally regaining access to some of North America's best trails? Let’s dig in.

First, A Bit of History
If this whole “Wilderness” thing has you scratching your head, check out the first article in this series—it’ll give you a decent introduction on what the Wilderness Act is and how bikes wound up getting kicked out of Eden in the first place. Here, however, is the ADD version.

*When Congress enacted the Wilderness Act in 1964, they had two goals in mind: (1) Halt development on America’s most pristine public lands; and (2) Encourage more people to explore the outdoors under their own power.

Trail Hunter - Alaska images by Harookz
Matt Hunter, Backcountry, Alaska. Photo by Harookz

*Mountain bikes were not (and still are not) banned by the actual Wilderness Act; that didn’t happen until 1984, when the United States Forest Service was persuaded by traditional environmental organizations to change their regulations, so as to ban bikes. The other four agencies that manage Wilderness areas followed the Forest Service’s lead and we’ve been on the outside looking in ever since. The original Forest Service regulations prohibited mechanized transport propelled by a non-living power source, i.e. a motor. The new regulations banned mechanized transport altogether. Bikes are called out specifically. You can argue, of course, that horses, skis, snowshoes and kayaks all provide a mechanical advantage that enables humans to travel further and faster through the Wilderness—but none of these other forms of transport are prohibited in Wilderness areas. Bikes are special and by "special", I mean "screwed".

*Bikes aren’t the only things banned. Any kind of machinery (aside from hand tools) that could be used to do trail maintenance also got the boot. Feel like maintaining tens of thousands of miles of trail annually with nothing more than a Pulaski, McLeod and a handsaw? Anyone who has built more than a couple miles of trail with hand tools will tell you that it’s no way to maintain trails on this kind of massive scale. It's hardly a surprise that a recent report from the Government Accounting Office found that a paltry one quarter of the Forest Service's 158,000 miles of trails actually met the Forest Service's own standards.

bigquotesIt's getting worse. Thanks to a shift in Forest Service policy, the rate at which we are losing access to trails is growing. And it's not because the trails are actually in Wilderness areas...it's because they are in areas that could potentially become Wilderness one day.


Wilderness Bill
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Arizona, Photo Courtesy Bob Wick/BLM

*IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) does not agree with the ban, but doesn’t outright object to it either. Instead, the organization focuses on redrawing boundaries and creating alternative (less restrictive) preservation designations (such as National Monuments) that preserve access to popular trails.

*We are losing trail access at an accelerating rate. An increasing number of trails are being closed to mountain bikers—in some cases, as much as a hundred miles of trail at a time—not because they are located in Wilderness areas, but because the Forest Service is merely recommending that the area one day become Wilderness.

Utah is rad plain and simple.
Leah Lind-White, Moab, Utah. Photo by Satchel Cronk

*A new group called the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) arose last year to challenge the ban; STC's mission is to overturn the blanket ban on bikes on federal lands. Wilderness areas are at the top of the list, but the group also seeks to get land managers to consider mountain biking on sections of big trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

*STC has now raised more than $130,000 in donations from mountain bikers and hired a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. to find a member of Congress willing to sponsor the draft bill STC founder, Ted Stroll had already written.

U.S. Capitol Building
Capitol Building. Photo by Cliff
The Bill Hits Capitol Hill
On July 13, Senator Mike Lee officially introduced The Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act; a slightly-revised version of the bill that STC’s lobbyists have been schlepping around Capitol Hill this past year. Lee is joined by co-sponsor, Senator Orrin Hatch. In a nutshell, the bill eliminates the carte blanche ban on mountain biking in Wilderness areas and on a few of America’s best-known trails, including the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails. If the bill gets signed into law, federal employees would also be allowed to bring motorized tools (think chainsaws) into Wilderness areas to help clear downed logs and the like.

The bill would not, however, guarantee mountain bikers free rein in every Wilderness area. Instead, the bill requires that the people who manage these lands reconsider granting access to mountain bikes within two years of the bill becoming law. Land managers can still deny mountain bikers access to trails—they retain ultimate control—but if STC’s legislation passes, mountain bikers would have to be considered alongside hikers and equestrians instead of being summarily dismissed.

What happens if the land manager doesn’t come to a decision regarding bike access on a particular Wilderness parcel within that two-year window? At that point, the land becomes open to mountain bike use. The land manager can, however, decide to close it to mountain bikers again at any time. The two-year window is, in essence, a carrot at the end of the stick…an incentive to actually do something, but nothing that actually binds land managers hands.


bigquotesIf you want access to some Wilderness areas, if you object to the way the Forest Service has been pre-emptively closing hundreds of miles of trails to mountain bikers, if you're tired of not being considered an equal when it comes to Wilderness access, you need to speak up in support of this bill. Now. Right now.


Wilderness Bill
Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness, Idaho. Photo Courtesy Bob Wick/BLM

Fear of the Trojan Horse
Yay, right? Well, as you might guess plenty of people are less-than-thrilled. In fact, a few months ago 116 organizations dog-piled onto a petition decrying the baby bill, which they claimed would be used to gut the Wilderness Act. Most of the big-name environmental organizations (such as the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society) were actually missing from the petition, but if their track record is any indication, you can expect them to join the fray.

Of course, none of this comes as a huge surprise. Mountain bikers have been painted as the knuckle-dragging, Redbull-chugging destroyers of Mother Earth from the get-go. Only a fool would believe that this bill would go unchallenged. Some of the opposition thus far, however, has come from other mountain bikers.

Why? Some riders believe that there are some places we simply don’t need to ride. I’d argue that they haven’t quite come to terms with the Forest Service’s latest policies, but to each their own. Other riders buy into the belief that we are, in fact, a more destructive force on the trails than, say the pack trains, cattle grazing or mining operations currently allowed in Wilderness areas. Even more riders, however, are aghast at the actual identity of the bill’s sponsors: Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee are not what anyone would call “eco warriors”. The League of Conservation Voters gives both Hatch and Lee lifetime ratings of 10 percent on their environmental voting records. In other words, the vast majority of their votes on conservation issues have been what the League would characterize as “anti-environment”.

Hatch and Lee are senators who’ve rarely seen a strip mine or drilling platform they haven’t fallen madly in love with. Both Lee and Hatch supported an amendment to the fiscal-year 2016 Senate Budget that would have authorized the sale of federal lands (including some Wilderness areas) to the states...who could, in turn, sell logging, drilling and mining rights to those lands to businesses. If these two guys are sponsoring the bill, what’s in it for them? Or more to the point, what’s in it for big business interests? Those are the questions that people are rightfully asking right now.

Wilderness Bill
Wild Rogue Wilderness. Photo Courtesy Bob Wick/BLM

I can understand those fears. I’ve gone on the record several times to say that my fear is that this bill could be used as some kind of Trojan Horse for business interests who’d view it as a prime opportunity to open up some of America’s last pristine areas to logging, fracking and the like. I put the question to Stroll.

“I'm convinced,” says STC President, Ted Stroll, “that these senators sincerely believe that the bill is simply a good idea—that mountain bikers were never the kind of use singled out for exclusion in the Wilderness Act.”

“I strongly recommend that people actually read the bill," says Stroll. "If they do, they’ll see that it is very narrowly written. There’s nothing in it anywhere that would weaken the protections of the Wilderness Act. It’s simply ensuring that things would go back to the way they were before the Forest Service revised its regulations in 1984.”

This is a Congress rife with Senators and House members eager to sell off public lands to the highest bidder. If you care about the environment, these are scary times. What if Congress starts tacking on amendments that do, in fact, broaden the scope of the bill in ways that weaken the Act?

“I really don’t think that’s going to happen. But I realize some people are basically saying that we shouldn’t do anything here—we should just accept the status quo—because something bad might happen. They trot out this parade of horribles—all these things that theoretically could happen as an excuse to not try and improve things. I disagree with that kind of thinking.”


As someone who got into photography by shooting cloudy landscapes I am drawn outdoors when a storm moves in. Such was the case yesterday evening and after driving to the trailhead through fog thick enough to obscure the road in front of me I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and catch this epic moment.
Cold Spring Trail, Santa Barbara, CA, Self-portrait by Satchel Cronk

Does the Bill Stand a Chance?
Will this bill actually go anywhere? That’s the real question. Well, the odds are never good for any bill. About ninety-six percent of bills die in Congress. While we still have a ways to go before the 114th Congress hangs up its spurs for good, this particularly divisive gaggle of politicians has only enacted two percent of the 10,896 bills slipped in the hopper this session.

Will Congress even find the time to consider bikes in Wilderness? You have to wonder. There is, after all, a carnival freak show of a presidential election afoot and Congress is currently grappling with a few "minor" issues...you know, gun control, homeland security and whether or not to fund an effort to counter the Zika virus. Spoiler alert, Congress couldn’t even agree on how much to spend on fighting a looming Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico, so they just said ‘screw it’ and went home for vacation. Bikes in Wilderness areas? You have to be a bit of an optimist to think that it’s the top thing on their minds at present.

Lee and Hatch's reputations don’t exactly help the bill's cause when it comes to picking up universal support from mountain bikers, though Stroll believes this will change when Democrats line up to co-sponsor it. Note the use of the word "when". Stroll is confident it will happen soon. Bi-partisan support would certainly help, though I don’t think the lack of Democrat sponsors is something that should be held against STC. Democrats generally line up behind environmental organizations without question—if those same environmental groups oppose this bill because they oppose mountain biking in Wilderness Areas (which virtually all of them do), plenty of Democrats will have steered clear of sponsoring the bill without even giving it a glance.

Images for Brice Shirbach s article - Quality Time with the Obloc Boys
Andrew Slowey and Alex Dawson, Spencer Gap Upper, North Carolina. Photo by Brice Shirbach

So, what happens next? This is where mountain bikers could make a difference. True, the bill's chances could be better, but let's stop for a second: There's actually a bill in Congress right now. People have always said this would be impossible. That we should settle down, accept whatever bone is tossed our way and consider ourselves lucky. Thanks to the donations and support of mountain bikers this past year, there is now a bill in Congress that could change things. It's a small victory, but it's a victory all the same. That might be good enough for you or perhaps you don't mind being shut out of the Wilderness.

I'm not going to tell you how to feel about this--your opinions are yours and yours alone. If, however, you want access to some Wilderness areas, if you object to the way the Forest Service has been pre-emptively closing hundreds of miles of trails in states such as Montana, if you're tired of not being considered an equal when it comes to Wilderness access, you need to speak up in support of this bill. Now. Right now.

Forget the forums. It’s time for mountain bikers from the states to write their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives and inform them that they object to the way the Forest Service and other agencies adopted anti-mountain bike policies in the 1980s. Tell your representatives that you are as much of an environmentalist as the guy with the hiking staff or the pack train. Tell them that you are tired of being shut out of Wilderness areas for no valid reason and with no recourse. If you're concerned that this bill could be co-opted and twisted into a Trojan horse for business interests, spell it out in your letter and demand that your representatives maintain the environmental protections afforded by the Wilderness Act. Make yourself heard.



Wilderness Bill
Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon. Photo Courtesy Bob Wick/BLM


Here's What You Can Do. Now.
In this day and age it’s tempting to dismiss the “write your congressman” pitch as outdated or irrelevant, but as someone who has worked in the halls of government, I can tell you from firsthand experience, representatives are keenly attuned to what their constituents have to say in those letters and emails. Senators and House members want to stay employed and they do that by pleasing their voters. Make it clear to them that you will be greatly displeased if they let this bill go belly up or allow it to get perverted into something that actually weakens the environmental protections of the Wilderness Act.

Not into letter writing? Don’t know what to say? STC has a sample letter here that you can copy and paste or tweak to your heart’s content. Or, hell, write your own letter on your own terms. This one, at least, is a starting point.

Not even sure that you should support this bill? Fair enough. There are plenty of voices for and against bikes in Wilderness. I'd suggest researching both sides of the issue and decide for yourself. Don’t, however, dismiss the Wilderness issue as some kind of wonky, boring bullshit that has no impact on your life.



With a month of straight rain Utah is beginning to look a lot like the Northwest.
Chad Cordell, Park City, Utah. Photo by Andrew Meehan

Not so long ago, we rarely lost access to trails because of the Wilderness Act. Congress, after all, rarely agrees to put a new Wilderness bill across the president’s desk. That’s all changed now since the Forest Service has chosen to preemptively close trails to mountain biking in many recommended Wilderness areas. Just ask those guys in Montana who have been kicked off of the hundreds of miles of trail that they personally maintained over the years. And, yes, new Wilderness areas do get adopted. Consider the loss of great trails last summer in Idaho's Boulder-Whiteclouds.

Any time the Forest Service conducts a new Forest Management Plan for its holdings—something they are obligated by law to do every 15 years—they must recommend new areas for inclusion in the Wilderness inventory and that means if you live anywhere near a Forest Service property, you now stand a good chance of losing access to it, whether or not it even stands a chance of becoming an official Wilderness area. Los Angeles riders dodged that bullet just a few years ago. Riders in North Carolina and Washington state are hoping to do the same right now. This matters.

The stakes are high. The only mistake you could make here would be to do nothing.

Must Read This Week

198 Comments

  • + 179
 So your horse shits all over the trail, and I do it ONE TIME and suddenly I'm the bad guy????


Great article as usual Vernon.
  • - 97
flag d-man (Jul 28, 2016 at 9:56) (Below Threshold)
 Yes because you are supposed to have a higher level of intelligence to use a washroom before going out or at least sh*t behind a tree and cover it.....
  • + 116
 @d-man: >----------- Joke ---------->





\o/
|| ---you
/ \
  • + 68
 As long as we don't show any pictures or footages of enduro racers washing their dirty greasy bikes in a pristine river like in that other article in Europe.
  • + 9
 Also what about he fact the horse is weighing in at 2000 plus pounds. While us mtn bikers are what 220 all together, then tell me that a mtn biker dose more damage
  • + 8
 We should vote on it, but if you are going to vote horse, you must own one.
  • - 10
flag WAKIdesigns (Jul 28, 2016 at 16:37) (Below Threshold)
 A pristine river sounds like Virgin Mary. It's a political fight, always, we should not get involved in rational analysis of such "articles" within our own peer group, because the authors of such reports never intended to make a rational argument in the first place. Story selling and gaining political leverage. Mentioning Enduro bikes in such case, as if it had something to do with anything, is a very low and inefficient way of appearing better than thou...
  • + 10
 @WAKIdesigns: we have Virgin Mary-like rivers in Canada still and very thankful for that. Sucks watching the US have so much politics around land access since there are so many awesome places to potentially ride and so many other things that do more damage to the trails than a pedal bike. Ridiculous. Mentioning enduro was simply referencing the article on EWS...don't read into it.
  • + 1
 I'll bite. It depends - if the horse is on a brumby or wild mustang diet - ie. grazing on grasses and forbes or browsing on trees and shrubs and you are on a typical western diet, then your excrement, however much smaller is much worse for the trail it has been laid on.
  • + 4
 @chinaboy: what? And washing a bike off mud in the river, does it make it dirty or desecrates it? Go jump into this river, get lost in it's waters and you will find yourself. And then you will die of hypothermia. Maybe some Grizzly will find your corpse and eat it. That's about the spiritual dimension of nature. Damn right you have pristine rivers in Canada... and the ones in US are run by McDonalds, the H2O in them does not come from rainfall but from a corporate chemical industrial complex in cooperation with Monsanto. Same in Europe, in Alps. The glaciers are not made by prayers of the natives, but from ice-cream made by DuPont.
  • + 12
 @tomki: Hey all you Keyboard warriors......
Did you take the time to exercise your fingers and email your Congress persons? Ya know, to help Mountain bikes?

That is all.
  • + 0
 @muffinman101: we do alot more damage, especially the shredders that love to roost. i love to roost and have fun, but we do cause alot of havoc on a trail.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns:

www.bearsmart.com/about-bears/dispelling-myths

Myth #11: Carrying a rifle is safer than bear pepper spray

Fact: A person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear pepper spray is used (Dr. Stephen Herrero). Those injured defending themselves with bear pepper spray experienced shorter attacks and less severe injuries than those who chose to use firearms (US Fish and Wildlife Service). Click here to read the full report. Bears are actually attracted to pepper spray residue if it is sprayed on the ground or on objects. Never spray it around a tent or on yourself. When used defensively, pepper spray must be sprayed directly in the attacking bear’s eyes or nose. Click here for more information.

Myth #15: Play dead during an attack.

Fact: Playing dead will work if you’re being attacked by a mother grizzly defending her cubs. But it is the wrong thing to do if you’re being attacked by a predatory bear. If a bear attacks (particularly a black bear) in an offensive manner and physical contact is made, fight for your life. Kick, punch, hit the bear with rocks or sticks or any improvised weapon you can find. A predatory bear usually stalks its prey and attacks from behind. It is often silent and the bear does not exhibit any defensive behaviors like huffing or slapping the ground. Its ears may be laid back and its head held low, with its intent focused directly on you. See our Play section for more information.
  • + 1
 @XCMark: I hoped that shouting "I am a vegan" stops the Grizzly attack immediately.
  • + 52
 Dear PinkBike, Vernon isn't preaching a new axle standard or tire size for nothing. Your local open space's are turning a blind eye, the city's slowly closing in the barricades for our sport. If nobody steps up to bat there will be no more push for US public-access bike trail, as there is in Maui, Santa Cruz, etc. If there's one person that is required to listen to you, it's your council. I cannot focus this enough. We can defeat the Sierra Club and their paid interests, the OSP's and their private interests. This is that last comet to fair trail use for a while, as Vernon mentioned. So I know I'll be sending my letter. Send yours, and maybe riding bikes as they were meant won't come with a ticket in the near future.
  • + 32
 ESPECIALLY send your letters if your congressperson has a (D) next to their name. I wrote letters to my representatives last week, but they're already BFF's with Hatch and Lee. And getting more republicans on board won't really help this bill's chances in congress much.

You can bet that democratic representatives will be predisposed to kill this thing, in part because of Hatch and Lee's (absolutely deserved) reputation for hating environmental preservation, and because the traditional wilderness/environmental organizations that most democratic representatives typically pay attention to will be telling them it's a horrible bill that will introduce a bunch of hooligans (us) into their precious wilderness areas.

They need your voice to help counter that.

I expect the most powerful letter you could write to a representative who's a member of the democratic party would be something like this:

* I'm your constituent, and deeply concerned about wilderness preservation.
* While I expect you'd be understandably predisposed to oppose anything introduced by Hatch & Lee, they're on the right side of things for once.
* You're going to hear from a lot of traditional wilderness organizations that this is bad for wilderness, but they're wrong. They thing Mountain Bikers are a bunch of hooligans. But they're not. Mountain bikers are conservationists who love experience our natural lands. I'm one of them.
* This bill supports wilderness preservation, by allowing more Americans to experience Wilderness, improving the Forest Service's ability to maintain trails, and gaining a gigantic community's support for wilderness preservation.

Also, don't just write a letter, call. Get your local MTB organization together and request an appointment with your representative(s). The old-guard-mountain-bike-hating environmental organizations are going to be loud on this one. We need to be louder if we want any chance of success.
  • + 6
 If you are unsure your representatives and congress, you can access and email them through this
www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Find your state, click on the senator you want, register to email, and send it off. I've emailed mine, its easy.
  • + 3
 Yes! Take part in the process. North Carolina recently chose not to designate mountain biking areas as wilderness partly due to the public comments for certain areas being proposed.
  • + 10
 @atourgates: Well said, and thank's for saying it.
  • + 5
 @atourgates: adding bullet points for others to pinch as they see fit is a really good idea. A+ dude. I actually just copied this excerpt from Vernon's article and am going to pinch parts of it myself since it distills the essence of the bill quite nicely:

"The bill would not, however, guarantee mountain bikers free reign in every Wilderness area. Instead, the bill requires that the people who manage these lands reconsider granting access to mountain bikes within two years of the bill becoming law. Land managers can still deny mountain bikers access to trails—they retain ultimate control—but if STC’s legislation passes, mountain bikers would have to be considered alongside hikers and equestrians instead of being summarily dismissed."

I tend to agree that some legislators would probably just dismiss the bill outright based on the sponsors, so it's probably important to explain what's in the bill as succinctly as possible in any letter to prevent that.
  • + 22
 it's a start!! congratulations to the STC for getting this introduced. IMBA is obviously infiltrated with dirty hikers who don't like their precious tranquility harshed by mountain bikers.
  • + 23
 I have not been stoked on IMBA's trail building. 5 feet wide, zero flow, zero tech. I hope they stay out of the PNW and the rest of B.C.
  • + 19
 The thing I find most funny is that horses are allowed on thsee trails and mountain bikers aren't. I was recently hiking a trail that was open to hikers and horses. This is a very narrow trail, even single track in some areas and you constantly have to dodge around shit. Oh and the parking lot is 10x as bad. Now I do worry that you'll get idiots who don't respect other people on the trail and will come hauling ass on their bike but I find it highly hypocritical that the horses are allowed on when they're literally shitting all over it.
  • + 46
 Not just horse shit (which, really, compared to other types of shit isn't that bad), but erosion. I grew up backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness where horses are allowed, and they absolutely destroy the trails. Like, 3' deep gorges through meadows in some places. At popular campgrounds where horses are often hobbled overnight, meadow grasses and flowers are grazed down to almost bare earth.

It's insane that we allow gigantic trail-destroying flower-munching easily-spooked shit machines (which I personally have nothing against) to clop through wilderness areas, but human-powered mountain bikes are banned because they might destroy the pristine wilderness experience.
  • + 3
 @atourgates: I live in Joseph right now and totally hear you!!! I have the same thoughts and feelings on the subject!!!! Horses have shit all over the trails and I will not fight the hitting horse fly's anymore!!
  • + 2
 @idafreerida: you guys ridden the Elkhorn Crest Trail? Is it worth the drive from the valley? Or maybe not until the ban is lifted on the wilderness so you can ride the whole thing?
  • + 1
 @atourgates: At my parents house where I grew up our neighbour had horses, the road was gravel. Lets just say that the gigantic pot holes wasnt created by my bike.

Just let a horse walk on a smooth really really hardpacked gravel road and let a biker skid as hard as he can. Pretty visual evidence.
  • - 6
flag MTBrent (Jul 28, 2016 at 11:35) (Below Threshold)
 I don't agree with the horse argument. Yes, horses do quantifiably and qualitatively more damage than a mountain bike on the same trail, and they can literally turn our trail rides into a shitty experience, but I don't think that's what's being argued.

Wilderness is a natural, wild, undeveloped area sans any man-made features. I think many anti-bikes-in-Wilderness people see these man-made, technologically-advanced wonder machines we ride as just that: not natural. And I personally can't 100% disagree with that logic.
  • + 2
 @iantmcg: yep it's a nice ride for sure on top of the world!! It's not dh though....great all mountain!!
  • + 1
 @idafreerida: what is the recommended way to ride the trail? out and back? or shuttle and end on a double track? Or do people just ride the section that is in the wilderness anyway (not that I am suggesting you or anyone else do this)?
  • + 6
 @MTBrent: "Natural" and "wild" cease once you allow humans or horses into wilderness. The goal of wilderness has always been to preserve what is off trail, but to also allow humans to experience it. Human access is part of the original bill. A pack horse train trammeling the wilderness is a nostalgic idea for those who want to return to the 1800s. Wistful idea but not natural. And arguably more damaging to the wilderness than bikes.
  • + 1
 @MTBrent: Yeah I can definietly see that point, and no the problem with bikers is not really about erosion. Its about the fact that we can/will ride dangerously fast for others on the trail. An equestrian is not going much faster than a hiker.

Sure we are human powered but on downhill sections we are about equal to a moto in all respects but noise. So it really detracts the other users from the "wilderness experience" and as to that horses has a much longer history as a means to explore the wilderness out back

But it sucks that you can access these trails. Sure am glad to be swede sometimes where we can ride bikes where ever out in nature more or less
  • + 7
 Agree! On erosion standpoint alone, following no riding on rainy days, Horses degrade the trail ten-fold to a bike, even if you skid around. I find it funny in a sad sorta way, I used be big into skateboarding, where you are frowned at everywhere and not allowed anywhere, got into MTB a few years back and am finding similar problems/ stereotypes. I thought I transitioned into a more grown up hobby...
  • + 1
 @jasdo: Like I said, I don't think it's about damage, it's about people's perception of being in a natural environment. Riding a horse in the Wilderness is indeed more "natural" than riding a bike, I don't think you can disagree with that. Most people will accept seeing that living, breathing animal in nature easier than they would a man-made bike, regardless of damage either do to the trails.

I think that's the point that needs to be made to land managers and the general public; that in this day and age it's just as natural exploring the Wilderness via a human-powered bicycle as it is with hiking boots on your feet or a horse underneath you. Throw in that bikes aren't as harmful to the trails as they're made out to be, to boot. Unfortunately, I think that's a tough sell.
  • + 11
 @MTBrent: Great argument. Except for the fact we allow cell phones, solar panels, headlamps, flashlights, 2-way radios, GPS devices, water filters, & super high tech modern camp stoves(with disposable fuel cans!) in wilderness. literally the only things banned are those with a gas burning motor, or bikes.

I don't see how this is equal.
  • + 1
 @iantmcg: Shuttle might be the most fun/unit effort. The road up to Marble pass is relatively gnarly, and a pretty big climb. Other good rides around there too...Dutch Flat is an awesome descent.

dirtmagnet.wordpress.com/trails-of-oregon-2/elkhorn-mountains
  • + 3
 Id be surprised if even someone skidding around like theyre in an enduro race would damage the trail enough to make an impact, it would take a lot of bikes to start eroding a trail and I doubt wilderness areas get anywhere near enough traffic to do that. By the time it rains any damage that may have been building up would be washed away. On the other hand it takes just one horse to destroy a bunch of vegetation, drop some invasive plant seeds through their shit, and leave a nice pond of piss on some singletrack you have to jump over.
  • + 4
 @MTBrent: That's a reasonable position when it comes to Wilderness that was designated as such before mountain biking. It's not a reasonable position when an area where bike use has happened for several decades now is given the boot due to new W designations (Boulder Whiteclouds for example) or worse, where there is a mere recommendation by the USFS to at some point in the future possibly designate an area as Wilderness.
  • + 1
 @iantmcg: out and back I believe is the route do to the boundrys look up range tours in Baker city they do bike shuttles and tours there and would be able to supply you with the info best. I would say the 9 miles of the umatilla rim out and back is pretty awesome as well!
  • + 5
 @MTBrent: What about XC skis? Horses are not human powered and use saddles? Backpacks? GPS devices?

The current Wilderness implementation is merely a way to exclude another group because of a general dislike, not because we disturb nature. The original act discussed "Human Powered" which includes bikes and was intended to get more people out into nature. Excluding one of the largest and most active groups which use human powered locomotion is not in the spirit of the original intent.
  • + 2
 A horse on a trail is as natural as a cow on a farm. Animal, organized, temporary agglomeration of atoms, bred by humans to fulfill a certain purpose. It needs lots of maintenance and uses vast amounts of energy to be in service, generating lots of waste. I don't actually expect some nature lovers to understand that. We have a long way to go as species...
  • + 5
 @atourgates: Horses suck and so do the people that own them ? ( elitest d- bags ). Yeah I said it..
  • + 1
 @aharris: did you see the article on Frisby ridge trail? 1 or 2 weeks of riding traffic made significant damage.
  • + 2
 @MTBrent:I somewhat disagree with the idea that horses are any less natural than riding a mtb. For a start horse riders use plenty of 'unnatural' devices, items and products to help them enjoy their experience in the wilderness with their method of transport. Saddles, Bridles, Bits , Horse Shoes, Helmets etc. All of those items are not naturally occurring and have been developed by humans, to provide an advantage. The only difference is that they were developed a very long time ago. I think the main question should be that of tranquillity and peacefulness. If you are not disturbing others with loud noise (MX bikes) and are generally considerate of other users there shouldn't be an issue.

PS. I have nothing against horses or mx bikes
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Agreed, Any animal put their by a human is about as natural as any any bike
  • + 16
 I'm is the US military, living in the UK, and I have seen what it is like to have mountain bikers welcome nearly everywhere here as well as hiking. There is nearly no conflict and many people avoid the hiking trails anyway because many of them have sections that are impassible by bike. Most enjoy the many trail centers and bike parks that are available. It's crazy how little mountain biking there is in the states compared to here. It seems to me that people are forgetting that the bill does not force anyone to allow bikes in Wilderness areas. As said before, it only forces them to CONSIDER mountain bikes. The land managers would most likely choose trails that would be safe and enjoyable for both hikers AND bikers. They might also choose to create biking only trails so that there isn't even a chance of interference. They also may choose to not allow bikers at all. That's the beauty of this bill. It gives bikers a chance and the land managers a choice.
  • + 11
 That's why I'm happy to live here and not in the US, we're welcomed with open arms!! Bikers are seen as a revenue source for deprived areas by building trail centres, leading to campsites, hotels and shops opening up to serve these visitors. Most forests are fair game too, just be sensible and we're allowed to wander near-free. For those who don't follow UK politics, the Welsh Govt is actually looking into INCREASING mtb access throughout the country, opening up certain footpaths and other rights of way to bikes. Scotland already has it. Just imagine being able to see a tempting bit of singletrack and know you can ride it worry-free. We even have a govt funded website telling you where all the trails are and actively inviting you in! The US may be the birthplace of MTB but we're running with it and bringing it to the masses.
  • + 3
 @DaMilkyBarKid: actually we do have a problem in the uk, in England and Wales at least. Legally you are only allowed to ride a bicycle on a public bridleway. You are prohibited from riding on public footpaths unless the landowner allows it. There is a petition that was taken to parliament quite recently to get this changed.
If you want unfettered access to trails then you need to go to Scotland
  • + 17
 Thank you STC for all that you're doing and making up for the lack of effort from IMBA.
And on a side note... 10,896 proposed bills in just a year and half? Over regulation much? Land of the free huh?
  • + 13
 That's what happens when law makers need to justify their overpaid year round positions when they really should only be employed for 4-6 months a year... and paid so.
  • + 9
 Take the Blue Ridge Parkway for example (a National park I know, but containing wilderness areas- Ex- Linville Gorge)
There is so much acreage...literally miles upon miles that it's against the law to bike. But...road bikers are allowed to get all up in the main parkway road (a skinny as heck 2 lane with many many many blind curves) and they jack up car traffic everyday. How is that in comparison to bikes on a trail out in the woods? I'd say way more dangerous.
Not to mention there is so much space, you could create 2 bike trails for every one hiking trail and have miles and miles between them, never to intersect.
The current situation is just dumb bureaucratic mess.
  • + 2
 Gotta agree with you there. Last year I was driving on a narrow scenic route in the Black Hills. I was coming around a blind corner about to pass a couple on their tandem road bike. They were 2 - 3 ft from the edge of the road. As I slowed down to pass while also avoiding on coming traffic they yelled at me "3 feet!". There's so much hypocrisy around bikers and trails it can really drive someone insane.
  • + 4
 I believe the thought is that a road rider does not wear/damage the road, in the same way that a mountain biker could wear/damage the trail. You can agree or disagree with that train of thought, but it makes sense. If you've been on some of the trails in wilderness areas, than you know that a good chunk of them wouldn't hold up to heavy mountain bike traffic. Something tells me the road will be fine, regardless of how many 150 lb. spandex jockeys pedal over it.

And also, as someone who has ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway, on road bike, mountain bike and moto, it's scary as hell. Most of the people using that road are tourists, and not paying attention to the windy mountain road, instead they look at the scenery. I get it, it's beautiful up there, but stay in your lane. Virginians, I'm looking at you.
  • + 5
 @aaronfpeet: The low hanging fruit for this legislation are wilderness areas where horses are already allowed.

Horses absolutely destroy trails in a way that mountain bikes don't. I've never seen a dedicated mountain bike trail that leaves a 3' gorge through a meadow, the way horses do in the wilderness areas where they're allowed. If the argument is about erosion and trail-damage, the easy counter is to focus on areas where horses are allowed and tearing stuff up.
  • + 2
 Ditto on the horse riding community...cynically though I think their "Lobby" has a bit more money than us MTB'rs.
  • + 6
 The mountain bike "lobby" movement is just getting started. Mountain bikers and the industry have A LOT and I mean A LOT of coin to throw around if they choose to. Could companies like Specialized or Trek make a donation?

First and foremost(low hanging fruit) for this legislation is to get the trails that are now in wilderness that were once open to mountain bikes to be re-opened to bikes(ex. Idaho, White Clouds). Any existing trails where mountain bikes are allowed need to be grandfathered in to any new wilderness area...I don't think every trail in wilderness needs to be opened to bikes.
  • + 8
 Thank you Vernon. Nicely considered points. Seriously nice selection of snaps too. Just juicy!

I'm all for the bill, love giving choice to the local managers who know the trails.

I wonder if the discussion would be clarified if future articles could show off places where wilderness riding is reasonable, and other places where it isn't (too steep, loose, wet, crowded.) At least give considerate opponents an idea of how this can work.

Would be useful to land managers to have a set of example parameters, for example a way to allow bikes but not permit riding where the trail can't support it. Bikers would need to use common sense and push their steeds in some areas, regardless of whether they are capable of riding it.

In a perfect world the new wilderness riders would be so conscientious that they're welcomed by all as stewards (pick up trash, etc.) I'd say today that solo trailrunners make the best impression on me: light on their feet, self sufficient and mindful. I also see that the craziest mtb haters hate the trail runners too!

Example of how this can go wrong: open some random trail to bikes, get a bunch of DH shuttling traffic onto remote ill maintained trails and current users will have every right to make a stink. Suppose they tend to be young and have them drinking, leaving garbage behind, playing music, building jumps, etc.

I can think of trails here in the cascades that I *could* ride but my poor skills would mean a bunch of skidding and trail damage. Today we see less fit/ less conscientious hikers eroding trails with poor choices on where they step, cutting the trail, creating rockfall hazard, etc. I expect a casual MTB would be worse than that.
  • + 13
 Really good points, captaingrumpy. I don't think bikes belong on every trail in the Wilderness. Not by a long shot. Fall line trails that are erosion nightmares, for instance, are always problematic. But fundamentally, as you pointed out, there should be a consistent and logical set of guidelines that determine where bikes fit and where they don't in Wilderness Areas. What we don't have at this time, is an opportunity to even sit down at the table and have that conversation. We are kicked out of the room entirely and that needs to change. Hopefully this bill, or a later version (should this one fail to pass), gets us there--on a level playing field, being treated as the responsible trail stewards that we have so often proven ourselves to be. The ban on bikes is outdated and biased thinking that was frozen in amber, way back in 1984. The fact that we are still living with it is baffling.
  • + 6
 @vernonfelton:

"States rights" will make this even harder. In North Carolina, it is written into the Recreation Management plan that all new trails must be multi-use, allowing horse, hiker and bike traffic. The hikers and equestrians pump more dollars and time into their efforts, while mountain bikers continue to just do what they do: ride renegade/illegal shit until they get caught.

Kids live the moment, while their energy and creativity is used to capitalize and market. If they aren't getting to ride and build the kids of trails they want, they will do it anyway.

First responders will fight this also. EMS crews are already at capacity, with more and more needed in there budgets. If a person falls off a waterfall or wrecks their bike, these guys "need" to be able to get their vehicles into places like remote wilderness. That is a much bigger picture issue, public land managers should not be held accountable for a persons injury. That only happens in America though.

Here in Brevard, a person falls from a waterfall, gets stuck rock climbing or gets lost once a week in the summer.

Locally, this will be challenged even further by groups like hunters and fishermen who claim that their needs are not being met either. Truthfully, hunters are being gentrified and pushed out, culturally and economically. The woods no longer provide fruit bearing trees with enough mass to sustain deer populations, and the food chain has been off whack since humans killed off all the natural predators. Government dollars are being used to fight overpopulation, disease and famine just so people can continue killing in the name of "heritage."

I work at a newspaper, and hear more noise from the hunters about how they have to pay a fee for their form of recreation. I do believe it is unfair that bikers don't have to pay a fee, but ask anyone of us and we would gladly pay up for the privilege. I say stick a gate at the entrance, $2 a car for visitors, annual passes for locals and people who want to buy one.

Compound that with the damage that mountain bike races do when they are held in the rain and mountain bikers aren't making many friends. Interestingly, the trails that are in the worst shape are along the Parkway and in the Wilderness areas, where people aren't supposed to ride.

I don't really believe Wilderness exists, at least not on the East Coast. I have lived in Brevard for 11 years and see this place being trampled. I can hear a train of Harley-Davidson's from nearly anywhere as they cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway. That's not an exaggeration. A group of 100 soft tails blaring classic rock doesn't go unnoticed.

Group camps in Wilderness areas for the literally hundreds of summer and therapy camps grow larger every year, they break off limbs, move rocks, build fire pits and trash everything. They are taught to "Leave No Trace," but that is literally impossible.

Ted Stroll is widely considered a sneaky person. I can verify this, he told me several things on the record, and then came back and told me he never said those things. If you would like proof, send me a message.

You're right, we don't have much room at the table. We're still in the other room, at the kids table, drinking milk. How do we fix that? Show up everyday and do a good job, get involved, pay attention. I am Sisyphus, a kook, uphill everyday.
  • + 0
 @captaingrumpy - can your "example" suggest that DH bikes are capable of giving more bad reputation for MTB as a whole than E-Bikes? A big, motocross like vehicle riding down the hill at high speed, and people riding them wear MX like clothing, with face hidden behind helmet and goggles... I'm so confused, I don't know what to think anymore
  • + 8
 WE DESERVE IT
I actually subscribed to pin bike for that comment (even though I have browsing PB for a long, long time).

What do you actually expect from traditional Eco-friendly associations etc. when all our videos display massive skidding, trail building power tools etc. even fans at WC run chainsaws. @chinaboy is right there is even footage of retarded enduro racers washing their bikes in a mountain river... Seriously? It is bad to do it, it is crazy stupid to show it.
A lot of the videos the community shoots displays "redbull-testosterone loaded rednecks" hacking down trees, shoveling etc. It is the very easy to be pointed out as potential trail hooligans.

I am the only one to see things like this.
  • + 1
 The average non-rider knows nothing about Rampage or any of the shredits on PB. Their idea of mountain biking is riding a Walmart bike down a rail trail/paved path. Never has any regular Joe assumed I huck my bike off cliffs or shred the gnar. They all tell me about this sweet bike path I should check out.

The public's perception is based on the riders they see every day. The perception bias you describe is your own. You decry those who are most invested in the sport. It's like middle aged dad shooting up two handed bricks in the back yard complaining that Lebron and Jordan ain't doin' it right. Take the speed, flow, and intensity out of mountain biking and it will have lost it's soul. Just another passionless form of fitness.
  • + 2
 @AllMountin: I agree with your first paragraph.
I disagree with your second paragraph: how easy for an anti-mtb committee to say: "look, these skidding/builders/negative looking (in their mind) riders are at the forefront of the sport, they even get sponsored for image only (vs. for competition). If we allow mtbikers in our wilderness we will end up with a bunch of rednecks destroying everything. Let's not allow this."
That is not what I think, this is what how hikers see you.

The first leisure use of wilderness was hiking/backpacking and these people are very quiet. Maybe you should adapt to the ones who first used it so you can have access too?
Maybe in the US you do not give much regards to people who were here before you, but now I am just being mean.
  • + 1
 @Obiwankenoob: I agree with your point on Adrenaline Junkie image causing issues. Now what on Earth is wrong with washing a bike in the river?!
  • + 1
 @mi-bike: really? And what exactly bike grease from a bike chain does to which sorts of organisms? Are we being fkng stupid here or pretending for a particular purpose that it is a real environmental concern? And grease from thousands of bikes washed on grass or gravel, next to the bottom of the lift, what happens with it? Spirits of ancient ghosts take it and change into fairy dust if only enough people do enough humming by a fire place?
  • + 1
 @Obiwankenoob: I don't think public access should be governed by "I was here first, so nananananana." We should be considered equals. Our presence detracts from the hiking experience. Theirs detracts from ours. Why must all concessions come from one user group?Our use is valid. Their use is valid. I don't expect, and am not asking for, access to all trails. Why are hikers entitled to all trails? I would accept an equitable split of trails, based on real user numbers. I am a reasonable man.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Well, if you wash your bike at the wash stand in the bike park there is a fair amount of chance that this water will be properly drained and cleansed before being released. Or at least it should.
Here, 0 chance.

The problem is more the image that it carries more than the act itself.

Image is more important than you think.

@Allmountin: of course I fully agree with you on this one, I was just being mean :-)
  • - 1
 @Obiwankenoob: we can't be bothered by the image it carries at least within our community. Penalizing such acts like washing bike in the river by own community is damaging and is an incredibly shtty thing to do. What does it matter if it were Enduro bikes? How can we fight political lies, environmental pseudo-concerns, when we behave just like them and do witch hunts within our own community? The issue of E-bikes hating in MTB circles is prepostorous. Cheap sensation must be ignored, that is the only way to fight such primitive actions by journos or parties of interest.
  • + 7
 I backpack and mountain bike, and I can tell you backpacking me wouldn't be excited to see biking me hauling a** around a corner while wearing a ~50 lb pack. I agree that there are some areas where bikes shouldn't be allowed, that's the whole purpose of wilderness to begin with.
  • + 11
 Would you be open to it if the rider wasn't hauling ass though?
Some people are going to have to change the way they ride.
It's going to be more about sharing the trail and safely riding, and less about right of way.
  • + 9
 I take case-by-case basis to mean that popular backpacking trails will be kept as no bikes allowed trails.
  • + 15
 I backpack as well as bike, but just because you or I or more importantly the big wigs at Sierra Club may not LIKE bikers in certain areas that does not give them the right to implement a blanket ban on bikes in these areas just because Sierra Club wants it for themselves.
  • + 2
 @lyophilization: No way i'm changing how I ride, ever. What I love about riding is it's freedom from everything else, I don't need anymore restrictions.

How about specific use trails? Or single use trails if they're called. Backpackers/hikers stay off bike trails, and bikers stay off their trails...sure you'll have the few bad apples, but you can't stop em all.
  • + 11
 You're missing the point. He explains very clearly in the article that this would not result in all trails being opened to mountain bikers. It just means that the land managers would have to at least consider allowing bikes on the trails. Most likely, the established hiker-only trails would remain that way because that's how they've always been. But it would prevent the forest service from kicking us off of well established mountain bike trails just because they might be part of a wilderness area in the future. I'm also a backpacker as well as a mountain biker, and I fully support this bill. Not allowing bikes in wilderness areas just because they're wilderness is as stupid and pig-headed as it gets.
  • + 12
 I'm the same, but it's equally as annoying to be hiking in the wilderness with a full 75L pack when you come across a big group of horseback riders. Not only are you already walking through the path avoiding sh*t piles as if they are land mines, but you also have to make a run for the bushes on some of these tight trails when the horses are around. Where horses are allowed, bikes should be allowed as well.
  • + 11
 @Freerideguy14: I fully respect and encourage you to ride the way that you want to ride. You have that right. But in the interest of playing devil's advocate, the Sierra Club folks use you as an example of needing to keep us out of the wilderness areas. When you see someone bashing corners, spraying dirt and skidding every where it just gives them fuel for their arguments against us. That kind of riding is absolutely an integral part of mountainbiking but there are areas obviously where us as riders need to be sensitive to other people's interests. That riding may be more appropriate at certain areas like bike parks or mountain bike specific open spaces rather than a tiny undeveloped backcountry trail. It just makes sense.
  • + 15
 @ianswilson815: Devil's advocate is never a bad hand to play. I will admit, where I live (Bellingham) we have a ton of bike ONLY trails as well as hiking/horse trails and other individual use trails. I totally understand what you mean, and I do make a point when I do go ride a multi-use trail to be respectful of the other users, especially because in Bellingham there is quite a large group of elderly outdoor people. I'm sure they really don't want me or anyone else flying around a corner and skidding and leaving marks just because it's a multi use trail. Respecting the multi-use trails and their separate users are exactly why us bikers are PRIVILEGED to still have our own public access mountain biking mountain. Despite hikers/runners do find their way up there, they understand their place and the mutual respect is definitely key.

I guess what I really was trying to say is if it's a bike trail or predominately bike use trail I'm going to ride how I want. But you're 100% right for multi-use trails, you MUST respect the other users to not only keep a high public image of bikers, but simply for respect of others. I guess I just don't use a lot of multi-use trails.
  • + 1
 @Freerideguy14: this works, especially if they let us build trail in areas where hikers typically avoid.
  • + 7
 @Freerideguy14: the 'bike only' trails in Bellingham are on private property, and I wouldn't say there are a ton of them. Riding Blanchard is extremely difficult to maintain respect for centaurs because they shit all over the trail and have a difficult time staying away from the edges of the trail thus causing serious damage. They aren't the most well represented user group on trail days either. I backpack quite a bit and have yet to see horses in the wilderness of the North Cascades. Personally, I wouldn't want to see mountain bikes in wilderness areas because it defeats the whole idea of 'wild'. Arguing against it is like when they banned cigarette smoking in restaurants- smokers feel entitled to freedom but don't understand how the rest of us have to suffer through it just so they can get a buzz. Ruins the experience.
  • + 9
 Congress' intent in 1964 was to stop development in these areas and to get more people out in the outdoors. Congress, it's fair to say (because there are reams of congressional testimony) had a different outlook than Howard Zahniser, the citizen and Wilderness Society leader who crafted the original bill. But it's Congress' intent that matters. Mountain bikers have a place in Wilderness, but I don't think it has to be an either/or situation. Again, there can be zones that are hiker only, where people can have the expectation of not encountering riders. Closing riders out completely, however, needlessly eliminates the Wilderness experience for a legitimate group of trail users who fit the Wilderness ethic. The regulatory change (which began with the Forest Service) runs counter to the actual intent of the law.

Having said all of that, I want to thank you for being willing to lodge your opinion, knowing that you might get a lot of grief for it. We need to be able to have respectful conversations in which we can also agree to disagree while still being a solid community. In short, while I'm on the other side of the fence from you on this issue, I'm glad you're speaking your mind. Cheers.
  • + 2
 @bradwalton: You're right, there really aren't a lot in Bellingham, definitely not enough to ONLY ride those bike only legal trails and get a lifetime of satisfaction out of it. I guess I fall into the guy who rides a ton of 'illegal' but widely popular trails to mountain bikers in Bellingham public land where other use is extremely rare.
As far as Blanchard, I've ridden there a bit and I'll definitely admit I avoid it because of the horse experiences. Just from a horse shit standpoint alone, I don't ride the trails enough to notice the damage they cause nor the lack of their representation when it comes to the dirty work. I 100% do see the frustration in that. That's generally why I stick to areas in Bellingham where I probably won't see anyone, and if I do see them on a bike it's someone I know. So I get that, I avoid a lot of public interaction (even Galbraith as of late) and that's just of bikers alone. I 100% see the frustration and the arguments made.

I will admit, i'm definitely the wrong guy to be arguing any points on this article and I really don't have a say in it. I'm not an avid hiker/back packer nor am I an avid user of the North Cascade wilderness as I'm pretty deep into being a student. Maybe one day, but I totally see where you're coming from.
  • + 1
 odd double post deleted.
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: I really appreciate the article. I'm not interested in a debate per se, just making a statement as a member of the opposite user group. It's impossible to relay an experience.
  • + 2
 Curious what you think about back country skiing in Wilderness. I ski downhill just as fast (often much faster) than I can bike downhill; especially on technical trails often found in wild and remote places. Skiing on mechanical bindings seems to be ok in Wilderness.
  • + 7
 @ikswoldar: I think backountry skiing is no different in a sense than mountain biking. However, the key piece here is that given the season (winter) BC skiing does not impact the vast majority of Sierra Club members/users etc which are foot traffic. Thus, they do not care and have subsequently not had an issue with it. When their personal wilderness experience is affected (mountain bikes) then they develop an issue and put their vast resources into a fight against it. However, take a similar human powered, mechanical tool (backcountry skis) and use it during a season when most of them do not hike, then it is a non issue. It is not a problem with the tool (mtb or skis) but rather, the people who have money and power, do not enjoy one of them and thus exert their influence.
  • + 1
 @blast-off: I would not expect to see new trails built in Wilderness. This is about retaining access to existing trail, not building new trail.
  • + 11
 Then riders need to learn to tailor their riding o the terrain and situation. The UK riders have had to deal with this for decades:

'Haul ass' and big jumps? Save them for the bike park, trail centre etc.
Natural riding on shared trails? Keep speeds down and be polite to others. Enjoy the views and being 'out there' instead for your kicks.

Not hard is it?
  • + 3
 @ikswoldar:

I personally ride a lot in the backcountry. Soft Bounds. Out of bounds. Off resort. Etc. When you're out there you should be aware of the risks. You get hurt, get stuck, cause an avi... you are responsible for what happens. You need a rescue you pay for it. You cause damage or injury to others you deal with it. I am very aware of what I'm doing, where I'm at and what the risks are when doing that.

I think that should be the thought process when riding far out... as it is while hiking. I actually cracked a couple ribs when I was a teenager on a hike because someone screwed up and set off a massive rock slide with many many people below them. I literally jumped on a huge bolder to keep it from taking a group of people out. It took me out.
  • + 4
 @ACree: exactly.

And I don't see anything wrong with limiting some trails. I mean... does it really make sense to have someone on a bike descending half dome while 2000 people are trying to go up. (idiotic but you get the point).

But I don't like the idea of blanket closures just because.
  • + 2
 @onemanarmy: I'm sure someone here is going to be upset to learn that they aren't allowed to ride their bike down half dome.
  • + 1
 @thedeathstar: me for one. prudes. lol.
  • + 3
 I agree with the bill proposed. I think local ranger districts ought to be able to manage access to both 'open' & Wilderness trails individually. In fact they already do this as MTBs aren't allowed on every National Forest trail. Recreation managers know their trails intimately and probably already have an idea of whether bike access would create conflicts on each trail based on grade/sight lines/shuttle access/# of visitors/etc... If the bill re-opens access to only those lands classified Wilderness in the past 5 or 10 years it could be a win for most trail users.
My favorite riding is 6+ hour backcountry type xc loops. Ill find myself in Wilderness from time to time, and the people I meet are 99% stoked to see a MTBer. Just make sure your bikes don't make noise, don't skid, say hi and remain cordial, slow down for blind turns and just generally share the trail. We all go to the Wilderness for essentially the same reason, and we need to share it.
  • + 1
 @thedeathstar: This is the ultimate argument against allowing bikes into the wilderness because it absolutely would happen. It was bad enough thinking about Bellingham and some of the approach trails on Baker which then lead to thoughts of Mt. Baker with a fat bike. Then you bring up Half Dome? I'm imagining a MTB slick made with Stealth rubber. You know someone would have to try.
  • + 1
 @bradwalton: so why do you backpack then? Obviously not due to an euphoric feeling?!
  • + 1
 @ianswilson815:
I don't want to stir the pot, however we can't put aside the fact that Sierra Club are trying to protect the wilderness and the very same environment that we enjoy as well, so I think that they don't want it for themselves only and we as users need to find ways of working together with them and compromise on both side with higher goal of not letting loopholes for sellout to thinly veiled disguised efforts of Big Oil pawns to grab land and lease it to Oil and Gas sector.
  • + 2
 @stefanroussev: I completely agree and never stated that they were not doing those awesome things for the wilderness. They put vast resources and money into preserving those areas and for that I am grateful. However, their reasoning for banning bikes (mtn bikes do damage etc) does not stand up to scrutiny given the fact that they allow horses which have been proven to do much more damage. I agree that the best way to go about it is through mutual respect and working together, but from everything we have seen in the past they do not really care for that as they have an image of what wilderness or outdoors should be and don't want that to be changed. Yes compromise is the best option, but at this moment their money any power trumps anything mtn bikers have in their armory and thus they do not need to compromise and have not compromised. They have done great things in the name of wilderness....their vision of wilderness and environment, but have largely shunned and attempted to bar anyone or anything that does not meet that vision of wilderness. They have their positive qualities, but just like every other big special interest group they use that power and influence to push their agenda. There must be compromise and teamwork, but at this time they don't need it....we do. So until we are able to garner enough influence to register on their radar we must to some extent be subversive.
  • + 2
 2 thoughts...first is that protecting wild natural landscapes and mountain biking (recreation) don't need to be mutually exclusive but the conservation community promotes this division with their Wilderness-at-all-costs approach to land protections (see the Boulder Whitecloud Wilderness debacle that took place last year)

Second, one could argue that the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness bill has demonstrated the need for the conservation community to register the MTB community on their radar.

As has been said before, this bill wouldn't exist if the MTB community was actively and meaningfully included in land management decisions. Not just as an afterthought but as equal and willing partners in the process - across the board. This situation we find ourselves in was entirely avoidable. Unfortunately things are likely to get worse before they improve.
  • + 7
 "If the bill gets signed into law, federal employees would also be allowed to bring motorized tools (think chainsaws) into Wilderness areas to help clear downed logs and the like. "

For me this is the most troublesome part of the deal. I'm not stoked that mountain biking in the wilderness is tied to allowing the use of chainsaws in the wilderness. I spent a summer working on a wilderness trail crew so I understand how difficult it is to maintain trails without power tools, but not allowing motors into the wilderness is at the very essence of what these places are, and should continue to be. Difficult to get to, remote, wild, some places need to remain this way. Wilderness is the the last preservation of this, and allowing motors of any kind is a slippery slope. First it's just chainsaws, then is it motorcycles, to haul the chainsaws, then is it four wheelers?

I want to be able to ride my mountain bike in wilderness areas where it makes sense, but not at the cost of allowing motors into the wilderness as well.
  • + 11
 No.
All motorized transport is still clearly banned. Why does everybody always assume the "slippery slope" scenario?
  • + 7
 With shrinking forest service budgets every year, the type of trails you are talking about just end up not being maintained at all once you get a few miles from the trailhead (at least in Montana - most often us bikers end up clearing our fun out-of-town trails).

Do you prefer that no user group gets to use some of these wilderness trails past the first few miles? (I don't know any hikers or horse riders who are going to utilize a trail that has fallen trees every 30 yards)

I understand your concern regarding chainsaws but I am not buying the slippery slope argument. This would be a practical change that would help to improve access to wilderness areas for all user groups. Keep in mind that the intent of the wilderness designation is to both protect our national treasures and to encourage access to those same treasures. This will not realistically happen without allowing chainsaws.
  • - 1
 I'm with ya, @kidtrailboss. Although I also disagree with the slippery slope aspect, there's something inherently wrong with a bill that includes language stating something along the lines of, "To maintain the peace and serenity of the Wilderness, no forms of transport with a motor are permitted. But, um... just plug your ears when you hear the tools with a motor being used to maintain your access to the peace and serenity."
  • + 2
 @therev34: USFS budget has not shrunk every year. Its bounced back and forth between 5.5 & 6.2 billion $$ over the past 5 years.
  • + 2
 @westeast: Isn't it all going to fighting fires now though?
  • + 3
 @westeast: Frankly the national forest service budget is irrelevant here. What matters is what the regional forest service managers have to use at their disposal, specifically the portion of funds they have available for trail maintenance. The trail maintenance budget in Montana is absolutely decreasing year after year.

My understanding is similar to that of @iantmcg - a huge portion of their budget goes to fighting fires which are increasing in size/frequency and costs to fight every year.
  • + 4
 I Don't want machine built trails in our Wilderness Areas.
  • + 2
 Why is it ok now to have a gas powered campstove but not a gas powered chainsaw? Arguably the best thing for trail access in this bill is the ability for chainsaws to be used.
  • + 2
 @iantmcg: Could be. My BS meeter just went off when I hearing someone decrying budget cuts in the government. Usually it's simply not true or the cut was to future increases. Anyways, should we be fighting all those fires anyways? I had an environmental class in college that discussed how the fires are natural and good for the ecosystem and that our century of fire prevention has done damage by allowing debris to build up leading to hotter burning fires, etc.
  • + 2
 @westeast: Take a look, it's in a book! or even better yet, try Google. Soon you'll say- "Now I know, and knowing is half the battle!"
  • + 4
 Allowing motorized trail tools is consistent with the history though. They were allowed before '84, & caught up in the same ban. If the original phrasers of the Wilderness Act though they should be allowed, what's our argument to overturn the ban for ourselves, but not for the people making the trails safer & passable?
  • + 0
 @SteveDekker: hand tools only everywhere, unless lifts are involved resulting in higher traffic.
  • + 7
 Thanks for foregrounding this issue, Vern. More articles like this would be great -- and it's very helpful to us many lazy activists that STA's site basically links you to your representatives.
  • + 6
 TROJAN HORSE Is this bill. Never trust Mike Lee and Orin Hatch. All of a sudden they became tree huggers. They are the most right wing republicans you will hear about and represent BIG OIL. Do yo really think they care about the mountain biker??? I don't. P.S. I don't mind hiking only in the wilderness designated area.
  • + 13
 Neither side cares about mountain bikers.
  • + 1
 Utah Senators trying keep a good face with the large MTB community in Utah.
  • + 8
 I figured your post would get down voted, which is disappointing as its the truth. Hatch and Lee see this bill as a tiny foothold on wrestling back state and local control over federal lands, something they have been trying desperately to do for years. Don't kid yourselves folks, these two clowns couldn't care less about mtb access to ANY public lands. I cant believe that they are the bills sponsor, despite the STC's assertion that they feel good about these two senators. With the current climate in Washington, there is NO WAY IN HELL any Dems will get on board with this bill. They should have found different support for this, It will go nowhere!

Dammit, I was really hoping that this was going to be a game changer as I'm dying to ride some of the great trails we lost. The STC f*cked this up. Have they paid no attention to US politics the past 8 years?? This will not stop me from writing my local officials to plead for their support, but there is zero chance they will get on board given the sponsors of this legislation.
  • + 6
 Agreed. This is an attempt to blanket their cause with another cause and gain access to wilderness. Access they should not be granted.


I am in full support of keeping some areas hike access only. But I am not in support of the massive amounts of trails that have been made illegal to ride that are literally within minutes of major cities. You can't expect people to only ride in designated skate parks and on man made mtb parks.

Santa Cruz is a prime example. They've completely shut it down. But they can't enforce it. So you have people riding "illegal" trails all the time. In the process occassionally catching flack from rangers and hikers and horses.... that don't expect them out there. Hikers with headphones on.

It creates a hostile environment, a dangerous one. It keeps mtb riders off trails and unable to maintain them... hikers often times don't think twice about trail maintenance. It's kinda like picking up your dog shit. Some do. Most don't. No one picks up their horse shit.

Of course their are bad seeds in all parties.
  • + 2
 First, READ THE BILL. The Trojan horse worry is non-existent, at least asking literate people. Also, the biggest concern of motorized trail maintenance is valid, but still ultimately at the discretion of land managers as well. So, put yourself in the shoes of STC. Given how much raw money groups like Sierra Club, or other outright anti-mtb groups have and what ramifications that would have if injected into a contentious election cycle, and you'll see why there won't be lots of democrat congress critters risking alienating that group as a funding source.
  • + 2
 @tehllama: Not necessarily. Often times bills are pushed so that they have a basis for future bills. It may not be directly attached to this bill but that does not mean they don't have something else up their sleeves.

And I think a huge part of the issue is how much money and how much representation anti-mtb groups have. The MTB community often isn't even aware of backdoor deals that happen and most of the time wouldn't have a chance at stopping it anyways. That was part of my point.

Essentially that was all of my point.
  • + 3
 @tehllama: You live in the south west, so you better have a grasp on what goes on in the fight for public lands. Lee, Hatch, Chaffetz, Bishop, etc will do anything to weaken the federal government's ability to designate public land, and designate access to that land.

This is all rooted in entitlement and greed, and I don't understand how so many mountain bikers can be so short sighted, so selfish that they're only willing to look at it in terms of the sierra club hating us, and quantifying the erosion impact of mountain biking. The idea of protecting wilderness areas is a legacy we should be glad to pass on along with those pieces of the world that as a direct result of that protection haven't become a playground or dump for our excesses. The sad fact is that many of us are probably motivated about this more due to intransigence about feeling excluded than we are by the thought of riding in that area. We don't need to ride everywhere.
  • + 7
 @thedeathstar: so you believe that we should just lay down as trails that we have ridden for years are taken away from us? In many cases trails that are rarely used by anyone besides mountain bikers?

Mountain bikers and wilderness advocates should be natural allies - if conservation groups would recognize this fact and start to work with the mountain biking community to tailor legislation that responsibly conserves the land while still providing reasonable access (or at least the possibility of access) that would go a long way. Instead we get swept under the rug with blanket bans that take local input out of the equation.

This blanket ban on mountain bikes in wilderness areas is inherently wrong (it should be on a case by case basis as this bill proposes) and has pushed many of us to be willing to support whatever legislators are willing to get behind our cause (at least on this specific issue).
  • + 0
 @therev34: If those trails are being designated as wilderness, yes, insomuch as that is a result of the environmental protection given to wilderness land.

How would you like us to be allies other than being given access? Those are just words to get what you want.

I don't disagree that the blanket ban is unnecessary, but that isn't the entire issue here. I see this as a Trojan horse, and I can't believe so many people think this won't prove to be a starting point for future problems with federally protected land, especially looking at who is supporting it.
  • + 0
 There are many environmentalist republicans. They just don't believe in that global warming hokus pokus.
  • + 1
 @thedeathstar: I believe that we should be allies because I support conservation and environmental protection of our streams and forests as much as anyone. I don't want to see logging or resource extraction sully the places I love any more than the next person. My point was that the lack of fair and equitable access within the Wilderness areas is pretty much the only sticking point for me on this issue - I would venture a guess that a majority of our mountain biking peers would agree with me (certainly those who actually live in areas impacted by Wilderness designations).

I also agree with you that the potential for trojan horse riders being added to this bill are a very real concern. I am not naive to the way things work in our bought-and-paid for government.
That said, we have to start somewhere and we have not been able to find any traction on the blue side of the aisle. I sincerely hope that a bi-partisan bill can be crafted from the foundation started with this bill (I highly doubt that the current bill will go anywhere).
  • + 6
 Loving the recent focus shift in articles. Its a nice swing away from the constant borage of consumerism we're regularly subjected to. Its also where the communities focus really should be right now. Instead of fussing about hubs standards and tire volume. All that is pointless if we allow ourselves to get backed into a corner where we can never make new trails or enjoy existing ones without a threat of jail time.
  • + 6
 @vernonfelton well written dude. I'm in NZ and probably won't ride anywhere you're talking about, but feel totally inspired. When trail advocacy issues come up here I'll be first to put up my hand.
  • + 5
 All this bill is seeking is maybe, sometimes, in limited situations, to allow mountain bikes to use public land. It's not asking for unlimited access on all trails, everywhere. The wilderness will be just fine, even if there's a tire track or two, this is much more about a small minority of hikers and equestrians keeping exclusive and undisturbed access to huge open spaces than about any environmental concerns...
  • + 4
 Mr. Felton provides us with a "bit of history" and claims there are really only two goals of the Wilderness Act. Well, actually, there are many (see below) and frankly, mountain biking is not really compatible with many of the goals of the Act or more generally, the concept of wilderness. I love riding my mtb and I do lust after more trails near my home, but there is a more pragmatic approach to ensuring that we have more access and trails. One option would be to streamline environmental reviews for new mtb trails on federal lands so that we can get out there and build trails specifically for biking instead of attempting to appropriate trails that are generally not well suited to biking. The same senators who sponsored this bill have a history of eliminating environmental reviews for oil and gas, mining and other uses of federal lands and such a bill would probably stand a good chance of passage into law. It seems that the author and many others want a grand victory for the mtb community and want to justify an intrusion into some of the earth's last places of solitude because horse cause more damage to trails than bikes do. The primary issue is not damage to trails or noise but the ease by which hordes of bikes can penetrate the depths of wilderness and compromise or eliminate solitude and thus wilderness character. Mr. Felton, don't assume that I support your position just because I ride a mtb or frequent PinkBike.

Nate, Lander, WY

"WILDERNESS SYSTEM ESTABLISHED STATEMENT OF POLICY
Section 2.(a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding
settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United
States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their
natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the
American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of
wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation
System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as ''wilderness
areas'', and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in
such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and
so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness
character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and
enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as ''wilderness areas''
except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act."
  • + 8
 My opinion of this whole thing is that the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Bill is less about "intrusion" into places where some people don't want to see bikes but more about retaining an ability to grandfather biking into new Wilderness designations where mountain bike access already exists - on the trails it is suitable for. For instance: the Boulder Whiteclouds Wilderness Bill that passed last year closed trails that have seen close to 30 years of biking that still had sufficient "wilderness character" to be designated Wilderness. Those trails were suitable for biking. Why weren't mountain bikers allowed continued bike access to those trails despite even the conservation community acknowledging that mountain biking was an appropriate use there? There should be an ability to grandfather in a quiet human powered use when designating new Wilderness. In fact, I think Frank Church himself stated that was the intent of congress when they created the Wilderness Act:

“If congress had intended that wilderness be administered in so stringent a manner, we would never have written the law as we did…. We wouldn’t have provided for the continuation of non-conforming uses where they were established – including the use of motor boats in part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and airfields in the primitive areas here in Idaho. As these examples demonstrate, it was not the intent of congress that wilderness be administered in so pure a fashion as to needlessly restrict its customary public use and enjoyment. Quite the contrary, congress fully intended that wilderness should be managed to allow its use by a wide spectrum of Americans.” – Senator Frank Church from Wilderness In a Balanced Land Use Framework, 1977.

There are so few opportunities for the creation of new Wilderness areas, it would benefit the conservation community to work with bicyclists to maintain historical bicycle access where it's already established as a way of reducing opposition to Wilderness legislation. If the mountain biking community felt they already had a say or already felt included, this bill wouldn't exist. Think about it, what would there be to oppose if the MTB community had some guarantee that a Wilderness designation wouldn't automatically mean a blanket ban on an established use? As an friend of mine always says: "cooler heads will prevail."
  • + 2
 @ikswoldar: your comment has to be one of the best supported comments I have ever seen on Pinkbike. I think your grandfathering of bike trails idea, along with allowing wilderness local managers to work with bikers and other user groups to determine which trails are good for bikes, and which ones are not, is also a good idea.
  • + 2
 @TFBikes: thanks, man. For all of the fear mongering and hatred toward one another between the mountain biking and conservation communities (which are really one and the same), I think people miss the actual "bigger picture" that this bill could be used as a "grandfathering" tool. I have no interest in riding my bike in the horsepacker filled Bob Marshall legacy Wilderness, there really aren't very many good biking trails in there anyways. But the trails in the Monture Creek area are great riding trails with decades of use. As it stands today, MTB folks have had to push way harder than they should need to in order to keep access as the conservation community pushes to expand the Bob Marshall Wilderness boundary into Monture Creek. We finally got our voices heard to preserve some access, yet we are still likely to lose access to Monture Creek...this wouldn't have to happen if we could grandfather in existing human powered uses.
  • + 4
 I know I am in the minority here, but I don't think bikes should be allowed in the wilderness. I grew up and live near a wilderness boundary, and don't get me wrong, besides my family, there aren't really any mountain bikers in the area for the most part. But I don't think bikes should be allowed. When I go into the wilderness, I like seeing the wilderness for what it is. Still wild. Add in bikers and more buffed out trails to the equation, and thats going to ruin it for people. I don't just mean me. My backyard is home to some pretty amazing hunting too. I don't need to hear on the radio and had in the paper about someone going all Dick Cheney on a biker saying they thought it was a deer through the trees. When I'm backpacking and hiking, I don't want to have some jackass on a bike hauling mach chicken down a hill, and come out of a blind part of a trail and ram into me and I cant get out of the way because I'm hauling 40 pounds of gear. So it would,be nice in a perfect world if bikers could be in the wilderness, but in my opinion, it wouldn't work at all, especially, like mentioned in the article, you can't have anything like a chainsaw in the wilderness, and every trail has to be built by hand, which would take many seasons, especially in places like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, and so on that the trail building season, especially at high elevation, is cut short by long, wet, snowy springs, and winter coming on early, usually late September-Mid October.
  • + 1
 It's not the biker's fault if someone goes all Dick Cheney on them. Hunters need to be smart and think before they shoot. The risk of a biker turning a blind corner exists on every trail, wilderness trails are no different. Actually, I'd argue that wilderness trails offer greater line-of-sight than my local trails, but it's dependent on location I suppose. It's all a matter of perception, but the occasional singletrack visible of miles and miles of wilderness doesn't really take away from the "wild" feeling that wilderness provides. Trails may take a while to build in the wilderness, but hey, it's better than not being able to build at all...
  • + 11
 You and your 40 pounds of gear is just as unnatural than a mountain biker riding around enjoying themselves. If you want the wilderness to truly remain wild then you should completely leave it alone.
  • + 6
 I think this is a really good point. I'm definitely not stoked about losing trail access, and some places should definitely be open to mountain bikes, but there's a lot of places that should remain closed to mountain bikes; super fragile desert and high alpine areas come to mind first. Also, I know I go wilderness areas to experience true wild lands, and someone ripping down with I9's and bright orange TLD kit is very counter to that.

On the other hand, there should be some trails open to us, especially ones that the FS is preemptively closing. That's a major bummer, and big loss for us riders.
  • + 8
 I don't think Wilderness should be allowed on bike trails.
  • + 0
 @ACree: yeah damn wilderness, cleaning are air and taking up trail space. Lets get the petition started now. Smile
  • + 4
 But this bill doesn't have that effect. It allows land managers to make decisions on what's allowed. There's lots of trails that will remain closed to bikes. & lets be real, if a trail stays within a mile of a paved road, that happens to be the wilderness border, is this really wilderness? the area can still be protected while allowing effective trail management & responsible recreation, that's in spirit with the original act, & it's what's being asked for here.
  • + 1
 Shooting an animal from a blind is pretty natural also, I'm 0% against hunting, but to use that as an argument on why trails shouldn't be allowed in asinine. Hunters can have their area, bikers can have a small little slice, if anything it will funnel the animals into the areas buddy can try out his new AR-15
  • + 3
 . As an outsider looking in we do these things to ourselves. In Western Australia the southwest (where I ride) is home to endemic forests which are suffering from the introduction of forest disease commonly known as 'dieback'. Dubbed an ecological bulldozer the culprit is an introduced microscopic water mould that is spread by soil movement and attacks the roots of native vegetation which in turn starves the plant and kills it. There is no cure for phytophthora cinnamomi. Control is to avoid infected areas and clean down your bike after each ride to prevent carrying contaminated soil into new areas. However hear we have sections of the MTB community who flaunt directions from Bike Collectives & Government Agencies and continue to build and ride illegal tracks and sneak into National Parks. Their arrogance is not only destroying forever the places we ride but will eventually force the government to further restrict access to wilderness areas. It is always important to remember that actions of the few will stuff it up for the many and self-serving opportunists i.e. politicians will jump on these things to demonise groups whilst furthering their own prominence.
  • + 3
 I pray this bill does not pass. I think mining and huge herd of pack animals should be banned from wilderness too. and as far as trails being unmaintained thats a good thing. the word wild is in wilderness trails should be faint and access should be difficult and only open to the few who decide to earn it.
  • + 6
 Mountain bikers opposed to this bills either did not read it, or are complete morons.
  • + 3
 Vernon, I'm interested to know if you've got any statistics that back up the assertion: "We are losing trail access at an accelerating rate." Is there truly a net loss of MTB trails nationwide on public lands I've not seen any numbers anywhere, other than anecdotes here and there - a few trails lost in the Sawtooth during the recent White Clouds deal, for instance. I'd love to see you post the data behind this assertion, if you've got any figures on this. Thanks.
  • + 7
 "Congress, promising to solve problems it created since 1788"
  • + 2
 Vernon, Please keep preaching the good word. For peeps in Bellingham, WA:

Representative Rick Larsen
bit.ly/2a3oNRS
(202) 225-2605

Senator Maria Cantwell
www.cantwell.senate.gov/contact/email/form
(202) 224-3441

Senator Patty Murray
www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactme
(202) 224-2621
  • + 5
 I dont get it, if its not a chairlift access dh bike park than why would anyone want to ride it?
  • + 2
 What a messed up piece of legislation. And they call America "the land of the free"! When comparing bikes to horses... There is overwhelming evidence that mtbs cause less damage and less soil erosion than horses. They also have a lower carbon footprint, they dont eat local vegetation and shit everywhere (although that's not always a bad thing) Bikes are also cheaper than horses and therefore less elitist. Oh and statistically bikes are far safer to ride than horses. Btw I don't think horses should be banned from these areas either, just putting things into perspective. I wonder if they will still allow guns in these areas?
  • + 6
 Shhhhhh, don't tell Congress about E-bikes.
  • + 3
 the bill does not apply to e-bikes.

"(i) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘mechanical transport’ means any method of transportation that—

“(I) travels over ground, snow, or ice; and

“(II) possesses, or is propelled by, a nonliving power source.
  • + 4
 fuck ebikes.
  • + 2
 @iantmcg: E-bikes are almost always indistinguishable from regular bikes if you are at a far distance (definitely to non-MTBers). It makes enforcing those rules difficult.
  • + 2
 @westeast I'm out of line. I did some research and you are right. Climate change is a hoax perpetrated by hundreds of climate scientists so that Elon Musk, who was already rich from the sale of paypal, could risk all his wealth to make money off government subsidies. Apologies.
  • + 2
 The problem with this bill is not the way it reads now, but the way it will read when/if passed into law. Senators regardless of party affiliation leave office more wealthy than when they entered and not because of their splendid government compensation packages. I fear the worst here.

I think MTB's are getting an unfair shake by being banned from Wilderness. It is extremely unlikely that MTB's could have anywhere near the negative effect on the environment as horseback activities and ranching/grazing activities which are currently allowed. Proof of this is the 170 year old Oregon trail of which the National Park Services state some 2,000 miles of ruts are still visible and caused mostly by livestock traffic.

In Colorado ranchers run their sheep and cattle in Wilderness Areas, many of which die in streams and contaminate water. Not to mention the endless amounts of defecate that would not be there otherwise (think refilling your water bottle, yes even filtered). Ranchers oppose predators or the re-introduction of them which by definition is the taming of the wilderness. Removing certain species wildlife from wilderness makes it less wild. That's another issue, I digress. People complain and claim that horses have little effect on the environment and that its been this way for ages. Horses which are fed hay from grasses not consistent with what grows in the wilderness introduce seeds that are not native. This is as great of a threat as any in keeping the land pristine. Horses and livestock alike concentrated in areas for decades almost certainly have an erosive effect on land. So while clearly grazing and horseback has a far more negative effect, MTB activities are far less likely to render such damage.

With Hatch and Lee as sponsors of the bill it should be viewed as nefarious at best. It is again as I said not what the bill is currently, but what it will become when all of the requisite pork that will invariably be included implicates. When concessions are made, and they are always made. The lobbying firm hired by the STC may have something to say along the lines of "Its not what we originally set out for, but the best we could do". Rushing headlong into supporting a bill that has yet to see its final draft could prove more detrimental for wilderness than the otherwise well intentioned MTB access argument being presented.
  • + 1
 I hope I'm not reiterating a previous point already made, but the idea that horses are nothing more than pack mules on a trail isn't necessarily true. Horses can be ridden fast, and out of control if the rider wishes it. And I'm guessing a leather strap and four hooves are no match for a 4-piston front brake!
  • + 3
 Thank you pinkbike for posting the article and thank you to everyone who pushed this bill. I am writing my elected officials in full support!
  • + 1
 As someone that bikes and backpacks, there maybe a few areas where mountain bikes maybe acceptable in national Parks, but overall bad ideal. Frankly there are as lot of idiot hikers out there, i could only imagine the potential chaos if you add bikes in the picture, in say Yosemite.
  • + 1
 This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I saw those photos in Bike magazine of the Boulder-Whiteclouds and saw Rebecca Rusch call it the "best mountain bike trail in the world" on Strava. So I booked a trip last year and drove my ass to Idaho. I got a shuttle from Sturtevants in Ketchum and we were good to go for Saturday. On Friday Obama signed the bill turning the Boulder-Whiteclouds into wilderness. The shuttle was cancelled and it was a nice square kick in the nuts.
  • + 1
 The enviromental nazis are a strange group, traveling around in jets and limos to climtate change meetings. Their degrowth movement only helps those that have, ironically screwing the have nots they champion to represent. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is one of the greatest minds in public office right now.
  • + 13
 I don't think many "environmental nazi's" are riding around in private jets and limos. World leaders do that, but they are lizard's who will benefit from a dry, hot wasteland of an earth destroyed by climate change as it better suits their alien lizard bodies.
  • + 14
 @laynehip: I for one welcome our new lizard overlords.
  • + 3
 Being an enviro isn't all that different from working in the bike industry. You go out, study a ton (engineering, ecology, law), then take a huge paycut relative to your peers to work on something you care about. An engineer gets paid way more to optimize some flow rate in the oil and gas industry than to analyze carbon emission reduction strategies at a non-profit.
  • + 8
 enviro nazis have no problem building houses, roads, gas stations on the land they are trying to protect. No problem driving their Subaru Foresters through wildlife migration routes to get to their hiking trails. Along the way, they'll narrowly pass road cylists, yet complain when mountain bikers do the same to them. Classic NIMBY hypocrites.
  • + 4
 @SpillWay: @SpillWay: I'm not so sure of that. Billions of dollars go into global warming research/programs and most of it comes from the largest corporation out there, the US Government.
  • + 5
 what's wrong with subaru foresters? Frown

www.pinkbike.com/photo/13761701
  • + 7
 Greatest minds in public office?
Mike Lee does not believe that anthropomorphic global warming exists. It is incredibly transparent that Hatch and Lee see this as a foothold to push through more legislation to pry back control of federal lands in Utah, which they have been attempting for years. Dont believe for one second that they remotely give a shit about mountain bikers, or any other recreational users.

The fact that the STC accepted sponsorship of this Bill by Hatch and Lee is mind boggling. It will go nowhere due to who is introducing it, which is a massive disappointment.
  • + 0
 @elsinore: AGW is a crock based on the religion of environmentalism and others power/money lust. It detracts from actual damages we are doing to the environment and any attempts to reduce those damages.

I'm no fan of Hatch or Lee, they are corrupt politicians, but they might not have evil motives in this case. Sponsoring a bill to allow bikes in the wilderness does not hurt their base of support so they may be sponsoring it simply because it's no sweat off their back/risk to sponsor it. I'm not saying they are doing it out of the kindness of their heart, but it doesn't cost them any votes and maybe gains them a few.
  • - 1
 @westeast: but that movie that manbearpig al gore made was super convincing.

and you might be onto something about their intentions. until they actually shoehorn bullshit amendments to the bill, i will withhold skepticism. even though this may not be a high priority in their day to day business, it's something that can be approved easily to show constituents that senators are responding to them. or maybe i'm being too optimistic.
  • + 3
 @westeast: AGW is a crock? Please with the conspiracy theory dude, 97% of the scientific community does not agree with you. Really though, this is besides the point. Saying Lee and Hatch are sponsoring this bill as its no skin off their back is all well and good, the problem is that every democrat is going to look at this and immediately think they are playing at gaining more control of federal lands; which is very much their deal.
Like I said before, the STC should have found a different sponsor. This will go nowhere.
  • + 3
 @westeast: I'm 100% sure. No one is getting stupid rich researching global warming. All those scientists, engineers, geologists, etc would be making triple their salary working in the private sector rather than at a non-profit think tank or at a National lab. Those folks could be working in oil & gas, silicon valley, wall street. Crunching data for environmental groups or even the government isnt the road to riches. I have the pay stubs (from multiple sectors mentioned) to prove it.
  • + 3
 @elsinore: Catastrophic AGW is the conspiracy theory. It's all based on faulty assumptions and wacky computer modeling as well as a few corrupt scientists. The 97% number is bogus too. Follow the money.

You may be right about the R next to the sponsors names hurting the bill. Sad how politics works.
  • + 3
 @SpillWay: You're doing it wrong then. Many public sector jobs pay better then their private sector counter parts. Trying getting a teaching job at a private school vs public school and don't forget to factor the retirement program that's often worth millions. Or check out Elon Musk. Tesla and Solar City wouldn't cut it if it weren't for the government subsidies/incentives that help them.
  • + 1
 @SpillWay: ironically, a petrochemical engineer whee optimizes something even trivial about that can do more to mitigate negative environmental impact then many dedicated environmentalists simply because of the scales involved.
  • + 1
 @tehllama: I got no beef with petroleum engineers. It's important work.

@westeast: the government invests in multiple sectors that are important, including subsidies to Exxon, Shell, and GM. that's money is not spent to create a conspiracy or to fabricate the risks of climate change. My point is the climate change is not a conspiracy created by scientists to get rich, which was your original unjustified assertion.
  • + 0
 @elsinore: lets us not forget about the fake data scandal many of the warming alarmist got busted with-fake data used 4 the hockey stick graph/computer modeling...
The greens are the old reds from the 60s...same folks whom were pushn commi now pushn green, getn that .gov green.
  • + 0
 @SpillWay: I spent a lot of time in the past few years reading up it (a dangerous level of AGW) and came away believing the effects are greatly exaggerated. Scientists go along with it for funding and/or a religious zeal and politicians go along with it because it gives them the power to regulate the exhaust coming out of your body. Climate change (what happened to global warming?) has and always will be happening.

Also came across this other tidbit for you: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (why do we have one of those?) says state and local governments pay 35% more and provide 69% greater benefits than the private sector.
  • + 1
 Great article, I am split on this as a mountain biker and backpacker, my favorite place and in my opinion the last great place in Colorado is the Weminuche Wilderness. As far as impact is concerned, it is just another excuse to not allow mountain bikers into the wilderness and has no validity. People talk about the impacts of mountain bikers "rutting" out trails and modifying them, while this is a concern it doesn't factor in that wilderness areas are generally very rugged and hard to access. Most mountain bikers probably wouldn't venture into those places under adverse conditions anyways.

Two issues I have issue with this article part where it states one goal was allowing people to access wilderness under their own power. I just would like to know the source on that statement.

Now the part about the need to "improve the trails" and the trails not being up to forest service standards. Going on an extended trip into a wilderness area where sometimes you can literally go days without encountering another human being is a special experience. Part of that experience is the not only how remote the areas are and rugged the terrain is, but the difficulty of accessing these places via poor trails, route finding, and exploring are all valuable an in my opinion essential aspects of the wilderness experience.

Now for the defense of mountain bikers, one of my main problems with wilderness mountain bike access was just the sheer advantage of covering long distances in short periods, would potentially diminish the idea of wilderness and the experience. Except people already trail run through these areas and large portions of these areas are primarily used only for day use a lot of the time, so is it really true? Who am I or any other wilderness lovers to decide how other individuals should be able to access or enjoy these places and experiences. Equine access is a slap in the face to the mountain bike community, with a much higher environmental impact and also trail degradation. For me when I am out backpacking in the Weminuche it is almost as common to see a horsebacks as it is backpacks in certain areas. I will tell you first hand when you see what ridiculous luxuries these horsemen bring camping or "glamping" it truly is in direct opposition with the true spirit of the wilderness in the first place. Lastly I will finish with the story of Chicago Basin the most popular area in the wilderness where 3 of Colorado's 14ers are located. The vegetation in this basin is completely altered, all the lower levels of the trees branches are stripped from years and years of camp fire overuse, wilderness was originally supposed to restore this areas and the popularity of some these areas have done the opposite and increased the destruction. So to frown on mountain bikers, ignore the many higher impacts of not only equine users, but also the primary users which are hikers and backpackers.
  • + 1
 I think it is interesting how acceptable horses are in US Wilderness areas. I can only think of the geographical diversity the US would allow for taking horses into such areas. Here in New Zealand it would be almost unimaginable taking a horse or bike into a wilderness area. Our wilderness areas are very remote undeveloped regions. They do not have do not even have trails going through them, only routes. They are really only ventured into by the most experienced and intrepid 'trampers' (hikers) and hunters.

It seems that our government policy is based upon the US concept too: "With the wilderness policy of 1985, the New Zealand government applied more stringent criteria that eliminated ‘developments such as huts, tracks [trails], bridges, signs, and mechanised access’.
www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/WildernessA.pdf

I completely agree that the erosion created by a horse is far greater than a bike. Anyone who has seen the damage caused by a single horse going through a soft forest trail can concede that. And horse droppings are an issue in such places as they are will potentially spread parasites and disease to local endemic species.

If the definition of wilderness area is comparable to ours I can't see too much issue with this exclusion (if anything its an argument for horse to be added to the ban); however if the definition of wilderness areas includes all national and forest parks with established trail networks and supporting infrastructure – which is what I'm understanding from this article and similar – then this ban seems both unfair and unjustified.

The most alarming thing that I take away from this article is all the activities which are allowed in your 'wilderness areas'. The fact that mining activities are allowed in some wilderness areas should never be used as a justification for allowing riding in such areas. By doing this you are only aligning yourself with the most evil and unethical interested party.
  • + 2
 Sucks balls! My sugestion. Nite lites. Poach them trails. Somtimrs you have to fight fire with thousands of lumens. Btw dont park your car at the trail head.
  • + 0
 Orin Hatch is evil incarnate who has reached upper echelons in the hierarchy of the religious cult centered in Salt Lake City, Utah. He certainly gives no shits about mountain bikers.
  • - 2
 While I'm simpathetic toward the cause, I can't help but notice how superficial and misleading this article is. Before giving me a thumbs down or a non-sense reply, let me explain what I mean: you want access to wilderness trails that have been banned to bikes (for whatever reason that we obviusly do not agree with). We do know that most of the people agreeing to the ban use the motivation that bikes destroy trails, hence we bikers tend to point fingers toward other trail destroyers, such as horses. (Don't believe me??? Just look at the previous comments. Seriously guys, horses are nature, man used horses for millenias, they are way more eco-sustainable than bikes).
Does this article (or the previous ones) provides any scientific results that relates trail degrades with sports? I would be really interested to see wheter horses are more destructive than bikes or the way around. Because after all, we need to show people that we (bikers) are not the enemy, we do not destroy trails for fun. But even if a such a study would exist, we do already know the answer: bikes are way more destructive than hikers. You want proofs? Just take a look at any MTB video footages (Videos for you monday, for example, here at PB): really, we LOVE ripping trails, in any form and way possible!!!!! (with "we" I'm calling in all the MTB bikers, even the ones that hate it, like myself).

But lets move on... Quote from the article:
Bikes aren’t the only things banned. Any kind of machinery (aside from hand tools) that could be used to do trail maintenance also got the boot. Feel like maintaining tens of thousands of miles of trail annually with nothing more than a Pulaski, McLeod and a handsaw? Anyone who has built more than a couple miles of trail with hand tools will tell you that it’s no way to maintain trails on this kind of massive scale.

I don't know what kind of trails you expect to maintain, but hand tools should really be enough in order to preserve the state of wilderness trails. After all they've probably been build with hand tools!!!!!! Scared of the few trees that have fallen during the winter snow? That's is wilderness too, mate: you can use hand tools to remove them. Any other tools will most likely be used to build some other non-wilderness objects, such as bing jumps and wooden structures. If bikers would behave responsibly, trail mainteinance should be a fast and easy job: but we have already proved that the majority of bikers love to rip trails. Reading the comments above, I have the feeling that a lot of bikers would love to turn wilderness trails into some bike park shit (just read the comments above...).

The article clearly avoid to address e-MTB: are they human powered or mechanically powered? How can you be so sure that they are not humamn powered? In the next decade more and more people will rip trails with them: and they will erode even more trails then we did with our leg-powered bikes. Seriously, how can you forbid access to one but not the other? Most importantly, even if you'll be able to forbid the access to e-MTB, will you be there to control that e-MTB stay out of them?

At the end, you can all see that lifting a ban without putting in some new restrictions (and way to make sure such restrictions will be respected) would be quite harmfull for wilderness. The average MTB biker doesn't care about wilderness, all they do care is having fun, and most of the time this means ripping trails, which is bike-park philosophy and not wilderness philosophy. So, while I'm simpathetic toward the ban lifting, I see this article as a lot of misleading points all written togheter in order to get the attention of the average biker who doesn't give a shit about respect of the wilderness or anyone/anything else but its way of having fun.
  • + 1
 I believe that the restriction is putting the decision into the hands of the land manager.
  • + 2
 Letters sent.
  • + 1
 Mountainbikers are just another specie of wildlife !
  • + 0
 uh,I'm going to ride my bike wherever regardless thanks
  • + 1
 Sk8'ing's not a crime.
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