Nobody bit on my late comment on the Tenmile South litigation (Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest):
One piece of this decision is new to me: “My decision also includes restricting bicycle travel to system roads and trails.” Prohibiting bikes off-trail seems obvious, but it was criticized, and I wondered if this is commonly being addressed in travel planning.
I know there’s some readers with opinions on this, so I’ll try again. Here’s the same decision on the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest, captured in this headline “New rule in Arapaho National Forest limits bikes to designated trails:”
On Monday, the Forest Service announced that bicycles will no longer be allowed off designated trails and roads in the Sulphur Ranger District, which covers the Arapaho National Forest. The restriction applies to all kinds of bikes in both the summer and winter.
“A key aspect of this project is to balance all these trail improvements with the conservation of wildlife habitat, watersheds and other natural resources we value,” Ranger Jon Morrissey said. “Part of finding that balance is curbing the proliferation of user-created routes and keeping the impacts to the trails system so that wildlife and other resources can thrive.”
Off-trail use is how user-created trails are created, right? (And I’ll argue it takes a lot fewer bike users – like maybe one – to create a trail than foot users.) And the impacts of user-created trails seem like they would be not wanted on public lands just about everywhere. Yet there is no specific requirement for the Forest Service to address this problem like there are regulations for motorized use that require travel planning and designation of routes. So while there are designated system trails, there is apparently no requirement for bikes to stay on them. Should there be a national prohibition? Should forest plans identify areas where off-trail use is a desired condition?