USFS Releases new eMTB Ruling Requiring Reclassification of Non-Motorized Trails to Motorized for Access

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The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released their long awaited direction on e-bike trail access. The decision will continue to allow e-bikes on motorized roads and trails and “lays out a process to evaluate future requests for expanded access,” according to a press release from the agency. The decision also outlines the required environmental analysis and public input needed before expanding e-bike access at the local level.

“National forests and grasslands are a place for all people to recreate, relax and refresh,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore in the release. “The additional guidance will help our district rangers and forest supervisors better serve their communities with a policy that allows managers to make locally based decisions to address e-bike use. This growing recreational activity is another opportunity to responsibly share the experience of the outdoors with other recreationists.”

The guidance is similar to what the National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided, in that local districts have the ultimate say to allow e-bikes on non-motorized trails or not.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) applauded the USFS for finalizing the ruling and incorporating some of IMBA’s recommendations, but isn’t pleased with how the decision will reclassify non-motorized trails to motorized trails when e-bikes are allowed.

“The final rule has some great elements:” wrote Todd Keller in an IMBA blog post. “it requires a local public process to adequately collect local sentiment on possible pros and cons of eMTB access, through NEPA and Travel Management planning; it distinguishes between class 1, class 2 and class 3 eMTBs to ensure quality experiences for all trail users; and it manages eMTBs as a new category, separate from traditional mountain bikes. These steps are all in line with IMBA’s recommendations.”

The ruling doesn’t create an exclusion for eMTBs though and the directives would reclassify non-motorized trails to motorized to allow e-bike access on non-motorized trails.

“This will create funding complications, lead to increased user conflicts, and fundamentally change non-motorized trail allocations across the forest system.”

IMBA is working on an analysis of the new travel management plan to boil down key points and help IMBA Local partners understand the ruling and implementation. We’re reaching out to IMBA and to the USFS to get more clarification on what some of the language in the new travel management plan means.

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