In a statement released yesterday, the San Diego Mountain Bike Association (SDMBA) publicly voiced their disapproval and opposition to IMBA’s stance on not fighting for mountain bike access in Wilderness areas.
Despite being headquartered in the metropolis of San Diego, SDMBA argues that the Wilderness issue is critical for all mountain bikers living in California:
With over 42% of all Federal Wilderness (lower 48) residing in CA, OR and WA, we experience the vast majority of trails closures due to designation of Wilderness and Recommended Wilderness. Lands proposed for these designations tend to be pristine backcountry areas, the very areas mountain bikers as well as other trail users care about and want to recreate in. Mountain bikers have already lost access to vast tracts of land in the west, and in areas such as Southern California we have virtually no access to long distance backcountry routes. New Wilderness proposals are being brought forward continuously. Introduction of the Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule requires every National Forest to inventory lands with Wilderness Character and consider designating such lands as Recommended Wilderness.
SDMBA is very concerned that we will continue to lose access to our most cherished riding areas. Recent closures in Idaho and Montana prove that IMBA’s strategies are not working, and we are not optimistic that IMBA will be able to halt the losses. Bicyclists simply do not have the same clout as other interest groups when it comes to influencing land management plans. SDMBA feels the only way to level the playing field is to change the rules.
SDMBA’s statement is noteworthy, as they are one of the first IMBA Chapters to vocally oppose IMBA’s position on this matter. While NEMBA has been vocal in their opposition, they are not an IMBA Chapter. FATRAC, BONC, CORBA, and SWIMBA are additional Chapters that have supported the Sustainable Trails Coalition in one form or another, and have voiced their disapproval of IMBA’s position on Wilderness.
In all of the recent verbiage from IMBA, the focus on Chapters and the emphasis that IMBA places on working with, supporting, and protecting their Chapters is significant. Consequently, having SDMBA, a major Chapter, come out in opposition to IMBA’s Wilderness position is a substantial vote of disapproval.
However, SDMBA doesn’t go so far as to revoke their IMBA membership or to encourage others to do the same. Instead, they close by saying,
“SDMBA asks IMBA to reverse its out of touch anti-bike stance within Wilderness and form a partnership with STC based on their common sense approach. We urge IMBA to embrace and advocate for the 96% of MTB riders who loudly proclaimed their desire for bikes to be included within strategically agreed upon Wilderness trails – http://www.singletracks.com/blog/trail-advocacy/96-of-mountain-bikers-think-wilderness-should-be-opened-to-bikes. . . .We no longer believe IMBA has our back on this extremely important issue for our Chapter and we accordingly support STC’s legislative efforts and encourage our brethren IMBA chapters to do the same who share our concerns about reasonable access to Wilderness.”
While SDMBA may disagree with IMBA’s stance, it appears that they hope to effect change from within the organization.