As recently reported by BRAIN
, the United States Forest Service is the subject of a lawsuit pertaining to the USFS allowing Class 1 e-bikes on non-motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest without first conducting a public study and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to assess the impact of the decision. The lawsuit was filed October 23, according to a press release
and cites a violation of the "Travel Management" rule, limiting motorized access to certain U.S. Forest Service trails.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and include The Wilderness Society, Gold County Trails Council, Backcountry Horsemen of California, Back Country Horsemen of America, and the Forest Issues Group.
According to the press release, the Tahoe National Forest recently permitted “Class 1” electric mountain bikes on more than 130 miles of trails that had been developed and managed for hiking and other non-motorized uses. The Tahoe National Forest area already has about 2,500 miles of trails and roads available for motorized uses.
The decision purportedly undermines long-standing travel management laws and policies in place to help ensure higher quality recreation experiences for both motorized and non-motorized users, prevent avoidable damage to water, wildlife, and other resources, and alleviate public safety concerns and conflicts between users, according to the statement.
The statement goes on to say, "prior to opening non-motorized trails to motorized bicycle use, the Tahoe National Forest should have followed the required travel management planning procedure, which is a public process that includes analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)."
There has been controversy regarding e-bike usage on public lands as government agencies have moved to change policy regarding trails that are open to e-bikes. In August, we reported
the U.S. Department of the Interior had decided e-bikes would be allowed in National Parks and other Federal lands under the Department of the Interior. While the decision left the execution of the policy open for local land managers and agencies to implement their own regulations on a case-by-case basis, it caused quite a bit of debate.
In the case of Tahoe National Forest, and other National Forests in America, the land is managed by the Department of Agriculture and falls under different rules and regulations than lands under the U.S. Department of the Interior. subject to the ruling in August.
In the press release on the Back Country Horsemen of America website, Helen Harvey, the president of the Nevada County Gold Country Trails Council, said, "Allowing motorized bicycles on nonmotorized trails meant for hikers, backpackers and equestrians poses risks and conflicts for the many visitors who enjoy that type of quiet recreation. It also undermines the trail building and maintenance time and money our volunteers have contributed in the Tahoe National Forest for decades."
Randy Rasmussen, director of public lands and recreation for the Back Country Horsemen of America, concluded the press release by saying, "We would love an early settlement of the case wherein the Forest Service acknowledges its process for authorizing e-bikes on non-motorized trails on the Tahoe National Forest was not done in accordance with the law and agency policy."
As the debate over e-bikes and access on federal lands in America continues to develop, we will provide updates when major news breaks.