US Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced Senate bill 1686 recently which seeks to “amend the Wilderness Act to allow local Federal officials to determine the manner in which nonmotorized uses may be permitted in wilderness areas, and for other purposes.” Similar bills have been introduced by Sen. Lee beginning in 2016, though none have managed to make it to the floor for a vote. The latest bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
In a press release, the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) says the bill “would remove federal agencies’ blanket bans on bicycling in Wilderness and restore a prior Forest Service rule that allowed line officers to treat bikes as they do horses, hikers, campers, and hunters—i.e., allow or prohibit access based upon local conditions.”
According to the STC, “the Forest Service and Interior Department both agree that this reform is necessary. They believe that the Wilderness Act of 1964 required them to ban bicycles, baby strollers, and hunters’ game carts in Wilderness. But they welcome the flexibility that Senator Lee’s legislation would give them.”
The full text of the latest proposed bill is not yet available. The bill was first introduced on May 18, 2021 and the official US Congress website notes “bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from GPO, the Government Publishing Office, a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.”