Forest Service Denies Permit to Race Organizer Based on Skidding, Aggressive Riding, and Possibly a YouTube Video

According to this article at Singletracks.com:

The South Platte Ranger District, a branch of the US Forest Service (USFS) that manages the Buffalo Creek mountain bike trail network near Pine, Colorado has denied Revolution Enduro a permit to hold the second annual race in May 2019, citing potential resource damage.

Revolution Enduro was granted a trial permit in 2018 by the USFS. Afterward, the enduro raised over $900 for trail funding and remediated any trail damage that was associated with the race with a crew of trail workers. However, after review, the USFS sent a letter to David Scully, the race director for the series, denying the 2019 permit.

In the written statement they cited safety concerns for trail users because of high racing speeds, and the popularity of the Buffalo Creek trail network to the public and the inability to actually close the trails during a race.

Lastly, the USFS cites potential trail and resource damage from skidding, alternate line creation, and erosion.

What isn’t highlighted in the USFS letter is that a YouTube video may have played a part in their decision.

Here’s the video in question:

Personally, I say good for the U.S. Forest Service for denying the permit for this mountain biking race on federal public lands.

[Editors Note: The following has been edited and updated to correct some misinformation originally contained in this blog post, which originally was written in 20 minutes. – mk]

Over the past few years, the issue of mountain bike use on America’s public lands has gotten a fair amount of attention. An organization called the Sustainable Trails Coalition has been trying to weaken and amend the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions in America’s designated Wilderness areas by passing federal legislation.

So far, only very far-right Republican politicians, mainly all with League of Conservation Scores in the single digits, have supported STC’s quest to open up designated Wilderness areas to bikes and other wheels. Originally, STC’s bill (introduced in the 114th session of Congress by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)) would have potentially opened up all Wilderness areas in America to mountain bikes within 24 months of passage.

That bill, S. 3205, would have also allowed “any officer or employee of the Federal Government” to ability to use “any small-scale motorized equipment or method of mechanical transport” in Wilderness, such as chainsaws.

It’s important to point out that the text of S. 3205 makes it very clear that federal managers with the USFS, BLM, NPS and USFWS would be given a 24 month period after the date of enactment of S. 3205 to determine which Wilderness areas should be opened to mountain bikes and other wheeled devises.

S. 3205 also made it crystal clear that if the USFS, BLM, NPS and USFWS failed to determine which of the specific 767 units of America’s National Wilderness Preservation System should remain closed to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions, that the USFS, BLM, NPS and USFWS “shall” allow “any form of recreational use by nonmotorized transportation methods” within Wilderness. Here’s that specific text, taken directly from S. 3205:

(1) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law and except as otherwise provided in this section, the Secretary concerned shall authorize relevant local officials to determine, not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, all permissible forms of recreational use by nonmotorized transportation methods over any permitted route within the jurisdiction of the local official.

(2) FAILURE TO DETERMINE.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—If a local official fails to make the determination described in paragraph (1) with respect to a permitted route within the jurisdiction of the local official by the date that is 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, any form of recreational use by nonmotorized transportation methods shall be allowable on the permitted route.

It goes without saying that the federal land management agencies would be hard-pressed to complete an entire NEPA process (or some of type of open, inclusive and transparent public process) for each of the 767 Wilderness areas that are currently part of America’s National Wilderness Preservation System within a 24-month period. So for many (most? all?) of the 767 units of America’s Wilderness System the default would be to open them up to mountain bikes. Or think about it this way, of the 767 units in America’s National Wilderness Preservation System, how many specific units does the Sustainable Trails Coalition believe should be off-limits to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions, even if the bill they support would be passed and signed into law?

STC revised that bill, and the version that was originally introduced in the last, 115th session of Congress by Rep Tom McClintock (R-CA) would have immediately opened up ALL units of America’s National Wilderness Preservation System via the only language in the bill, which was as follows:

Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.”

The original McClintock bill, H.R. 1349, was amended in Committee and according to Congress.gov, the version of the H.R. 1349 reported in the House on 11/16/2018 read:

“(8) ALLOWABLE USES.—Each agency administering any area designated as wilderness may allow the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized adaptive cycles, non-motorized bicycles, non-motorized strollers, non-motorized wheelbarrows, non-motorized survey wheels, non-motorized measuring wheels, or non-motorized game carts within any wilderness area. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term ‘wheelchair’ means a device designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion, that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area.”.

So, to recap: H.R. 1349, as originally introduced – and written in partnership with the Sustainable Trails Coalition – would have immediately opened up ALL units of America’s National Wilderness Preservation System to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions, but the version of H.R. 1349 reported in the House “may allow the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized adaptive cycles, non-motorized bicycles, non-motorized strollers, non-motorized wheelbarrows, non-motorized survey wheels, non-motorized measuring wheels, or non-motorized game carts within any wilderness area.”

Meanwhile, also in the 115th session of Congress, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced S.2877 on May 17, 2018. A copy of that bill is here, and it clearly includes the following text (emphasis added):

“(3) PERMISSIBLE FORMS OF RECREATIONAL USE ON PERMITTED ROUTES.—

“(A) DETERMINATIONS BY LOCAL OFFICIALS.—

“(i) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior shall authorize relevant local officials to determine, by not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, all permissible forms of nonmotorized travel over any permitted route within the jurisdiction of the local official.

“(ii) FAILURE TO DETERMINE.—

“(I) IN GENERAL.—If a local official fails to make the determination described in clause (i) with respect to a permitted route within the jurisdiction of the local official by the date that is 2 years after the date of enactment of the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, any form of nonmotorized travel shall be allowable on the permitted route.

So, again, just like S.3205 the default (and very likely) impact of S. 2877 would be that many (most? all?) of the 767 units of America’s Wilderness System would be opened up to mountain bikes and other wheeled devices.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of opposition to opening up Wilderness areas to bikes and other wheeled contraptions, even within the mountain biking community. My organization, the WildWest Institute, was happy to join 150 conservation and Wilderness organizations from around the country in this sign-on letter to Congress last June.

As that letter said:

The 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) banned all types of mechanized transport, including bicycles, 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, the Congress stated the purpose of the Wilderness Act was, in part, to protect these areas from “expanding settlement and growing mechanization….” (Wilderness Act, Section 2[a].)

For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected wilderness areas 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 mechanization and mechanical transport. The undersigned believe that this protection has served our Nation well, and that the “benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness” would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas.

Go back up and watch that extreme mountain biking video again and this time imagine America’s designated and protected Wilderness areas turned over to this type of mechanized travel – or whatever type of mechanized travel fits under the parameters of the actual text of these STC bills (today, or in 5 years, or 20 years, or 50 years). The visionary Wilderness Act clearly banned mechanical transport, and for good reason. If the Sustainable Trails Coalition seriously thinks their bicycles – and other wheeled contraptions – have been illegal banned throughout America’s National Wilderness Preservation System, as their supporters often claim, the attorney who runs the Sustainable Trails Coalition should file a lawsuit immediately…and we’ll see what happens.

35 thoughts on “Forest Service Denies Permit to Race Organizer Based on Skidding, Aggressive Riding, and Possibly a YouTube Video”

  1. Matthew, I agree with you about this bike race, and I appreciate the Pike folks thinking about the safety of the many other trail users. Especially since I am a slow and mellow Pike trail user. Most bikers I see out there are careful and polite. But certainly racing doesn’t encourage that.

    I also think that the fact that someone introduced a bill in the House that would never make it through.. let alone through both houses, is pretty unremarkable. It makes them look good to the people supporting it, gives opportunities for outrage and apocalyptic pronouncements from others, but ultimately is a theatrical exercise and life goes on pretty much the same.

    Reply
    • Thanks Sharon.

      For whatever it’s worth, the Mountain Bikes in Wilderness Bill was introduced last session of Congress is BOTH the GOP-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate. The President, as you know, is also a Republican. In the 115th session of Congress, the bill passed out of the House National Resources Committee, but never made it to a floor vote in the House.

      I fail to see how, or why, you seem to keep thinking that bad GOP bills introduced in a Congress that was controlled by the GOP with a GOP president “would never make it through” and that it “is pretty unremarkable.” At what point do American citizens take bills in Congress seriously? Also, the word “apocalyptic” means “describing or prophesying the complete destruction of the world”…and I’m pretty sure nobody made that pronouncement about any of the “Bikes in Wilderness” bills.

      Reply
      • Matthew, I’m basing my point of view on long experience with bills in our little corner of the world (forest policy/public lands). I don’t know why it happens. Maybe because other R’s from other parts of the country don’t care enough to pass them? That’s why this bill never made it to a floor vote?

        Reply
  2. “Drink beer and throw things” ?!?!? I would not support permitting a group with this slogan on public lands for any activity.

    Reply
  3. It is pretty hilarious that Matthew Koehler’s hyper-disdain for STC continues to cloud his ability to understand facts in favor of his preferred dissemination of FUD, with the latest incarnation being this blog to attack STC based on a Singletracks.com article that has nothing to do with restoring case-by-case access for bicycling in Wilderness areas… all because he mistakenly thinks the co-founder of Singletracks.com is an STC board member. 😂🤣😂🤣

    Keep trying, Koehler! In the meantime, you ought to retract this blog as it is based on a false premise and full of inaccurate statements by you.

    Reply
    • You must be one of the Sustainable Trail Coalition folks who blocks, censors and removes substantive comments on the Sustainable Trails Coalition’s social media sites.

      Anyway, I will take your advice and I will keep trying. Thanks for the support.

      Reply
  4. This article is full of misconceptions and outright lies.

    Let’s just start with “I couldn’t help but notice that one of the photos in the Singletrack.com piece is from someone who sits on the board of the “Sustainable Trails Coalition,” ”

    There is only one credited photograph in the article. That photo is credited to Jeff Barber. Jeff Barber has nothing to do with the Sustainable Trails Coalition. This is an outright lie. Straight up.

    Now, let’s look at the next fearmongering disingenuous twisting of the facts: “TSC’s bill (introduced in the 114th session of Congress) would have immediately open up ALL Wilderness areas in America to mountain bikes.” The bill, if passed, would do no such thing. It only removes the blind blanket ban on bikes so that trails may be assessed for suitability for cycling (many of which were popular cycling routes before the areas were turned into Wilderness and there was no conflict or resource degradation.) Not a single trail would be immediately turned into a bike legal trail.

    Now let’s look at one of the oft repeated but disingenuous assessments in quoting the Wilderness Act ection 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.”” This fails on three levels. First, at the time of the creation of the Act, “mechanized transport” was specifically used to refer to motorized vehicles, not any form of human powered transport. Second, and proving the fallacy above, multiple forms of mechanized transport are allowed in Wilderness (such as boats with mechanical oarlocks and touring skis with mechanized bindings). Third and most decisively, the Act specifically sets aside Wilderness for primitive recreation and in subsequent Wilderness legislation, Congress declared cycling a wilderness activity and specifically listed cycling right alongside hiking and horseback riding as “primitive recreation,” thus removing any doubt as to intent regarding human powered transportation.

    Not a single relevant fact or bit of unbiased reasoning to be found in that diatribe.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Thanks for reading the article and providing feedback. You are correct, Jeff Barber is not on the board of directors of the Sustainable Trails Coalition. I mistakenly read the name “Jeff Barber” as “Jeff Barker” who does, in fact, sit on the STC’s board. I apologize for my mistake, and I hope anyone can notice how easy it would be to confuse those names.

      STC’s bill in the 114th session of Congress – The “Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Act” (S. 3205) – would have potentially opened up all Wilderness areas in America to mountain bikes. It also would’ve opened up Wilderness to chainsaws and wheeled devices like carts and wheelbarrows. That version of the bill gave land managers 24 months, after which “any form of recreational use by nonmotorized transportation methods [within designated Wilderness] SHALL be allowable on the permitted route.”

      Also, regarding Wilderness Act Section 4(c)…Not only do I disagree with your 3 points; but, people like Stewart Brandborg (the last surviving architect of the Wilderness Act, until he passed away last April) have clear recollection that the Wilderness Act in no way, shape or form encouraged or allowed mountain bikes. Also, just because the Wilderness Act mentions the word “recreation” once and the word “recreational” twice does not mean that mountain bikes were allowed. Is a mountain bike not a “mechanical form” of transportation?

      If you folks feel as if the federal land management agencies are illegally interpreting a law passed by Congress, why don’t you file a lawsuit? Seems like that’s what forest and Wilderness protection groups have done in the past, and with some pretty good success.

      P.S. It’s sort of funny to be accused of “fearmongering” by John Fisch, the same guy who wrote an article titled “Montana Mountain Bikers Earn a Stay of Execution.”

      Reply
  5. You can disagree all you want, but it wont change facts. You’re still ignoring the fact that there are forms of mechanized transport allowed…. forms you have no problem with. So clearly the intent was never to ban anything with a mechanical component. That’s why you have to study the actual congressional record to determine what was actually meant there. Once you actually start lobbying for removal of ALL forms of mechanized transport, then I might take your bike objection based on it being mechanized transport seriously. Until then you are just self contradictory.

    I never said that bikes should be allowed because the word recreation appeared. The key is that th Act says primitive recreation, and Congress then listed cycling as a wilderness use based on it being primitive recreation. It’s all there in undeniable black and white.

    Thank you for accurately quoting S.3205 as the black and white there perfectly refutes your lies that its passage would automatically open up all trails to cycling. Per your quote, any trail may remain closed to bikes with justification… just as land management agencies, including the USFS, already do with trails under their jurisdiction which lie outside Wilderness areas.

    And that version has since been pulled and that language removed, so throwing it out there now is blatant, and false, fearmongering. And if you don’t understand the colloquial use of “stay of execution” in context, you are incapable of rational discourse.

    Lawsuits are extremely expensive. The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club have extremely deep pockets. This is a classic case of money rather than logic or fairness making policy.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I’ve heard that the Sustainable Trails Coalition has spent about $200,000 hiring a former GOP Congressional Staffer (who now works for a right-learning lobbying firm) to lobby members of Congress to weaken and amend the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions in designated Wilderness areas.

      The STC is also run by an attorney.

      Since you and the STC seem so 100% sure that mountain bikes were (supposedly and allegedly) illegally banned from designated Wilderness areas, it would be pretty simple and straight-forward lawsuit, right? Plus, since you folks seem to think the issue is so cut-n-dry and black and white, not only would you all be pretty much guaranteed to win the lawsuit, but all the STC legal fees would be eligible for reimbursement through the Equal Access to Justice Act, right?

      Fact is lobbying Congress is much, much more expensive and time consuming than filing one simple lawsuit, especially if you are so certain that bikes have been kept out of Wilderness areas illegally because the federal land management agencies have supposedly misinterpreted the Wilderness Act.

      Finally, can you point me to the text, which you are specifically talking about here:

      “The key is that th Act says primitive recreation, and Congress then listed cycling as a wilderness use based on it being primitive recreation. It’s all there in undeniable black and white.”

      P.S. I’m pretty sure the sentence above is based on a mis-reading of the bill that designated the Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area in Montana.

      Reply
      • From the Act:
        “DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS
        (c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.”

        Item 3 in the definition refers to the type of recreation that Wilderness is to be reserved for. (btw, items 1, 2, and 4 give no indication whatsoever of any distinction that could be drawn between hikers and bikers or between the other forms of mechanized transport that ARE ALLOWED to this day.”

        From the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness Act of 1980:
        “SECTION 1. (a) The Congress finds that— 16 u s e 460ZZ.
        (1) certain lands on the Lolo National Forest in Montana have
        high value for watershed, water storage, wildlife habitat, primi-
        tive recreation, historical, scientific, ecological, and educational
        purposes. This national forest area has long been used as a
        wilderness by Montanans and by people throughout the Nation
        who value it as a source of solitude, wildlife, clean, free-flowing
        waters stored and used for municipal purposes for over a century,
        and primitive recreation, to include such activities as hiking,
        camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing, horse riding, and bicy-
        cling;”

        It’s crystal clear when it says the area “HAS BEEN USED AS A WILDERNESS FOR … PRIMITIVE RECREATION TO INCLUDE… AND BICYCLING.”

        Your ad hoc arguments mean nothing. That the lobbyist may work for what you think to be a “right-leaning” firm is irrelevant. Only the validity of the cause is relevant. This is nothing but prejudice and invalidates any claim you might have to objectivity. What you obviously don’t know is that most of the STC board is “left-leaning.” Does that make their positions valid? What about the fact that the two congressmen who wrote, sponsored, and gained approval for new Wilderness in Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds, effectively banning cyclists who had used the area for decades from trails the enjoyed and had in some cases, maintained for those years, were in fact both extremely “right leaning.” If you want to discredit someone for being right leaning, you need to do it for all who are such, even those who do what you want. Are you saying new Wilderness in Idaho was a bad thing because it was brought up by the “right leaning?” I doubt it. I’m sure you were 100% behind this establishment of new Wilderness. So you can drop your hypocritical partisan posturing right now. It only exposes you as a blind partisan hack.

        Reply
        • Thanks for taking the bait on the Rattlesnake Wilderness, John. Like I said above, I’m pretty sure your opinion is based on a mis-reading of the bill that designated the Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area in Montana….so let’s break it down.

          Here’s an official statement made by Montana Senator John Melcher during the U.S. Senate Hearing on S. 3072, A bill “To Establish the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness in the State of Montana” from September 9, 1980. This statement was made during a hearing that took place about three weeks before Senator Melcher’s bill was passed by both the House and Senate.

          “Presently, bicycle use to that point occurs and a proposal has been made to the Forest Service to allow horse-drawn wagons to operate to that point….Both of these uses, the bicycles and the horse-drawn wagons, are prohibited in the wilderness area, and that is one of the reasons I have placed the boundary at that point on Rattlesnake Creek.”

          [Note: He’s referring to the end of the “cherry stem” about 15 miles from the trailhead where Wrangle Creek merges into Rattlesnake Creek. Also, the version of the Rattlesnake bill, which was in the House and sponsored by MT Rep Pat Williams, would have actually only allowed bicycles 3 miles up the “cherry stem” not 15 miles, but that provision wasn’t in the bill that was eventually signed into law.]

          Have fun trying to twist that one around to somehow mean that in 1980 Senator Melcher (and other Congress people) thought bicycles were allowed in Wilderness, either the Rattlesnake Wilderness Congress was about to create, or just designated Wilderness in general.

          I’m sure you also realize, John, that the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and the Rattlesnake Wilderness have different management? Nowhere in the bill does it say that bicycles were/are allowed specifically in the Rattlesnake Wilderness.

          I’ve also seen some of the Sustainable Trails Coalition folks claim that mountain biking was allowed in the Rattlesnake Wilderness until at least 1991. Not only were bicycles NEVER allowed in the Rattlesnake Wilderness once it was designated, the “source” for the totally false claim that mountain bikes were allowed in the Rattlesnake Wilderness until at least 1991, was none other than this clip from a high school newspaper article written in 1991.

          Yes, unfortunately, the high school kids incorrectly state that the 15 mile ‘cherry stem’ road (now closed to motorized traffic, but open to bikes) is part of the Rattlesnake Wilderness. It 100% is not, and never was, part of the Rattlesnake Wilderness.

          Not only that, but the official statement made by Montana Senator Melcher – author of the bill – talks about that “cherry stem,” which Melcher wanted to create because Melcher knew that “Both of these uses, the bicycles and the horse-drawn wagons, are prohibited in the wilderness.”

          I should point out that during his official testimony before Congress, Ted Stroll of the Sustainable Trails Coalition repeated the incorrect information (perhaps intentionally) about the Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area. The STC has also spread this totally false information on their FB page, and the un-true information about the Rattlesnake Wilderness was included in Rep McClintock’s official House Natural Resources Committee Republican Party official report on H.R. 1349. In fact, on their FB page, the Sustainable Trails Coalition wrote: “Mountain bikers in Montana should press the Lolo National Forest management to institute a mountain biking pilot program in the Rattlesnake Wilderness. It is congressionally authorized.”

          That’s totally not true in any way, shape or form!

          Finally, I get your point about “right” and “left” leaning. However, please spare calling me a “blind partisan hack,” Ok? Please go ask Senator Tester, or Governor Bullock, or the Montana Dem Party about that. I’m very much fiercely independent and I have voted for politicians from the Dem Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, GOP, Independents, etc.

          P.S. Oh, almost forgot, back to the nuts of bolts of the policy issues. Here’s an official letter from the Lolo National Forest on this very topic:

          From: Hilshey, Al -FS
          Date: Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 12:28 PM
          Subject: Rattlesnake Wilderness Question

          Mr. Koehler,

          I received you inquiry regarding the use of mountain bikes in the Rattlesnake Wilderness as related to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness Act of 1980. I am providing you with information regarding mechanized use of the Rattlesnake Wilderness:

          The use of a bicycle is prohibited in all National Forest Wilderness. (16 U.S.C. § 1133; 36 CFR 261.18(b)).

          Section 2(a) of the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-476, 96th Congress), designated approximately 33,000 acres within the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, as Wilderness to be managed in accordance with the provisions of the Wilderness Act. (78 Stat; 16 U.S.C. 1131).

          Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act states there shall be no other form of mechanized transport.

          The Lolo National Forest Plan (1986), Standard 1 for Management Area 12 (Classified wilderness and areas proposed for wilderness) states; “Wilderness areas will be managed according to the Wilderness Act of 1964.”

          There has been no change in the management of this area. I hope this is helpful. Thank you.

          Al Hilshey
          Natural Resource Specialist
          Forest Service
          Lolo National Forest, Missoula Ranger District

          Reply
  6. A question. Were mountain bikes around when the Wilderness Act was passed and were they used in primitive areas the same way that ski bindings and oarlocks were?

    Also, subsequent statements by Congress are not often given much weight by courts in determining the intent of legislation passed by a prior Congress.

    Reply
  7. See also: https://www.outsideonline.com/2165406/five-lies-being-used-get-mountain-bikes-wilderness

    5 Lies Being Used to Get Mountain Bikes in Wilderness: A new bill would open up wilderness areas to bikes—but the arguments in favor of it don’t hold water by Christopher Solomon (from March 31, 2017)

    SNIPS:

    3. Mountain Biking Used to Be Legal in Wilderness

    The 1964 Wilderness Act is blunt: “[T]here 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.” (Emphasis added.)

    The Sustainable Trails Coalition, the group pushing the bikes-in-wilderness idea, says that its “modest reform” only turns the clock back to a time when bikes indeed were permitted in wilderness.

    “They have half of a point,” acknowledges Chris Barns, a retired wilderness specialist and BLM representative to the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center. In 1966, two years after the Wilderness Act was passed, the U.S. Forest Service wrote up its regulations to interpret and implement the act. At that time, the Forest Service was the only agency to have wilderness in its care. Its regulations defined “mechanical transport” as no different than a “motor vehicle.” That seemed to leave wiggle room for bikes. But that was an oversight, Barns says. After all, the act itself uses two different terms. The oversight was soon noticed. “They changed that soon after,” says Barns.

    Significantly, none of the other three agencies that would later oversee wilderness made the same mistake when they wrote their regulations. What’s more, Congress has had ample time to clarify the language of the act to allow bikes if it had meant to allow them, as it did to clarify the ability to graze, Barns says. And Congress hasn’t done that.

    4. Local Managers Should Make the Call

    On its first attempt, one year ago, to pry open wilderness to bikes, the STC pushed a bill that would have tried to give local land managers some discretion about where bikes could go. “[W]e are not in favor of a blanket permit” to allow bikes in wilderness, the group says on its site.

    Unfortunately, the latest bill is just that—a blanket permit: Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.” (Emphasis added.)

    The STC’s Ted Stroll told me this bill would still give land managers discretion to decide where bikes could go. “The bill does nothing to interfere with the numerous land-use regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations and federal agency policy manuals and handbooks by which the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management regulate when, where, and under what circumstances people can visit federal land,” Stroll wrote in an email, citing regulations that, for instance, rule out camping right next to lakes in wilderness areas.

    Four different experts on the Wilderness Act told me that Stroll is wrong—that the bill opens the wilderness gates to bikes, everywhere, without qualification.

    Then there’s this: wheelchairs have been allowed in wilderness since soon after the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The authors of this bill know this. Yet they added “wheelchairs” to hide their motives behind seeming to help the handicapped. Greasy? You could oil your chain.

    Reply
  8. @Jon Haber – yes, bicycles have been around and pedaled on dirt since the late 1800’s. The non-motorized wheel was invented in primeval times. Maybe somebody can explain how primitive mechanical transport such as wheelbarrows, game carts and baby carriages were also banned 20 years after the Wilderness Act was passed?

    Any impartial student of the Wilderness Act and the Code of Federal Regulations surrounding the Act will recognize that the phrase “no other form of mechanical transport” referred to non-traditional forms of motorized transport: Ski lifts, gondolas, trams, cog rails, etc., and they will agree “motorized”, “mechanical” and “mechanized” were used synonymously in the 1920’s through the 1960’s.

    “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1968

    Reply
  9. FWIW, I’d like to welcome others to this discussion as most of us aren’t following it closely and it’s always good to hear different points of view. It seems to me from the 30,000 foot level that many folks want everything to be Wilderness, even when it means kicking current users out. I’m not so sure that that’s a good idea. For one thing, people claim that current users are environmentally bad (the ones they want to kick out), but aren’t we all to some extent? And there seems to be difficulty distinguishing between “some users are bad and they should clean up their act” and “some users are bad and we should kick them all out.” I think that this is a really important difference.

    I found working with different Roadless Rules that most people don’t know what’s in and out of roadless vs. Wilderness, and many people just want a “Recreation Only But No OHV’s or snowmobiles (see Bears’ Ears) and allow chainsaws for trail maintenance.” Maybe we just need a designation for that .. Each way we work these designations, different folks get left out and form different coalitions.

    Maybe, with increasing recreation pressure everywhere, we have enough big W wilderness?

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  10. Ah… the wheelchair conspiracy. Those triggered by the concept of bicycles in some Wilderness areas always fail to look into why Congressman McClintock included the wheelchair provisions… preferring to play the ridiculous conspiracy card. Here is the explanation. It was meant to clean up inconsistencies among federal agencies:

    “For example, although section 508 of the Americans with
    Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12207) reaffirms Congress’
    intent that nothing in the Wilderness Act should be “construed
    as prohibiting the use of a wheelchair in a wilderness area by
    an individual whose disability requires use of a wheelchair,”
    a study by the National Council on Disability found differences
    across land management agencies in the use of motorized and
    non-motorized wheelchairs, and in one case a lack of policies
    regarding persons with disabilities in the NWPS”.\3\
    —————————————————————————
    \3\“Wilderness Accessibility for People with Disabilities: A
    Report to the President and the Congress of the United States on
    Section 507(a) of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” National
    Council on Disability, Dec. 1992. ncd.gov/publications/1992/
    December1992

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  11. @Sharon – You bring up very valid perspective. However, not increasing Wilderness lands is not good for the Wilderne$$ indu$try and the very vocal “Wilderness-or-Nothing” people, organizations and businesses. Donations would dry up if there wasn’t more Wilderness to “fight” for. So capping Wilderness or going with more modern designations isn’t likely for another 40 years or so. Getting Wilderness supporters in a frenzy over case-by-case bicycle access is also good for business.

    “The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” Edward Abbey

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  12. Perhaps Edward Abbey would also have said:
    “A man on foot will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the bicycle tourists can in ten miles.”

    A corollary might be that “A man on foot will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile in part because there are no motorized (or bicycle) tourists.”

    Reply
    • But that’s not what Abbey said. To repeat…

      “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

      Reply
      • What’s funny about this discussion to me as a hiker (and infrequent horseback rider), but not OHV or bike rider, is that I see more as a horseback rider as I am not looking at the ground, rocks etc. Given polite motorized and bike folks who follow the rules, though, I would prefer that OHVs were (much) quieter, and bikes a bit noisier so I could hear bikes coming and not be surprised. Hikers with off-leash dogs are more annoying to me (and likely, wildlife) than polite riders of all kinds who stay on trails. I guess to me it’s more about peoples’ behavior than their mode of conveyance.

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        • Sharon,

          I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments here. As others have pointed out, Koehler’s original piece and comments seem to contain a lot of intentionally prejudicial language, convenient omissions, and inflammatory characterizations surrounding both the Wilderness Act and the proposed legislation to amend or “clarify” it. But I tend to gravitate more toward the perspective that you are bringing, which seems to be more focused on the practical experience and outcomes associated with our land or trail management decisions.

          And there’s the rub. You and I might agree that OHVs don’t belong in Wilderness (and a number of other places, perhaps) but Mr. Koehler similarly cannot abide the thought of potentially encountering a person who might bring a bicycle into any part of 110 million acres of federal Wilderness. Yet he offers no objection to kayaks, skis, climbing gear, snow shoes, GPS, etc. For Mr. Koehler and some others, it doesn’t matter if the environmental impacts of bicycles may be similar to other, allowed uses, or that the inclusion of cyclists could significantly bolster support for conservation. What matters to them is the affront to their personal Wilderness aesthetic. Or they believe that any legislation that might allow bicycles must be part of a broader conspiracy that goes far beyond what is actually being proposed.

          While you and I may be focused on trail user behavior and ground-level impacts, Mr. Koehler believes that any support for legislation that would allow bicycles simply to be considered for case by case inclusion is, in itself, bad behavior. That’s a view that has no interest in any practical discussion of if, where, when or how bicycles might be included successfully on some Wilderness trails. Although I can understand the allure and the political expediency of sweeping exclusions like the 1984 ban against bicycles in Wilderness, I think we and the Wilderness would be better served by engaging in the harder work of discussing the potential inclusion of bicycles on a case by case basis, which is exactly what the proposed legislation would appear to allow.

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  13. SOURCE: https://www.outsideonline.com/2381951/illegal-activity-national-parks

    In Northern California’s Marin County, mountain bikers have begun poaching the singletrack in Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes….Mountain bikers in particular have long dreamed of rolling the trails in national parks and wilderness areas. The former tend to offer zero off-road access except, in rare cases, to flat “carriage roads,” while the latter ban mountain bikers (and snowmobilers) entirely. Such restrictions can be soul crushing to sports-minded visitors. “The mountain-biking access is so bad in Marin that the shutdown gives us a chance to ride trails we normally can’t get on,” says a source who didn’t want to be identified. “We’re not cutting new trails or riding steep trails that aren’t suited to bikes. We’re riding established trails that the equestrians and hikers refuse to share with us. It’s like looking at a bunch of untracked powder and not being able to ski it.”

    No, it’s actually like illegally riding your bicycle in the Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Reply
    • Matthew,

      Yep, that’s typically what happens when the public is locked out of access to public lands. We’ve been struggling to manage such violations for centuries. Perhaps you skipped the other paragraphs in the same article lamenting violations by foot travelers. And let’s be honest – the overwhelming majority of violators of trail closures or other restrictions and regulations are on foot – federal shutdown or otherwise. Now just imagine how much worse and frequent those violations would be if the hikers were permanently banned from those areas. I’m sorry this doesn’t fit with your “evil mountain bikers” narrative, but many of us see the issue of bicycles on public lands as just another of many management challenges that we all need to rise to and work together to address. Or we could just look at those pedestrian violators and decide to ban all hikers from the land.

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      • So, what members of the public are locked out of Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore? Please, be specific. Were the people who illegally rode their bicycles in parts of Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore denied access as people? Or were their bicycles denied access on these trails based on the rules that govern the management of the National Monument and National Seashore?

        Were the people riding their bicycles illegally in parts of the National Monument and National Seashore incapable of walking, or abiding by the rules, due to some condition, or emergency?

        Are there parts of Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore open to bicycles? Could the illegal bike riders not ride their bicycles in those parts of the National Monument and National Seashore?

        You also seem to mistake me for a hiking advocate and a person who thinks mountain bikes, or mountain bikers, are “evil.” None of that is true in any way. I’m a wilderness, wildlife and public lands advocate, none of which is really fueled in any way at all by any of my personal recreational pursuits. I may go a whole year without technically stepping foot in a designated Wilderness area myself. My Wilderness ethic has much more to do with biodiversity, natural processes, wildlife habitat, wild nature, ecology, protecting ecosystems and such.

        I also believe people, or corporations, or the land management agencies, or members of Congress, who violate the laws and rules when it comes to the management of America’s public lands, wilderness areas, parks and monuments should be held accountable.

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        • We’re all familiar with the “Just leave your bike at the trailhead!” argument. And when you’re prepared to insist that everyone just leave their skis, kayaks, snow shoes, climbing gear, GPS, etc. at the Wilderness boundary, then you’ll have a consistent view. As soon as you are willing to “hold accountable” foot travelers by advocating for their total exclusion from public lands based on their transgressions, then we’ll be having a good faith discussion.

          Regarding your sentiments about mountain bikes, I think your various writings and comments have made your personal disdain for “extreme” “contraptions” clear enough. You don’t want cyclists to make a “play area” out of your play area.

          But let’s get to what you say are your real concerns: “biodiversity, natural processes, wildlife habitat, wild nature, ecology, protecting ecosystems and such.” Without you being able to demonstrate – contrary to virtually all the existing science on the subject – that a cyclist has a greater negative impact on any of those ecological criteria, your opposition looks like dogma rather than discussion.

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  14. Moderators note: A comment posted to this blog by someone totally pretending to be, and impersonating, another person has been removed.

    Clearly the substance and facts of this debate and issue is too much for some of the mountain bikers who want to ride their bicycles in designated Wilderness to handle.

    Reply
    • What is the purpose of this comment? Also, this comment is being made by the same person/computer that has commented as “Eddie Abbey III.” Again, many of the Sustainable Trails Coalition supporters seem to quickly resort to grade-school like tactics when it gets too tough or uncomfortable debating the substance of public lands and Wilderness policy.

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      • All 3 listed people (Koehler, Weunthner, McMahon) are considered to be “extremists” who are obsessed with the topic of bicycles and Wilderness, particularly when the topic is mixing those 2 things in the past, present and future. There is no debate when extremists hold a position of zero compromise in the face of facts and realities. But all 3 extremists seem to enjoy the attention and clicks they receive when they post about the topic, with most input coming from thoughtful and reasonable people who politely disagree with the extremists (versus the reactive “NO BIKES EVER!” simpletons commenting in favor of the extremists’ postition).

        Reply
        • Your comment would’ve been so much better if you would have managed to get the word “extremists” in your short paragraph a few more times. As I’ve said, when you don’t have a legal or policy leg to stand on….people like you quickly resort to grade-school like tactics when it gets too tough or uncomfortable debating the substance of public lands and Wilderness policy. Thanks for proving my point.

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  15. So Matthew Koehler continues to ignore key facts.

    1. “Mechanized” as used in the 1964 Act was referring to Motorized vehicles, not any and all things with a mechanical component.
    2. Congress did specifically call out cycling as a wilderness use and listed it alongside hiking and biking as “primitive recreation” in accordance with the wording in the original Act.
    3. Other forms of human-powered , mechanized transportation are allowed in Wilderness.

    His supposed ultimate proof of those somehow being false is his letter from the USFS in response to biking in the Rattlesnake in which they say:

    “Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act states there shall be no other form of mechanized transport.

    The Lolo National Forest Plan (1986), Standard 1 for Management Area 12 (Classified wilderness and areas proposed for wilderness) states; “Wilderness areas will be managed according to the Wilderness Act of 1964.””

    And yet, other forms of mechanized transport ARE ALLOWED in the Rattlesnake. So how is it that they are managing “according to the Wilderness act of 1964” if “no other form of mechanized transport” is allowed”???

    Clearly, the use of the phrase “mechanized transport” is being cherry picked to specifically draw the line at bikes and not at other forms of human powered mechanical travel. There is NO BASIS for this. Not in the Wilderness Act. Not in logic. Not in fairness or equity. Not in science. None.

    What’s worse is the disingenuous fearmongering. Does the STC bill “Open the door” for bikes anywhere in the Wilderness. Sure. But does it make it automatic? No! The “door is open” in non-Wilderness areas, and yet there are many non-Wilderness trails that prohibit bikes, so an “open door” DOES NOT mean automatic inclusion.

    Reply

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