On March 3 2017, Congressman McClintock (R-Roseville) from California introduced H.R. 1349. On one side, the Sustainable Trails Coalition, a special interest mountain bike group established in 2015, and 11 other organizations, and Rep. Tom McClintock; on the other side, the Wilderness Society and over 100 organizations. Email Rep. Tom McClintock, pro or con. Here are the arguments:
PRO From the Sustainable Trails Coalition, a mt. biking group that is working to promote H.R. 1349, a U.S. House of Representatives bill introduced by Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). STC is also working with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the planned reintroduction of his 2016 U.S. Senate bill, S.3205. Additional information on S.3205 can be found here.
The legislation’s purpose is to restore federal land managers’ authority to regulate bicycle use on Wilderness trails, as they did during the first two decades of the Act, before a blanket ban was imposed by the U.S. Forest Service. Thus, the legislation places backcountry cyclists on equal footing with campers, hikers, hunters and equestrians.
Groups that demand zero mountain biking in Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, and Recommended Wilderness, and work to expand these areas and shrink mountain biking on federal lands, are making false or misleading statements to lawmakers and the public about the bills. STC hereby presents the facts.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation will open all Wilderness trails to mountain biking.
FACT: The legislation only reverses federal agencies’ blanket bicycle bans, which rest upon a misunderstanding of the Wilderness Act of 1964. When the blanket bans are gone, agency regulations will take over, at which point land managers may enable full regulation and control of mountain biking . . . up to and including existing limitations and bans.
For example, a Forest Service regulation, unaffected by the legislation, provides that authorized Forest Service employees may “restrict the use of any National Forest System road or trail.” The other Wilderness-administering agencies—the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—have similar regulations that would remain in effect.
FALSE CLAIM: Mountain bikers are divided on bicycle access in Wilderness.
FACT: All available evidence is contrary. A survey of cyclists on Singletracks.com indicated that 96% of mountain bikers support this effort. An International Mountain Bicycling Association survey conducted in 2016 showed that in California, where Wildernesses abound, about half of IMBA members feel regaining some Wilderness access is “very or extremely important.” Only a handful of mountain bikers, whether or not IMBA members, are actively opposing bicycling in Wilderness.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation is dividing the conservation community.
FACT: This is patently false. Rather, the legislation is exposing and isolating a combination of moneyed interests and Wilderness purists who have adopted Wilderness as a revenue source or a temperance movement respectively. These selfish users of public space believe that whatever they do in Wilderness (multi-day camping, habitual off-trail use, nocturnal disturbance of animals, significant trail damage, trampling of meadows, etc.) is compatible with Wilderness values but mountain biking isn’t. These groups are incapable of assessing their own habits in Wilderness areas, most of which have far greater impact than mountain biking. For-profit commercial pack trains in particular continue to damage iconic Wilderness areas. There is no divide among reasonable conservationists.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation would materially amend the Wilderness Act of 1964.
FACT: The legislation would not accomplish this. Rather, it aims to restore the Act to its original meaning.
STC is a steadfast backer of the Wilderness Act of 1964. For example, STC opposes allowing power-assisted bicycles (e-bikes) in Wilderness, because the Act prohibits “motor vehicles” and “motorized equipment,” which e-bikes constitute. (To clarify, STC knows of no effort to introduce these devices into Wilderness.) By contrast, Congress meant for rugged, self-reliant travel to define the Wilderness experience, and human-powered mountain biking fits right in.
FALSE CLAIM: The legislation is a “Trojan Horse” making Wilderness vulnerable to development and eventual sale to private interests.
FACT: Nothing could be further from the truth. Backcountry cyclists seek the same experience as backcountry hikers and horseback riders and the legislation only grants us a possibility of that experience. Those engaging in this Chicken Little–style fear-mongering offer no evidence in support of their doomsaying.
STC urges journalists and lawmakers to challenge organizations and people who promote these false claims on Capitol Hill, in the media, and elsewhere.
ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE TRAILS COALITION
STC was founded in 2015 to reverse outdated and counterproductive blanket bicycle bans in Wilderness, Recommended Wilderness, and Wilderness Study Areas, on the Pacific Crest Trail, and on parts of the Continental Divide Trail. To find out more, please visit www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org.
Sustainable Trails Coalition, from their website, are supported by The Angry Singlespeeder, MTBR.com, Singletracks.com, New England Mountain Bike Association, Mount Hood Mountain Bikers, Folsom-Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition, San Diego Mountain Biking Association, Access4Bikes, Park City Mountain Bile.com, CORBA, Central California Off-Road Cyclists, Ride Salmon
To see the opposing statement by INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN BICYCLISTS ASSOCIATION (IMBA) against bikes in Wilderness areas, CLICK HERE
From Kevin Proescholdt, the conservation director for Wilderness Watch that spearheaded a sign-on letter to Congress in opposition to opening up the National Wilderness Preservation System to bikes and resulted in a total of 114 wilderness-supporting organizations signing on, stating that the conservation community is united in its opposition to the mountain bikers’ efforts.
Imagine hiking with your family on a wilderness trail in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon. Suddenly your peace and quiet and the natural pace of a hike in the woods are shattered by a mountain bike screaming down the trail, narrowing missing you, shattering your solitude, and startling yourselves and all wildlife in its path. Unfortunately, this scenario could soon be happening in a wilderness near you. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, recently introduced a bill in Congress at the behest of a group of mountain biking proponents that would eviscerate the 1964 Wilderness Act and allow bicycles in every Wilderness in the nation.
The bill, HR 1349, was introduced on March 15 on behalf of the mountain biker organization, the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). This bill would amend the Wilderness Act to allow bikes, strollers, wheelbarrows, game carts, survey wheels, and measuring wheels in every unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
In an especially cynical and disingenuous move, the mountain bikers seem to hide behind people with disabilities in their effort to make America’s wildest places merely a playground for cycling.
The mountain bikers list “motorized wheelchairs” and “non-motorized wheelchairs” as the first uses to be authorized in Wilderness under their bill (even prior to the listing of “bicycles”), though the 1990 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have clearly allowed wheelchairs in designated wilderness for more than a quarter-century.
Sustainable Trails had a bill introduced last year in the U.S. Senate by the two Utah Senators, Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, whose lifetime conservation voting records as compiled by the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters are just 9 percent and 10 percent respectively. Fortunately, last year’s bill went nowhere.
Unfortunately, the new bill could very well advance in the current anti-wilderness Congress, allied with the new administration that seems hostile to environmental protection.
McClintock, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee whose lifetime conservation voting record is 4 percent, also chairs that panel’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands. This places him in a significant position of leadership and could mean that this year’s mountain-bike bill might well advance in Congress.
Last year, anticipating the 2016 Senate bill to open wilderness to mountain bikes, Wilderness Watch spearheaded a sign-on letter to Congress in opposition to opening up the National Wilderness Preservation System to bikes.
It resulted in a total of 114 wilderness-supporting organizations from around the nation signing on, clearly showing that the conservation community is united in its opposition to the mountain bikers’ efforts.
The 1964 Wilderness Act prohibits bicycles in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The law bans all types of bicycles as well as all other forms of mechanical transportation in designated wilderness. Section 4(c) of that act states, “[T]here shall be…no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.”
Furthermore, Congress stated the purpose of the Wilderness Act was, in part, to protect these areas from “expanding settlement and growing mechanization….”
In a deft use of “fake news,” the mountain bikers have claimed that the Wilderness Act actually allows bikes in wilderness. They claim that the U.S. Forest Service put the ban in place in 1984 when the agency explicitly named bicycles as one of the prohibited forms of mechanical transport in wilderness.
The agency’s earlier wilderness regulations, written in 1965, did not specifically name bikes as a prohibited use since mountain bikes had not yet been invented.
These false claims (among many others by the STC) ignore the clear language of the Wilderness Act and the regulations of the other three federal agencies that have from the beginning clearly banned bikes from the wildernesses they administer.
The STC arguments also evince an incredibly narrow and selfish view of wilderness as just a recreation “pie” to be divided up among competing recreation user groups, with seemingly no regard for wildness, wildlife habitat, solitude or future generations’ desires for truly wild wilderness.
For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected these areas designated by Congress from mechanization and mechanical transport, even if no motors were involved with such activities. This has meant, as Congress intended, that wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of machines.
Wilderness advocates believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the “benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness” (as the Wilderness Act eloquently declares) would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas.
Kevin Proescholdt is the conservation director for Wilderness Watch, a national wilderness conservation organization, www.wildernesswatch.org. He loves the wildernesses of the High Sierra. To read this May 15, 2017, article in the Fresno Bee, CLICK HERE.
Below are the 114 organizations that co-signed the letter to Congress who were in support of banning mechanical transport in Wilderness:
PROTECT WILDERNESS FROM BIKES
Adirondack Wild, Friends of the Forest Preserve • Aldo’s Silver City Broadband • Alliance for the Wild Rockies • Alpine Lakes Protection Society • Amargosa Conservancy • Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc. • Arizona Wilderness Coalition • Big Wild Adventures • Big Wild Advocates •Blue Ridge Land Conservancy • Boise Broadband • Bozeman Broadband, • Buckeye Forest Council • California Chaparral Institute • California Wilderness Coalition • Californians for Western Wilderness• Cascade Volcanoes Broadband • Conservation Congress • Conservation Northwest • Cook I nletkeeper • Environmental Protection Information Center • Fairmont Minnesota Peace Group • Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs •Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics • Friends of Allegheny Wilderness • Friends of Bell Smith Springs • Friends of Nevada Wilderness • Friends of Sylvania Wilderness • Friends of the Bitterroot • Friends of the Clearwater • Friends of the Wild Swan • Georgia ForestWatch • Gifford Pinchot Task Force • Grand Junction Area Broadband • Great Plains Restoration Council • Greater Wasatch Broadband • Harding Land Trust • Heartwood • Hells Canyon Preservation Council • High Country Conservation Advocates • High Sierra Hikers Association • Hunters for Predators • Idaho Environmental Council • Idaho Rivers United • Kentucky Heartwood • Kettle Range Conservation Group • Klamath Forest Alliance • Kootenai Environmental Alliance • Lands Council • Massachusetts Forest Watch • Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy • Moab Broadband • Montanans for Gallatin Wilderness • Mountain Bikers for Wilderness • New Mexico Wilderness Alliance • North Cascades Conservation Council • North Fork Preservation Association • Northeast Wilderness Trust • Northern San Juan Broadband • Olympic Park Associates • Palouse Broadband • Phoenix Broadband • Polly Dyer Cascadia Broadband • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) • Quiet Use Coalition • RESTORE: The North Woods • Rewilding Institute • Rio Grande Valley Broadband • River Runners for W ilderness • Roaring Fork Valley Broadband • San Juan Citizens Alliance • Save America’s Forests • Save Our Canyons • Save Our Sky Blue Waters • Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association • Scholarly Brass Editions • Selkirk Conservation Alliance • Selway Pintler Wilderness Back Country Horsemen • Sequoia ForestKeeper • Shawnee Forest Sentinels • Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute • Sleeping Bear Naturally • South Florida Wildlands Association • South Park Broadband • Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance • Speak Up for Wildlife Foundation • Steamboat Springs Broadband • Swan View Coalition • Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning • Tennessee Heartwood • Teton Valley Broadband, Great Old Broads for Wilderness • 3 Great Lakes Broadband • Tucson Broadband • Tuleyome • Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition • Walden Woods Project • Wasatch Mountain Club • Western Lands Project • Western Watersheds Project • Western Wildlife Conservancy • White Mountain Conservation League • Wild Connections • Wild Utah Project • Wild Virginia • Wild Wilderness • WildEarth Guardians • Wilderness Watch•Wilderness Workshop • WildWest Institute • Willamette Valley Broadband • Wyoming Back Country Horsemen of America • Wyoming Wilderness Association • Yellowstone to Uintas Connection