First of all, let me restate that I think that we don’t need mountain bikes in Wilderness. As others have said here, IMHO it’s not a battle worth fighting, nor one that is likely to be won in court. I would propose a Wilderness Timeout for sides to reorganize. Rather than arguing about what should go on in Wilderness, we should take another look at the idea of Wilderness, Roadless, and Backcountry and make up a new designation (or use an old one that fits)- because it seems to me that what we are really talking about is the need to realign based on our own needs and interests.
For those purposes, we all have to admit that mountain bikers are not part of the Wilderness deal. So why should mountain bikers support land designations from which they are excluded? If bikes were never there, I could easily see that. But we have crossed a line recently, in that areas are being recommended for Wilderness such that biking will not be allowed where it already is going on. If Wilderness advocates really believe that bikes are more environmentally destructive, then building trails for them elsewhere will potentially be equally environmentally destructive elsewhere. And there is the whole question of trust- if bikers do a deal with Wilderness advocates (Wa’s)- will Wa’s support the new trails financially? Or will at some future date, the area with the new trails will also be on the list to be designated? Is there ever an end to the “need” for more Wilderness? Can you imagine Wilderness Watch (just picking a name, I don’t know all the groups) saying “OK, we’re done, there are now x million acres, distributed throughout the US, we’re now going to work on removing OHVs from Roadless Areas, or on to some other target. ” And have the large heavily funded groups such as Sierra Club and TWS staked out positions on this (where do bikes fit in what we are advocating?).
Mountain bikers may be entering the time (perhaps calling for a Wilderness Timeout while they think about it) in which their interests diverge from other Wilderness advocates. I can understand that that would be frustrating, and bikers may be offended by feeling that you are now not quite as OK in terms of environmental purity as you were when you were on the same team. And I know that there are far smarter people than I in the Wilderness advocate world who have done the math, and think that it’s worth it to pursue more Wilderness and remove you (a strong network of possible supporters) from it.
Again my problem is not with Wilderness, but rather, if there were another land designation, say Wilderness Lite, that includes mountain bikers, why not switch to “Wilderness is fine, but where mountain bikers exist, it’s OK to have Wilderness Lite” which has chain saws and mountain bikes, but not OHV’s (perhaps), and otherwise strictly recreation. I think there is grazing in some Wildernesses so that might be OK. Like I said, I know someone, somewhere seems to have made that calculation, and decided to stick to advocating for more “pure” Wilderness, but I am not really clear why. I am interested in understanding why someone would want Wilderness rather than Wilderness Lite in those situations.