Continental Divide Trail at risk

Received via email from IMBA:

When it comes to the longest trails in the country, mountain bikes haven’t been welcome.

Congress banned bicycles from the Appalachian Trail before our sport evolved, and access to the Pacific Crest Trail was eliminated in 1988, before mountain bike advocacy had fully developed. With nearly 5,000 miles of iconic trail off-limits on either coast, mountain bikers have had to look to the Rocky Mountains for their taste of epic, backcountry riding.

The 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) is truly a unique resource for the mountain biking community. Running the spine of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, the CDNST is largely open to bikes in non-Wilderness areas. But now that appears to be in danger as well.

Take Action!
Bike access to the country’s longest shared-use trail is now in jeopardy. The Forest Service just released a draft rule that would encourage land managers to kick bikes off existing routes, and not include us on future segments. Your voice is needed to help preserve our access!

  • Send Comments – File formal comments with the Forest Service. IMBA’s simple form makes it easy.
  • Spread the Word – Rally your friends and ask them to echo your support for bike access on this outstanding trail. We need thousands of comments to hold out hope for continued access.
  • Help Maintain the CDNST – If you live or play near the CDNST, consider organizing or attending trailwork days to help build and maintain this magnificent trail.

The Forest Service’s deadline for comments is Monday, August 13.

Additional Information

The Forest Service suggests prohibiting mountain biking where our use is currently allowed on the CDNST. The proposed policy also singles out bicycling as an undesirable use that should be subject to additional scrutiny and restrictions. These include a burden of proof that bicycling “would not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST,” which the Forest Service deems to be hiking and horse travel.

IMBA believes that the Forest Service directive should not discriminate against bicycling on the CDNST. This is our chance to ask the Forest Service to include bicycling as a central focus and purpose for the trail.

The CDNST is a public trail and potential uses should be considered equally. It is unfair to discriminate against bicycling when scientific research has shown its impacts to be similar to hiking and less than equestrian use.

With 40 million participants, mountain biking is the second most popular trail activity in the country (Outdoor Industry Foundation, 2007). This large constituency helps lobby for public lands funding and donates nearly one million volunteer hours each year to trail construction and maintenance. Mountain bikers can be valuable partner for the CDNST by helping build and maintain trail, and by lobbying for its completion.

IMBA is not asking for access to the entire CDNST and respects the ban on bicycling in existing Wilderness areas. Some non-Wilderness sections may be suitable as hiking and/or horse-only, but along the 3,100 miles there is room enough for multiple uses in most areas.

Unfortunately, the newly proposed Forest Service directives specifically target only motorized and bicycle travel, even though bicycling is a quiet, low-impact, human-powered activity and science has shown the impacts of mountain bicycling to be similar to hiking and far less than horse or OHV use.

The IMBA / Forest Service Memorandum of Understanding states mountain bicycling should be managed distinctly from motorized travel. It also says mountain bicycling is appropriate in areas listed as “primitive” on the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum. These areas comprise a significant percentage of the CDNST.

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