I’ve been researching access issues related to National Forests for outdoor recreation and other personal uses (think berry picking, or firewood cutting). In my efforts to give examples of the Forest Service reducing access, I found this piece by John Fisch in 2016.
Since I know many Montanans read and contribute to this blog, I’m especially interested in your opinions of this piece.
Anti-cycling forces have long used lobbying clout and legal action to close longstanding cycling routes to cyclists. Nowhere have they been as successful in doing so as they have in Montana, which has seen the loss of hundreds of miles of outstanding singletrack access to cyclists in recent years. In a state which already has Wilderness area totaling more than 3.4 million acres, including a single Wilderness complex as large as the entire state of Delaware, anti-cycling lobbies have teamed with sympathetic judges to remove quiet, human-powered, low-impact mountain biking from vast tracts of non-Wilderness land as well. The trend has carried over into recent United States Forest Service (USFS) travel plans governing non-Wilderness lands. The most recent losses come courtesy of the Bitterroot National Forest Travel Plan. The Bitterroot National Forest, which is already comprised of nearly 50% Wilderness, increases mechanized restriction to an additional 200,000 acres, all of which was previously accessible to motorized and mechanized travel.
Now, a consortium of affected user groups has sought to challenge this trend in court by bringing suit against the USFS for their “arbitrary and capricious decision.” Not just a mountain bike issue, the suit is brought forth on behalf of seven recreation groups with total membership in excess of 13,000 individuals, including the Bitterroot Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club; Ravalli County Off-road User Association; Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists; Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association; Montana Snowmobile Association; Citizens for Balanced Use; and Backcountry Sled Patriots. IMBA opposed the decision and coauthored a letter of objection to the USFS, but has not chosen to be a party to the recently filed suit.
Fisch’s critiques of the decision are found later in the piece. I don’t really want to talk about the Bikes in Wilderness controversy here, but I’m interested in what you all know about this and other FS decisions (around the country) that have reduced mountain bike access.