Ironically, Wilderness Areas are accessible to anyone so long as they leave behind their mechanical transportation.
It appears that Mr. Gensheimer hasn’t read the Wilderness Act.
The Wilderness Act’s opening paragraph states: “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” To read Kurt Gensheimer's opinion, go here:
The Act further goes on to state that “there shall be no temporary road, 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.”
A bicycle is a form of mechanical transportation and part of the “growing mechanization” that the Wilderness Act was established to preclude.
Mr. Gensheimer says the Wilderness Act did not explicitly ban bicycles so he argues that means bicycles should be legal in wilderness areas.
However, the Act also does not explicitly ban snowmobiles, jet skis, four wheelers, hovercraft, skateboards, helicopters, and a host of other forms of “mechanical transport”. Just because these things are not explicitly mentioned does not mean they are therefore legal.
It would be like claiming that the First Amendment Freedom of the Press does not apply to television or radio because the Constitution only mentions freedom of the “press” implying printing presses.
Mr. Gensheimer’s assertion that the Forest Service put in place a ban on bicycles in 1984 is also incorrect. The Forest Service was only clarifying what the 1964 Wilderness Act stated about mechanical transport.
It is always interesting to observe that mountain bikers tend to believe that our public lands are merely there as outdoor gymnasiums for their recreational use.
However, it is clear from reading the Wilderness Act as well as the commentary which leads up to the Act that the prime purpose of the Wilderness Act is not to provide recreational opportunities, rather again the Act specifically states that its prime purpose is to “preserve the wilderness character and the resource of wilderness.”
Howard Zanhiser who wrote the Wilderness Act wrote: ” I believe we have a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”
Racing down a trail on a mountain bike, eyes glued on the path ahead, is not preserving wilderness character.
Finally, Mr. Gensheimer says that mountain bikers will support more wilderness if they are allowed to ride their bikes in wilderness areas.
Using that same logic, one could suggest that if logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, dams on rivers, four wheelers, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, four-wheel drive trucks, and so forth were allowed in wilderness areas, there would be almost universal support for wilderness designation.
Of course, if we permitted all these activities, there would be no wildlands left. What he doesn’t get is that using a bike diminishes the wilderness qualities of the area that Congress clearly intended to preserve.
Wilderness designation and preservation is about self-restraint and humility. It’s about sharing the land with other creatures. Only 2.7% of the lower 48 states is designated wilderness. Is it too much to ask that these lands be set aside primarily to provide for the rest of the life on the planet which are fellow travelers?
CLICK HERE to see the complete article in the Wildlife News.
Photo credit: Enduro Mountainbike magazine