Mountain Biking in Wilderness Areas Closer to Reality: USA House Committee Passes Bill

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12/14/2017 12:28 PM



In a press release issued by Congressman Tom McClintock, news broke that the USA House Natural Resources Committee voted to pass H.R. 1349 – a controversial bill that could allow access to previously restricted Wilderness Areas by bike on a trail-by-trail basis as determined by local forest managers.

The release states:

The bill would restore the original intent of the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles and other forms of human-powered locomotion in wilderness areas at the discretion of local land managers.

Bicycles were originally permitted in wilderness areas from the time Congress enacted the Wilderness Act until 1977 when federal bureaucrats began adopting blanket prohibitions against their use, closing Wilderness areas that are now equivalent to the entire land area of California.

One of the principal objectives McClintock has set as Chairman of the Sub-committee on Federal Lands is to restore public access to the public lands. The bill would restore to federal land managers the option to permit non-motorized mountain bikes, adaptive cycles, strollers and game-carts in Wilderness areas where their use is compatible with the environment, trail conditions and existing uses.

The measure is supported by the Sustainable Trails Coalition and was adopted by a vote of 22-18. It now goes to the House floor.


Congressman McClintock delivered these remarks, among others, during the hearing:

Specifically, this bill will restore the original intent of the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles in wilderness areas. People who enjoy mountain biking have just as much right to use the public trails as those who enjoy hiking, packing or horseback riding, and our wilderness areas were never intended by Congress to prohibit human-powered mountain bikes.

In fact, a year after he signed the Wilderness Act of 1964, Lyndon Johnson said, 'The forgotten outdoorsmen of today are those who like to walk, hike, ride horseback or bicycle. For them we must have trails as well as highways.'

When the House considered the Wilderness Act in June of 1964, the record is clear that its framers intended that the term “mechanical transport” be applied to non-human-powered vehicles like motorcycles – not human-powered devices like bicycles. The Forest Service built this understanding into its original implementing regulations by explicitly allowing all forms of human-powered travel in Wilderness areas.


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An additional press release issued by the House Committee on Natural Resources contains similar statements.

From here, the bill heads to a full House vote. According to Bicycle Retailer, the Senate has not acted on similar legislation introduced in that chamber. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) opposed the bill recently, submitting written testimony in opposition.

Where do you stand? If you support it, consider reaching out to your government official to voice reasons why.

Should mountain bikes be allowed in United States wilderness areas?


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12/14/2017 12:50 PM

For reference, these maps show wilderness areas in the lower 48 states and the agencies that manage them:





Those interested in learning more will find the Sustainable Trails Coalition research page to be a good resource. They've also made it easy to reach out to your state's representatives and senators.

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12/14/2017 1:17 PM

Interestingly, the legislation was first defeated and then passed in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The video below shows the initial defeat from 1:41 to 17:57, but the committee later reverses itself from 1:25:20 to 1:28:28 and passes the bill.

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12/14/2017 2:03 PM

!!!!!!!!!!!

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12/14/2017 2:28 PM

IMBA sucks

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12/14/2017 4:09 PM

I learned more about how the house works in these sessions than about the issue I came for. Came away with more questions regarding the house's operations... xD

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12/14/2017 5:19 PM

I'm probably in the minority, but I hope this bill fails. I like that there are place I can hike away from bikes, just as I like places I can ride bikes away from motos, just as I like there are places I can ride moto away from quads, etc. The wilderness areas are pristine and it's fun to try and get away from people. Keeping some areas exclusive to hiking is a good thing. Now if the bill banned horses in those areas, that would be ideal!

-KT

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12/14/2017 11:31 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/14/2017 11:31 PM

thom9719 wrote:

I'm probably in the minority, but I hope this bill fails. I like that there are place I can hike away from bikes, just as I like places I can ride bikes away from motos, just as I like there are places I can ride moto away from quads, etc. The wilderness areas are pristine and it's fun to try and get away from people. Keeping some areas exclusive to hiking is a good thing. Now if the bill banned horses in those areas, that would be ideal!

-KT

Not all wilderness areas are "prestine". A wilderness study area can have some of the best trails in the country on it. If the study moves up to a wilderness area, we lose said trails. Why should we lose those existing bike only trails, the very few we have, to another user group?

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12/15/2017 5:16 AM

I'd like to vote for the first option and do think (wish) bikes should be allowed anywhere. After all, we cause way less damage than horses and my experience is we usually litter less than hikers.

That said, I think IMBA has a valid point, that a change like this can be a slippery slope, and I'm not in favor of expanding our trail access at the expense of fracking, drilling, mining, or moto use. I realize none of that stuff is in the bill. The question is, will that be next? You can't know the consequences of this bill until it's enacted, at which point it's too late. I'm glad IMBA have the foresight to raise this question. I'm not sure I fully agree with their stance, but I respect that they've raised the point - they're the only ones putting thoughtful consideration of the potential long term negative outcomes, which is a helluva lot more than the "IMBA sucks" commenters are doing. This shit isn't black and white - nothing good comes free. So what price are we willing to pay for more trail access?

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12/15/2017 5:44 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/15/2017 5:45 AM

TEAMROBOT wrote:

IMBA sucks

this couldn't be more true. IMBA hates mountain biking. They are just mad that they cant go in there and make a 3 ft wide pavement highway with an excavator.

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12/15/2017 5:49 AM

smelly wrote:

I'd like to vote for the first option and do think (wish) bikes should be allowed anywhere. After all, we cause way less damage than horses and my experience is we usually litter less than hikers.

That said, I think IMBA has a valid point, that a change like this can be a slippery slope, and I'm not in favor of expanding our trail access at the expense of fracking, drilling, mining, or moto use. I realize none of that stuff is in the bill. The question is, will that be next? You can't know the consequences of this bill until it's enacted, at which point it's too late. I'm glad IMBA have the foresight to raise this question. I'm not sure I fully agree with their stance, but I respect that they've raised the point - they're the only ones putting thoughtful consideration of the potential long term negative outcomes, which is a helluva lot more than the "IMBA sucks" commenters are doing. This shit isn't black and white - nothing good comes free. So what price are we willing to pay for more trail access?

IMBA is playing a political game here. There is no slippery slope with this bill. This bill overrides any land management organizations rules that are stricter than the original 1964 wilderness bill. Mechanized and motorized are not the same thing. E-Bikes, including pedal assist are still banned. Only exemption is ADA, powered wheelchairs are allowed.

The slippery slope is allowing E-Bikes (including pedal assist). also something the IMBA is so for right now. (Another great reason IMBA has to go).

Mountain bikers make trail systems better for everyone. When is the last time you saw horseback riders out on a trail day?

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12/15/2017 6:53 AM

The other thing to realize is most trails in wilderness areas arent designed to get rambunctious on your enduro bike. This helps the people looking to do long adventure rides where you arent riding as destructively. I imagine the trails that would permit bikes would focus on the bikepacking crowd.

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12/15/2017 7:35 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/15/2017 7:36 AM

thom9719 wrote:

I'm probably in the minority, but I hope this bill fails. I like that there are place I can hike away from bikes, just as I like places I can ride bikes away from motos, just as I like there are places I can ride moto away from quads, etc. The wilderness areas are pristine and it's fun to try and get away from people. Keeping some areas exclusive to hiking is a good thing. Now if the bill banned horses in those areas, that would be ideal!

-KT

And you will still have those places. The only thing this changes is that it allows local land managers to decide instead of having a blanket ban on cycling. What does not make sense is taking someplace that has historically allowed cycling and then banning them because of a label change. It also makes cyclist advocates of Wilderness areas which is all goodness as well.


BTW how is this not the top item on Vital right now? This is a huge step forward for cycling in the US and specifically the West.

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12/15/2017 7:37 AM

adrennan wrote:

The other thing to realize is most trails in wilderness areas arent designed to get rambunctious on your enduro bike. This helps the people looking to do long adventure rides where you arent riding as destructively. I imagine the trails that would permit bikes would focus on the bikepacking crowd.

I agree here. In most cases, I think there isn't easy access to these trail systems, so shuttling is probably out the window. People who go to these areas are up for some real adventure and probably overnight activities. Plus, I imagine, especially out east, the areas are pretty overgrown and lots of debris on trails. probably extremely difficult to even "shred."

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12/15/2017 7:42 AM

That-Norco-Dude wrote:

I agree here. In most cases, I think there isn't easy access to these trail systems, so shuttling is probably out the window. People who go to these areas are up for some real adventure and probably overnight activities. Plus, I imagine, especially out east, the areas are pretty overgrown and lots of debris on trails. probably extremely difficult to even "shred."

Same thing in colorado. I do a fair amount of backpacking around here and the trails are a little too mountain goaty most the time to truly rip whether its awkward rocks, downed trees, or just tight trail.

To add to that a lot of the trails being taken away by wilderness designation were historically open to mountain bikers which just kinda sucks for the locals who used to ride them.

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12/15/2017 8:16 AM

adrennan wrote:

The other thing to realize is most trails in wilderness areas arent designed to get rambunctious on your enduro bike. This helps the people looking to do long adventure rides where you arent riding as destructively. I imagine the trails that would permit bikes would focus on the bikepacking crowd.

That-Norco-Dude wrote:

I agree here. In most cases, I think there isn't easy access to these trail systems, so shuttling is probably out the window. People who go to these areas are up for some real adventure and probably overnight activities. Plus, I imagine, especially out east, the areas are pretty overgrown and lots of debris on trails. probably extremely difficult to even "shred."

adrennan wrote:

Same thing in colorado. I do a fair amount of backpacking around here and the trails are a little too mountain goaty most the time to truly rip whether its awkward rocks, downed trees, or just tight trail.

To add to that a lot of the trails being taken away by wilderness designation were historically open to mountain bikers which just kinda sucks for the locals who used to ride them.

and lastly, the first MOFO that strava's any of these trails deserve the absolute worst thing that can happen to them. This is how mtb will never have access or will lose access if its gained.

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12/16/2017 11:08 AM

Four federal agencies of the Federal Government of the United States administer the National Wilderness Preservation System, which includes 765 Wildernesses and 109,129,657 acres (441,632.05 km2) as of 2016 . These agencies are:
United States Forest Service
United States National Park Service
United States Bureau of Land Management
United States Fish and Wildlife Service

This is an area larger than Iraq or the state of California. In Alaska, there are 57,425,569 acres (232,393.03 km2) of wilderness. This represents about 52% of the wilderness area in the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) has oversight of 43,890,500 acres (177,619 km2) of wilderness at 60 locations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has responsibility for 20,702,350 acres (83,779.4 km2) in 71 areas. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees 8,726,011 acres (35,312.91 km2) at 222 unique sites. The Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service oversees 36,160,078 acres (146,334.64 km2) of wilderness areas in 442 areas. Some wilderness areas are managed by multiple agencies, so the above totals exceed the actual number of units (759) in the system. In addition, some of the 60 NPS areas with wilderness have multiple units designated as such (for example, Lake Mead National Recreation Area).

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12/19/2017 6:34 PM

According to the LA times, this move is a GOP trick to open up our wilderness areas to a lot more than just mountain biking. Bikes would just be a foot in the door for mineral and oil extraction among other things. That's why IMBA is against it.

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12/20/2017 6:28 PM

Sucks my first post is about some political b.s. Lol. O well I'm sure lots of you know that they don't care if you or I pedal into the wilderness. They just want to be able to mine, drill, log, etc in the last protected areas of our country. That's why they are trying to push this thru, and they will. I would love to ride that stuff but I'm also not that short sighted. This isn't good for anybody but big business. Cheers guys and gals

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5/22/2018 10:11 AM

Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee (R–Utah) just reintroduced a version of his 2016 Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. It's similar to Tom McClintock's (R–Calif.), and puts the matter in front of both houses of Congress. This bill was initially introduced to the 114th congress as the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, S.3205, in July, 2016.

The Sustainable Trails Coalition provided the following release:


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The STC thanks Chairman Lee and Chairman McClintock for their principled leadership and urges people to support the legislation.

Chairman Lee issued a press release on the 2018 Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, S.2877. He stated, “The National Wilderness Preservation System was created so that the American people could enjoy our country’s priceless natural areas. This bill would enrich Americans’ enjoyment of the outdoors by expanding recreational opportunities in wilderness areas.”

Utah residents saluted Chairman Lee’s legislation. In the Salt Lake City region, Linda George noted, “Thoughtful access to new and existing Wilderness areas, where deemed appropriate by local land managers for the health and sanctity of these special areas, will foster appreciation, stewardship and interest in protecting these lands. One example would be an access corridor for segments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that traverse lower-elevation Wilderness along the western slopes of the Wasatch Range.”

“I am a southern Utah mountain bike guide,” said Jake Weber. “Hooray for a common-sense bill being introduced in the Senate that will allow local land managers to manage their designated public lands as they understand them best. Senator Mike Lee is listening to his constituents. While we may not agree on everything, we can agree that bikes belong. They always have.”

In North Dakota, Save The Maah Daah Hey Foundation executive director Nick Ybarra commented, “Our country’s longest multiuse federal singletrack trail is North Dakota’s 144-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail. Most of it is open to mountain biking, but a seldom-used one-mile section inside a wilderness area is off-limits. We have to make a long detour around it.”

S.2877 will not open Wilderness trails to mountain biking unless the federal agency in charge of a Wilderness area authorizes it or takes no action within two years. In the latter case, it is presumed that it wishes to run a pilot program. Trails would open to nonmotorized, human-powered travel, letting agency staff observe the result. They would still be able to restrict or prohibit mountain biking, just as they can other recreational activities.

S.2877 does not require creating trails or modifying existing ones to facilitate bicycling or other human-powered uses, and the character of a Wilderness area is to be preserved.

STC’s base of tens of thousands of mountain bikers will vigorously support Chairman Lee’s bill.

To read section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act in its current guise and under Chairman Lee’s Senate legislation and Chairman McClintock’s House legislation, visit www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org.
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