The Tahoe National Forest is quick to state that they haven’t made a “decision” or “changed their policy” on electric bikes within the forest service unit. With that said, electric mountain bikers now have a recommended list of trails to ride within the Tahoe Nat’l Forest as of last month. A PDF on the website dated June 24, 2019 lists 32 trails on five different networks that are now eMTB-accessible, ranging in both difficulty and terrain. The list of trails that allow Class 1 e-bikes includes favorites like the Pioneer Trail, Hole in the Ground and Bullards, among others.
Allowing eMTBs on select non-motorized trails within the Tahoe National Forest is notable in light of a 2015 USFS briefing paper stating that e-bikes are considered “motor vehicles” and subject to Travel Management Plan restrictions.
Public Affairs Officer Joe Flannery elaborated on the “non-change in policy. There really was no decision, and I’m saying decision with a capital D,” says Flannery. For official policy changes within the National Forest, the Forest Service must follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and conduct environmental impact statements or assessments.
“We didn’t trigger NEPA and NEPA didn’t need to be triggered.”
(Mother Lode Trails disagrees with Mr. Flannery. Adding USFS-designated motorized vehicles to non-motorized trails is a trail policy change and should trigger NEPA and their oversight.)
But, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) which surrounds the perimeter of the lake holds the stance that eMTBs “are motorized vehicles. Use of motor-assisted bicycles is only allowed on motorized trails.”
Other states are passing their own laws
Earlier this year in the states of Colorado and Washington e-bike usage was discussed in new trails plans. In Colorado, land managers seem split on whether the new law opens trails to eMTBs. In Washington, the law more clearly prohibits e-bike access on natural surface trails.
For the original article, CLICK HERE in Singletracks magazine.
If you would like to call or comment on this change of trail usage:
Tahoe National Forest
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
Supervisors Office (530) 265-4531
TNF Trails Manager
530-478-6253 x 243
Comment and call
Joe Chavez, TNF Trails Program Coordinator