The closure of the Boulder-White Clouds to mountain bikes thanks to its new Wilderness designation and the coincidentally-timed launch of the Sustainable Trails Coalition is brewing a controversy of epic proportions in the mountain bike and conservation world. But that storm of controversy may also create the critical winds of change. I’ve written about this topic already–if you missed it, you can check out my article, here.
Admittedly, this is a controversial topic, even in the mountain biking community. Some commentators have asked me to reconsider my position, and others have cursed me up and down for my take on the topic.
I just want to let everyone know: I’ve spent some time reconsidering my position. I’ve reconsidered, and I’ve decided that the opinion piece that I penned before may have been too mild. I’m now only more passionate about getting mountain bikes into Wilderness.
Personally, I think this is a topic that should be of major importance to the entire MTB community. It does my heart good to see anyone and everyone covering this topic–and some other mountain bike media outlets and writers that I respect have been doing a fantastic job. First, Kurt Gensheimer, the Angry Singlespeeder, wrote on MTBR about the Sustainable Trails Coalition. While he made his position known, this is actually one of the more level-headed articles I’ve read from him–I think it’s extremely well-reasoned.
Next up, Vernon Felton and Bike Magazine have released the video above–and they have more coverage on the way both in print and digital. Here’s a link to the original video and explanation, but I’ve copied the key info below for your convenience. Be sure to investigate the articles that Vernon has linked to:
What the hell is this video about? Well, hopefully it speaks for itself–it’s both about the recent loss of some of the best riding in the western United States and about the larger issue of why mountain biking in wilderness areas is illegal. Or to put it simply, this is a video about why you should give a damn about a topic you may not have thought much about before.
What we’ve created is, I’ll readily admit, a fairly short video about an amazingly complex subject. That’s because The Golden Rule of Video says something along the lines of “Thou shalt not bore the crap out of the audience.” We tried to toe that line while still giving you enough grist to form your own opinion.
That said, if you’re itching for more background on the ban on bikes–how it happened, why it happened, and the rationale for it—check out this story here.
Want to see those studies I refer to, which show that bikes have no more negative effect on trails and wildlife than hiking? Read this summary of the science.
What’s happening in Montana with the trail closures? Check this out.
But rest assured, you’ll also be seeing a full-length feature story on this subject in Bike’s print and digital magazine in the near future and it will, I promise, go in-depth with members of the Sierra Club, IMBA and the emerging Sustainable Trails Coalition—a group which is aiming to go at the bike ban from a different angle than IMBA.
We’re just getting started here.
Do you want to ride your bike in Wilderness as well? Donate to the Sustainable Trails Coalition Now!
I think part of the problem is the mainstream exposure to mountain biking are events like Red Bull Rampage wherein areas are being trampled and “trails” are being made by the rider to get down a plateau the quickest. Perhaps where we are failing isn’t in advocating to the Federal government and landowners but we are failing in how we present ourselves to the public. Who is our spokespeople? It is downhill riders that race down a mountain side (and I agree that downhill courses are part of ski resorts and therefore it isn’t detrimental to the environment), but we are not championing how mountain biking is beneficial and of minimal impact to the wildlife or the environment in the areas we ride. Videos like this one need to get air time on Sunday morning newscasts that reach millions of people. The people that have seen this video now are people that are already aware of how mountain biking benefits local communities and allows mountain bikers to access areas more quickly and efficiently than hiking (without the impact of equestrians).
I want to know how much the local economies have been effected in the communities surrounding Boulder-White Clouds since the area has been deemed Wilderness. That guy from Sierra Club is a joke too.
The Mountain Bike community finally cares because we lost some super trail. As an off-road motorcycle rider this issue has been a major issue for years. I understand the non-motorized vs non-mechanical differences, but motorcycles do not have that much more impact than mountain bikes and I have seen way more trail maintenance done in national forests by motorcycle riders than mountain bikers until recently. I do not think I have ever seen a backpacking or equestrian group out working on trails. To me, that is the crime. Having users willing to do the necessary work and not letting them so you end up with illegal and completely destroyed trails. Getting mountain bike access to wilderness would be a great thing and I am all for it. I do not think it will ever happen, just look at how those hikers look at you when you pass them, even on a mountain bike trail. I hope it gets fixed, but I fear it is too late, just like it is for motorcycles. One the government takes, it rarely gives back.Mountain bikers should have been screaming about this for years and fighting wilderness designation everywhere, except in the most sensitive of areas. What use are beautiful places if no one can see them.
Cbrenth, you’re right that we should have been doing this long ago. But better late than never. Personally, I’m optimistic. Most members of Congress and their staffs probably don’t know that bicycles and even baby strollers are banned from Wilderness, or that Wilderness now occupies about as much land as all of California plus half of New England. It seems that they’re about to find out. We’ll see what happens when they do.
I was going to post my opinion on the topic, then I saw your post. Not much more to say than what you already said. I’m a long time mountain and dirt biker, who also enjoys hiking and camping. Sadly, I don’t think the environmentalists will rest until only foot traffic is allowed, at best, in the wilderness areas. In fact, I think their end goal might be the elimination of mtn biking and dirt biking in the vast majority of now legal areas. SUWA in Utah is a good example of a group that would probably like nothing more than to see dirt bikes and mountain bikes banned from most of Southern Utah, if not the rest of the state.
Welcome to the fight that has been going on for decades about motorized travel in wilderness and non-wilderness areas. I’m both a MTB rider and offroad driver. Declaring a area wilderness takes the rights away from everybody. While we have been fighting for access to existing roads, there was no support from any other user groups. Now that it is affecting other users, the sky is falling. Don’t expect any changes. Since the government has little to no budget for recreation areas, it’s cheaper to declare a area wilderness than maintain it for any use other than hiking.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, it’s time to stop whining about this issue. Im a long-time MTBiker and have used public lands as my playground for almost three decades. There is no good reason to allow mountain biking in wilderness areas. Leave those areas out from being subject to having fat tire tracks all over the trails. That clearly takes away from what setting aside these areas was meant for. Public land in this country has an endless supply of trails and scenic vistas to explore. In fact, one could spend a lifetime on these trails alone without going into wilderness areas. Mountain biking should not be permitted in wilderness areas. Period. It would be a shameful day in this country if it were ever allowed.
Any land deemed “Wilderness” by the Bureau of Land Management is public land. It is owned by me, you, and every other taxpayer in this country. A fat tire bike won’t do anymore damage than any other bike and will do far less damage than a horse or mule. I recently thru-hiked the Grand Canyon and was amazed at how nasty the trails were on the South Rim from the mules whereas the trails on the North Rim were less traveled and in better condition (and no mules until the last mile and those trails were nasty too).
The argument here is BLM taking land that was once open to mountain bikers and categorizing it differently so that user-group is unable to have access any longer. Why not place a caveat in this designation so mountain bikers can retain user status? Again, I want to see a study done to see if there is an impact to the local economies due to the Wilderness designation now that MTB’ers won’t be traveling to these trails.
Actually, the reverse is true–there is no reason to deny MTB use in Wilderness.
Tracks? Boots leave tracks. Hooves leave tracks (deep ones at that). The owners of those hooves also leave other, far more unsavory things behind as well! The “setting” is no more altered by a tire than any a number of things pedestrians do.
“Public land in this country has an endless supply of trails and scenic vistas to explore.”
And MTBs are excluded from as much of 85% of our backcountry (depending on the state). That unfair, irrational, and selfish (by those who retain the privileged status to be able to keep it unto themselves) situation is truly the architect of the “shameful day” we currently live under.
Thank goodness for the Wilderness Act. Save our parks, forests and species from further decay. Haters of the Act are just looking for a thrill and are only concerned with their own gratification. Think about the big picture rather than just one’s self.
The typical falsely prejudicial diatribe that misses the mark on all counts.
First, bikes have been proven to have similar impact on trails as boots and far less than horses.
Second, cycling has proven to be equally or less disturbing to most species than pedestrians (after all that’s who carries guns). Whether it’s bald eagles, bighorn sheep or bears, the effect by bikes is equal or less.
Third, the same goes for fauna, especially since bikes are far less likely to go off trail than hikers or equestrians.
” . . . and are only concerned with their own gratification.”
Interesting comment when it’s hikers who have access to 100% of our backcountry while bikes have access to as little as 15% of our backcountry (depending on the state), and said privileged, elitist hikers go to extreme lengths and major heavy duty lobbying to protect that privileged status–heaven forbid their gratification be disturbed by something so heinous as a bicycle!!!
“Haters of the Act .. ”
Typical use of falsely prejudicial verbiage. Nobody here hates the Act–we would just like to see it returned to its original intent, something you need to study before you make such a statement.
“are just looking for a thrill .. . ”
Another false statement. Backcountry bikers share the same conservation ethos as backcountry hikers. Solitude, scenery, peace and the pleasures of enjoying the outdoors are our goals, same as you.
“Think about the big picture rather than just one’s self.”
I and my fellow members of this movement do . . . always. The fact is that there is no difference in impact and if one is allowed, so should both be. If one should not be allowed, than neither should. If we need to restrict human presence, than we’re all for it . . . so long as we do it in a fair and equitable way.
Preach it brother. Wish I had the money to buy you some air time.