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The Bitterroot National Forest has just released their updated travel management plan, which includes the closure of 180 miles of singletrack to mountain bikes, due to the trails’ inclusion in two different Wilderness Study Areas.

Mountain biking in the Bitterroot National Forest. Photo: ridethetetons

Mountain biking in the Bitterroot National Forest. Photo: ridethetetons

“We are all pretty depressed,” said Lance Pysher of Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists, as reported on RavalliRepublic.com. “We knew something like this was coming, but we’re still kind of in shock. It’s real now.”

These trails, which have been closed to mountain bikes, have been maintained and used by mountain bikers for decades.

This latest trail loss follows a string of trail losses in Montana, dating back to about 2009.

As for what methods of recourse local Bitterroot mountain bikers have, the Sustainable Trails Coalition’s efforts in regards to allowing local land managers to decide which trails should be open to mountain bikes in Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas is promising, but seems to be a long ways out. While IMBA hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with STC on their approach, IMBA did announce that they would take a more aggressive stance to fight unjustified trail closures such as this one, and that they’re considering legal action for this specific case in the Bitterroot National Forest. However, we’ve received no word yet on whether or not IMBA will move forward with legal action.

Stay tuned as this story develops.

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# Comments

  • bitterroot

    Thanks for spreading the word. For a little perspective imagine A stretch of mountains 70 miles long with only two trails remaining open to mountain bikes. One that climb 5000′ in 6 miles before summiting and the other a four mile one way out and back. Add in the closure of Blue Joint and you now have a 90 mile stretch of mountains essentially closed to bikes. On the other side of the valley in the Sapphires a 50 mile swath of ridge crests and forest is now closed. It’s not like hikers were lacking in places to find solitude beforehand. These closures adjoin the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness 1,300,000 acres, the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness 2,400,000 acres, and the Anaconda – Pintler Wilderness 156,000 acres.

    If you want to encourage IMBA to fight, money talks. We are fundraising for our litigation efforts at http://www.savemontanatrails.com. We estimate it will take a minimum of $100,000 to hire the kind of lawyers we need. If we sue, not only will we be taking on the Forest Service, but also the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Montana Wilderness Association, and a bunch of smaller wilderness groups you have probably never heard of. They have done this before and know how to fight in the courts. We don’t. It will be expensive. It will be ugly and it is not without risk. So for everyone who complains about IMBA not doing enough, put your money where your mouth is and pitch in. If you aren’t willing to pay up, why should IMBA. This is my battle and I’m not asking anyone to do what I’m not willing to do myself. My bike budget for the year went to pay for the initial legal review.

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