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Trail in the Table Rock Wilderness Area. Photo: Bureau of Land Management.

In advance of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) testimony at a congressional hearing today, the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) submitted a written testimony to the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Despite issuing a statement in May 2016 that IMBA and the STC would present a unified front and not oppose each other in their various efforts, IMBA seems to have changed their approach by vocally opposing STC efforts.

In written testimony, IMBA says, “As we gain ground in these efforts, we feel it is unwise to amend the Wilderness Act—one of the nation’s most important conservation laws—when the outcome mountain bikers desire can be reached through on-the-ground collaborative efforts.” They also unequivocally state, “IMBA is not supporting H.R. 1349.”

In their testimony, IMBA focused on all of the other work they are engaged in, painting their strategy as the way forward. However, they did include a detailed section denouncing the way mountain bikes have been excluded from some Wilderness Study Areas, most notably in Montana, saying, “We have raised these concerns with the Secretary of Agriculture and will not waiver in our fight to see this administrative mechanism reformed in a way that makes sense for mountain bikers across the country.”

IMBA also published a press release further clarifying their testimony. In that release, Dave Wiens, Executive Director of IMBA, says, “We know Wilderness hits some mountain bikers’ backyards, and we understand why those riders support this legislation. To continue elevating mountain biking nationally, IMBA must remain focused on its long-term strategy for the bigger picture of our sport.”

To some riders, it’s difficult to fathom how the thousands of miles of trails rendered off-limits to mountain bikes by Wilderness designation isn’t part of the bigger picture for our sport. In their statement, IMBA’s rhetoric appears to paint the pro-Wilderness riders as the minority, despite our own poll showing that 96% of mountain bikers think some Wilderness trails should be opened to mountain bikes.

While a public statement to IMBA Chapter Leaders in July 2016 indicated that IMBA was opposed to amending the Wilderness Act, IMBA did speak highly of some parts of the STC’s companion bill working its way through the Senate. But now, they’ve vocally and adamantly opposed the House version of the bill.

This seemingly-drastic change in approach could be due to the regime change within IMBA leadership in 2016, but exactly why IMBA chose to submit a written testimony on this matter is unclear. We’ve reached out to IMBA for comment, and have also asked whether or not their testimony in this matter was even necessary. As of press time, they have not responded.

We’ve also reached out to the STC for comment on IMBA’s testimony, and while they are interested in providing comment, they are otherwise engaged in testifying before Congress as of press time.

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# Comments

  • Jeff Barber

    I’m really surprised by this move, because it does seem unnecessary. Did IMBA have to say anything at all?

    The only thing I can think is that there were some behind the scenes discussions with the “leaders in the conservation community” mentioned in IMBA’s testimony. Perhaps they came to an agreement that IMBA would provide testimony in exchange for… something. Hopefully it’s big, and it’s even better than bikes in Wilderness. Otherwise, I have to think mountain bikers will end up on the short side of negotiations (again.)

    • Gregory Justin Smith

      At this point I would be hesitant to support companies that are involved with imba. I hope to see a exodus of bike sponsors.

    • isawtman

      It doesn’t surprise me. Seeing Bears Ears get carved up by the same Republicans who are sponsoring the STC Bill was the turning point.

  • Zoso

    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE EFFIN KIIDING ME!

    I’m now officially anti-IMBA.

  • BNielsUT

    I do not understand any mountain bikers motivations for opposing the bill. The STC is committed to conservation, but equal access. IMBA’s strategy of negotiate around wilderness areas still constitutes a net loss for mountain biking. As Wilderness designations continue to be applied to more areas, it will continually shrink our access to good backcountry riding. The IMBA membership needs to voice their support for wilderness access because the leadership is undermining the efforts of others in the industry. The lack of solidarity will prove detrimental.

    • Whistlepig

      STC isn’t quite advocating for fully equal access, but at least some limited access in cases where it’s warranted.

      I very much agree with you and can’t fathom why IMBA chose to oppose the bill.

  • Zoso

    Also, I just received an IMBA email today that included this:

    “REAFFIRMING A COLLABORATIVE WILDERNESS APPROACH

    Recent legislation offered an opportunity for IMBA to submit testimony regarding its Wilderness position. IMBA continues to pursue collaborative approaches to legislative land protections. Mountain bikers are exemplary public land stewards and highly engaged advocates who should have a voice in the future of their local trails, and when they do, important trails can be protected while finding common ground.”

    Speaking out of both cheeks of their ass.

    • Jeff Barber

      I noticed that headline too. At first I assumed it meant they were reaffirming collaboration with MTB groups like the STC. Apparently they are talking about collaborating with (unnamed) conservation groups outside of MTB.

    • Whistlepig

      Yes, IMBA was offered the opportunity to submit testimony and chose to do so when they didn’t have to. They could have just chosen not to participate.

  • Greg Heil

    For the past year or so, I’ve been saying, “let’s wait and see what the new IMBA leadership does. Let’s give them a chance.” Well, here’s what they’ve decided to do: Testify against a proposed bill in Congress that would potentially allow mountain bikes on some Wilderness trails. It’s a historic day, the first ever congressional hearing on this topic, and IMBA testified AGAINST.

    • jacksonr

      Greg nailed it.

      It was a historic day, the first ever congressional hearing on this topic, and IMBA testified AGAINST.

      And now all the groups that oppose mt bikes anywhere can point to IMBA and their position on the wilderness act.

  • Marty_T.

    IMBA needs to explain this right away in plain words, because I have no idea what they are trying to say.

  • John Fisch

    If you read their press release, there’s nothing in there about what is scientifically proven, what is right, what is logical, or what is best for the trails and their users–only that they prefer “a collaborative approach.” But the bottom line is that their “collaborative approach” has resulted in a net loss of a thousand miles of traditionally ridden singletrack in the last five years alone. Any claims IMBA makes about successes as an advocacy organization are greatly exaggerated at best, flat out lies at their worst.

  • SimonsJ

    First, thank you to single tracks for keeping us in the loop on what is really happening. IMBA’s marketing is purely for fundraising purposes… that is why they tell us one thing and do the opposite. It is beyond me how they can even claim to be representing mountain biking in the United States. Mountain bikers now need to stop funding them and be vocal with any sponsors who support the imba financially. They need to go away and now they need to go away in a very public way to prove that they do not represent us.

    I am surrounded by Wilderness areas & the anti-bike advocates are pushing for more solely to eliminate bikes from established trails. The STC represents us here in the West who have to live with these misguided policies!

    Maybe Dave’s Hartman Rocks should become the Hartman Wilderness Area… I guarantee the IMBA would fight hard against that!

  • 29geo

    I did not renew my membership this year. I kept reading all their “positions” and all were watered down. This stance is, and should not have been, a surprise. They can tout all the good they’ve done, but it equates to 0 for the MTB community. The latest email just received will get a kiss my ass reply.

  • rajflyboy

    This certainly looks bad at face value on IMBA.

    Is this some sort of work around to co operate on this but get more access to trails by using other methods?

  • Fast n Slow

    I,m pulling out all my support for IMBA.
    TRAITORS!!!
    I think a lawsuit is in order. A lot if people have made a lot of investment into IMBA with there time and money, just for them to turn around and do this.

    • Gregory Justin Smith

      IMBA was my first donation at 19. Sucks that they went this way.

  • Fast n Slow

    At the very least, we should all contact our legislators and let them know how we feel about H.R. 1349 and IMBA.

  • mongwolf

    Let’s see here … … (1) testifies against mtb in wilderness areas today; (2) recently, promotes the use of e-bikes on non-motorized trails; and (3) has netted us the loss of thousands of miles of trails in the past five years. New leadership or not, IMBA does not represent me; this is certain.

  • mongwolf

    Someone once again brings up the topic of National Monuments on this board (a facebook comment above). PLEASE EVERYONE go back and take a half hour and read the history and original intent of national monuments. I studied this years ago in an environmental law class. The designation is for “points” in the landscape, not large tracts of land. Just think for a moment, what is a monument. By definition it is a point or very small location, and that is how the original legislation is written. To use the NM designation for large tracts of land is a misuse of power by the president. The problem is that one man (a president) can set aside an NM alone. No single man, including the president, should be allow to set aside large tracts of land in our country, only a point or small area. If you do a larger reading of environmental law and special land designations, the setting aside of large tracts of land in our country requires an act of Congress and a public involvement process. The NM designation has been misused for many years now, starting with the Grand Canyon. By the time the GC got properly designated as an NP, the designation in general got distorted. It is time for this abuse to stop. You may or may not like some of Trump’s policies, but he has it right on the National Monuments. His un-designating of several large tracts of lands that the last few presidents have wrongly designated as NM was the right thing to do. Now the BLM should do it’s work properly and establish a public involvement process and then approach congress with the results of that public involvement process.

    • Axess Denyd

      Oh, you’re not going to be popular.

      You’re right, and I agree with you, but I don’t know how many others will feel that way.

    • BNielsUT

      I agree with you, and applaud the very non political approach to presenting your point. I just hope to not see the area become pock marked with oil rigs or mining, Open pit or otherwise. It would be awesome to see more MTB trails down there away from the congestion of tourist dense Moab.

  • bmxking45

    Saying one thing and doing another? New leadership must be Trump supporters.

    • Marty_T.

      He said about the guy leading the congress that just gave MTB’ers the opportunity to expand riding into wilderness areas.

  • Mr Mojo Risin

    I’m willing to bet someone’s wallet got a little thicker in the IMBA. This wreaks of financial corruption to me.

  • Marty_T.

    Between this and the email I received from IMBA yesterday, it looks like IMBA is less of a MTB advocacy group now and has become largely a conservation group like the Sierra Club.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    IMBA has lost its way! They are supposed to be advocates for increased access for mountain bikes. Instead, they are working against mountain bikers. In addition, IMBA now supports e-mopeds(e-bikes) on non-motorized trails. I have supported them in the past but not any more. Please don’t support IMBA because they don’t speak for mountain bikers.

  • C-Lo

    I guess I need to find another Mountain Bike Association to make my donations to cause IMBA lost me.

    • Whistlepig

      I’m greatly relieved that my local club is not IMBA affiliated.

  • David Parris

    I’m honestly worried IMBA saw this as an uphill battle for the STC, jumped on the side of the opposition as a self preservation tactic. I could see IMBA becoming irrelevant if STC succeeds

  • Whistlepig

    The sad part of this is that if IMBA becomes irrelevant to mountain bikers and folds, then there will be no national advocacy organization to promote our interests.

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