USFS press release received today is shown below. The Federal Register notice says little about the proposed regs, except:
The Forest Service’s proposed directive revisions align with the 27 States and DOI’s proposed e-bike rules in adopting a standard definition for an e-bike and a three-tiered classification for e-bikes and align with DOI’s proposed e-bike rules in requiring site-specific decision-making and environmental analysis at the local level to allow e-bike use.
In particular, the proposed revisions would add a paragraph to Forest Service Manual (FSM) 7702 to establish promotion of ebike use on NFS lands as an objective; [emphasis mine]
From BLM’s proposed rule:
The proposed rule would direct authorized officers to generally allow, through subsequent decision-making, Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, where appropriate. The authorization for Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion to be used on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, would be included in a land-use planning or implementation-level decision. Such decisions would be made in accordance with applicable legal requirements, including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under the proposed rule, where an authorized officer determines that Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes should be allowed on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, such e-bikes would be excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) and would not be subject to the regulatory requirements in 43 CFR part 8340. Additionally, e-bikes excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) would be afforded all the rights and privileges, and be subject to all of the duties, of a non-motorized bicycle. Under the proposed rule, authorized officers would not allow e-bikes where mechanized, non-motorized bicycles are prohibited.
Washington D.C., Office of Communication
USDA Forest Service Issues Proposed Guidance to Manage E-Bike Use on National Forests and Grasslands
Washington, Sept. 24, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service is requesting public input on proposed updates to the agency’s internal directives on how e-bikes are managed on national forests and grasslands. These proposed updates are in alignment with the Secretary of Agriculture’s direction to increase access to national forests and grasslands, and would provide needed guidance for line officers to expand e-bike access while protecting natural resources and other forest uses.
“Serving our customers and honoring our multiple-use mission is at the heart of how we propose to manage e-bike use,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Developing consistent, straightforward guidance on this increasingly popular recreational activity will protect resources, promote safety, and increase access to national forests and grasslands for a wider range of users.”
The Forest Service currently manages approximately 159,000 miles of trails across the United States for a variety of recreational uses. An estimated 60,000 miles of those trails – about 38% – are open for e-bike use. Other land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, also allow for e-bike use on a combined 34,000 miles of trails.
The steady advancement in technology and the continued increase in popularity has led to an uptick in e-bike use on federally-managed land. In response, federal agencies are considering options for expanding access and facilitating their use. The proposed updates to Forest Service directives will generally align with proposed changes at other federal land management agencies.
The proposed directives would categorize e-bikes by class, allowing line officers at the local level to more precisely designate trails for e-bike use in a way that mitigates potential impacts on resources. The proposed directives also include e-bike definitions that are consistent with the Travel Management Rule (36 C.F.R. 212).
The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed directives. The text of the proposed directives are available in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to comment are available at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?project=ORMS-2619. Members of the public may also contact Penny Wu (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make comments.