Objections to Closure of the Sapphire and Blue Joint Wilderness Study Areas Under the Bitterroot National Forest Travel Management Plan of 2016
On May 17, 2018, Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee (R–Utah) introduced a revised version of his 2016 Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. With similar legislation by House Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R–Calif.) pending in the House of Representatives, legislation to let Wilderness managers regulate bicycling in federal Wilderness areas is now under consideration in both houses of Congress for the first time.
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.
For further comment from Chairman Lee’s office, please contact Mr. Conn Carroll, Chairman Lee’s Communications Director, at Conn_Carroll@lee.senate.gov. For further comment from STC, please send e-mail to the address at the top of this press release. 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 http://www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org/#the-bills.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition is working to promote H.R. 1349, a U.S. House of Representatives bill introduced by Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). Detailed information regarding H.R 1349 can be found here.
STC is also working with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the planned reintroduction of his 2016 U.S. Senate bill, S.3205. Additional information on S.3205 can be found here.
The legislation’s common purpose is to restore federal land managers’ authority to regulate bicycle use on Wilderness trails, as they did during the first two decades of the Act, before the U.S. Forest Service imposed a final blanket ban in 1984. Success places backcountry cyclists on an equal footing with campers, hikers, hunters and equestrians.
Groups that demand zero mountain biking in Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, and Recommended Wilderness habitually work to expand these areas, thus shrinking mountain biking on federal lands. Many false or misleading statements have been made to lawmakers and the public about the bills. STC hereby presents the facts.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation will open all Wilderness trails to mountain biking.
FACT: The legislation only reverses federal agencies’ blanket bicycle bans, which rest on a misunderstanding of the Wilderness Act of 1964. When the blanket bans are gone, agency regulations will take over, at which point land managers can enable full regulation and control of mountain biking . . . up to and including existing limitations and bans.
For example, a Forest Service regulation, unaffected by the legislation, provides that authorized Forest Service employees may “restrict the use of any National Forest System road or trail.” The other Wilderness-administering agencies—the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—have similar regulations that would remain in effect.
FALSE CLAIM: Mountain bikers are divided on bicycle access in Wilderness.
FACT: All available evidence is contrary. A survey of cyclists on Singletracks.com indicated that 96% of mountain bikers support this effort. An International Mountain Bicycling Association survey conducted in 2016 showed that in California, where Wildernesses abound, about half of IMBA members feel regaining some Wilderness access is “very or extremely important.” Only a handful of mountain bikers, whether or not IMBA members, are actively opposing bicycling in Wilderness.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation is dividing the conservation community.
FACT: This is patently false. Rather, the legislation is exposing and isolating a combination of moneyed interests and Wilderness purists who have adopted Wilderness as a revenue source or a temperance movement respectively. These privileged users of public space believe that whatever they do in Wilderness (multi-day camping, habitual off-trail use, nocturnal disturbance of animals, significant trail damage, trampling of meadows, etc.) is compatible with Wilderness values but mountain biking isn’t. They are incapable of assessing their own habits in Wilderness areas, most of which have far greater impact than mountain biking. For-profit commercial pack trains in particular continue to damage iconic Wilderness areas. There is no divide among reasonable conservationists.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation would materially amend the Wilderness Act of 1964.
FACT: The legislation would not accomplish this. Rather, it aims to restore the Act to its original meaning.
STC is a steadfast backer of the Wilderness Act of 1964. For example, STC opposes allowing power-assisted bicycles (e-bikes) in Wilderness, because the Act prohibits “motor vehicles” and “motorized equipment,” which e-bikes constitute. (To clarify, STC knows of no effort to introduce these devices into Wilderness.) By contrast, Congress meant for rugged, self-reliant travel to define the Wilderness experience, and human-powered mountain biking fits right in.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation is a “Trojan Horse” making Wilderness vulnerable to development and eventual sale to private interests.
FACT: Not so. Backcountry cyclists seek the same experiences as backcountry hikers and horseback riders. The legislation grants only a possibility of them.
STC urges journalists and lawmakers to challenge organizations and people who promote these false claims on Capitol Hill, in the media, and elsewhere.
ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE TRAILS COALITION
STC was founded in 2015 to reverse outdated and counterproductive blanket bicycle bans in Wilderness, Recommended Wilderness, and Wilderness Study Areas, on the Pacific Crest Trail, and on parts of the Continental Divide Trail. To find out more, please visit www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition applauds House Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) for introducing legislation to let federal land managers regulate bicycle use on Wilderness trails. Details of the bill can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1349
The bill, H.R. 1349, puts mountain bikers on the same footing as campers, hikers, hunters, and equestrians by restoring federal agency authority to set conditions on cyclists’ use of trails in Wilderness.
Congress intended to allow human-powered travel in Wilderness when it passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, and for years afterward bicycling was allowed. In 1984, with minimal public input, the Forest Service overturned a good regulation, in effect from 1981–84, that allowed locally based federal employees to decide where bicycles could be ridden in Wilderness areas, replacing it with a nationwide blanket ban. Other agencies followed.
Representative McClintock’s legislation directs federal agencies to manage Wilderness as Congress originally intended and end blanket bans on “bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers, and game carts within any wilderness area.”
“Congressman McClintock’s bill will give mountain bikers long-overdue relief from agency misunderstandings,” said STC board member Ted Stroll.
“It’s important to understand that reversing the ban is not an open permit,” explained STC board member Jackson Ratcliffe. “Land management agencies already have the authority to regulate campsite locations, hunting, and where horses are allowed, or not. This legislation will simply return decision-making back to local authorities.”
STC’s base of thousands of mountain bikers will vigorously support Congressman McClintock’s bill.
STC was founded in 2015 to reverse outdated and counterproductive blanket bicycle bans in Wilderness, Recommended Wilderness, and Wilderness Study Areas, on the Pacific Crest Trail, and on parts of the Continental Divide Trail.
For comment from Congressman McClintock’s office, please contact the Congressman's Office, http://mcclintock.house.gov/contact.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition applauds Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) for introducing the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. Co-sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Lee introduced bill S.3205, on July 13, 2016.
“Our National Wilderness Preservation System was created so that the American people could enjoy the solitude and recreational opportunities of this continent’s priceless natural areas," states Senator Lee, "This bill would enrich Americans’ enjoyment of the outdoors by making it easier for them to mountain bike in wilderness areas.” Senator Lee further expanded upon his comments on his official website.
“Utah is blessed with an abundance of beautiful wilderness, and Americans should be free to enjoy it," offers Senator Hatch, "This bill presents a reasonable approach to allowing the use of mountain bikes on trails and grant federal land managers the ability to do necessary maintenance.”
In 1984, with minimal public input, the Forest Service overturned a longstanding regulation allowing locally based federal employees to decide where bicycles could be ridden in Wilderness areas, replacing it with a nationwide blanket ban. Other agencies followed, the last in 2000. This ruling also prohibits agency field staffs from using many small-scale, hand-held maintenance tools in those areas. Both policies run counter to the intent of Congress when the Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed.
The result of these mistakes is an American public increasingly disconnected from wild places, the opposite of Congress’s intent in passing the Wilderness Act in 1964. Many Wilderness trails have disappeared or have deteriorated to the point that few try to use them. On the trails that remain, human-powered travelers are limited to certain types of walking. The agencies have even banned forms of walking, including for example parents with baby strollers.
“Senator Lee’s bill will modify outdated blanket bans on human-powered travel and relieve a worsening situation,” says STC board member Ted Stroll. “The Forest Service in particular continues to impose bans on mountain biking. These bans drive cyclists away even as the Forest Service admits it cannot maintain trails and needs volunteers to do the maintenance it no longer performs.”
The Sustainable Trails coalition notes that Federally designated Wilderness areas are now ten times the size they were when the Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1964, an area roughly the size of California and Maryland combined. The groups thousands of members contend that a blanket ban not based upon scientific or environmental reasons is a regulatory mistake requiring reversal. Bill S3205 provides on-scene federal land managers the authority to decide on human-powered travel on local Wilderness trails, as was the case as recently as the year 2000 in some Wilderness areas.
For further comment from Senator Lee’s office, please contact Mr. Conn Carroll, Senator Lee’s Communications Director, at Conn_Carroll@lee.senate.gov.
For comment from STC board members, please e-mail STC at email@example.com.
Published May 18, 2016
IMBA’s mission is to create, enhance and preserve great mountain biking experiences. Since 1988, IMBA has been bringing out the best in mountain biking by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trail work, cooperation among different trail user groups, grassroots advocacy and innovative trail management solutions. These efforts are primarily for the benefit of IMBA’s chapters, members and supporters. Other direct beneficiaries include the mountain bike community and all non-motorized recreational visitors to our nation’s majestic wildlands.
STC is working to ease restrictions on mountain biking in the National Wilderness Preservation System, on certain other trails, and where bicycles are excluded because an area could become Wilderness. It is also working to reaffirm the government’s ability to use low-impact modern tools to maintain trails. These efforts are similarly for the benefit of the mountain bike community and all non-motorized recreational visitors to our nation’s wildlands.
II. Strategies for Creating, Preserving and Enhancing Mountain Biking Advocacy Opportunities
IMBA is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) and as such is legally limited in its ability to directly lobby elected officials. IMBA’s Board of Directors affirms its strategy of achieving and preserving trail access with respect to proposed Wilderness involves working with coalitions, partners, and other interest groups within the existing legislative and regulatory framework. STC respects this strategy and applauds the fact that IMBA’s multi-faceted work has significantly advanced mountain biking opportunities since 1988.
STC’s approach has been to incorporate a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4), which status allows it to spend all of its money on directly lobbying for legislative remedies in Congress. IMBA reciprocally respects STC’s approach and does not oppose it, but chooses not to support STC’s legislative reform efforts, partially in order to safeguard and strengthen positive working relationships with other stakeholders.
IMBA reaffirms its written policy statement on Wilderness, which declares: “Bicycling is a human-powered, low-impact, quiet form of travel and healthy outdoor recreation compatible with wild places and the intent of the Wilderness Act.” STC encourages all who enjoy the privilege of mountain biking on trails on public lands to engage with and support IMBA and your local IMBA chapter.
There is, in sum, great respect between IMBA and STC for the courage of each entity’s convictions and for helping to get more mountain bikers engaged in each organization’s missions and advocacy efforts, even though, as separate organizations, IMBA and STC do not share the same governance or mission strategies.
III. Looking Ahead to the Future
IMBA and STC recognize that our advocacy power lies in the collective voice of all mountain bikers. We wish for that voice to be united, stronger and more effective.
Whether or not STC prevails in its legislative efforts, IMBA’s Chapters, members and affiliate members will continue to play a key role in working on Wilderness-related access issues moving forward. Differences in policy, strategy and tactics between IMBA and STC are not differences in principle.
IV. In Summary
IMBA and STC jointly ask everyone who participates in trail stewardship and the sport of mountain biking to please help maintain a positive, united front. IMBA and STC both believe that public or online denunciations or defamatory comments in public or social media of either organization are generally unhelpful and are often inaccurate and misinformed.
April 3, 2016
Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) opposes legalizing electrically powered or assisted off-road bicycles (e-bikes) on any Wilderness trail anywhere in the United States.
STC’s goal is narrow. It is to restore and/or improve access to federally designated Wilderness areas for human-powered visitors, and only those visitors. We are working toward this goal in two ways.
First, STC is asking Congress to give federal agencies flexibility in allowing bicycles, hunters’ hand-walked game carriers, and parents’ baby strollers on Wilderness trails where the agencies conclude their use will conform to Congress’s original vision for recreation in Wilderness.
Second, STC is asking Congress to reaffirm the authorization already found in the Wilderness Act of 1964 that federal agencies can use hand-walked wheeled equipment like wheelbarrows, and other small-scale modern tools, to better maintain trails for the benefit of all human-powered visitors.
“E-bikes can help the disabled, elderly, and less physically fit visit trails already open to other motorized travel,” said STC co-founder and treasurer Jackson Ratcliffe. “But in Wilderness, as in many other places, there is a rigorous separation between nonmotorized trail uses and motorized ones. E-bikes are motorized. The Wilderness Act has always prohibited motorized travel in Wilderness, and properly so.”
This issue arose when STC learned recently of an unfounded rumor in North Carolina that STC is advocating for allowing e-bikes into Wilderness areas. STC hereby firmly rebuts any such rumor.
For more information, contact
Boulder, Colo. - January 21, 2016 - Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) is pleased to announce the addition of Boulder, Colorado’s John Bliss to the organization’s board of directors. He joins current board members Jeff Barker, Jane Ragan, Jackson Ratcliffe, David Simon and Ted Stroll. A fervent endurance athlete who competes in long-distance mountain bike events and cyclocross competitions across the country, Bliss served as President of the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s (IMBA) board of directors from February of 2009 to September, 2010.
Bliss’s Beltway resume includes roles as Minority Chief Counsel to the Technology and Law Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as well as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Hank Brown (R-Colo.). He has also functioned as executive director of an international trade association headquartered in Washington, D.C., facilitating the passage of more than 22 state laws and two pieces of federal legislation during his tenure.
“We’re delighted to add John to the team. His background in mountain biking advocacy, his interaction with the federal-government and his considerable experience in the legal arena bring invaluable expertise to STC’s board,” offers Ted Stroll, co-founder of STC. “His addition is particularly well-timed as it coincides with our group’s introduction of the Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2016.”
“Mountain biking and cycling advocacy are topics for which I have great passion,” states Bliss. “As STC’s legislation nears introduction, I feel that my operational experience at the intersection of law, politics, technology and policy on or around Capitol Hill will prove particularly useful to the group.”
He is currently General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer for the technology company Atigeo Corporation, of Bellevue, Wash., whose flagship software is the intelligent Big Data platform, xPatterns. The co-holder of three U.S. patents, Bliss is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, and the Georgetown University Law Center. He is also a member of the District of Columbia and Hawaii State Bars.
For more information regarding The Sustainable Trails Coalition and the Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2016 or to donate to the cause via credit card, Fortua or PayPal, please visit www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org. Media inquiries may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org