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The Fight For Mountain Bike Trail Access In 2016

Foreground and background go well together–as they should. Flickr Crested Butte photo.

If you like mountain biking and go charging around state parks, federal land, private trusts, gravel pathways or wherever; somebody manages that land you're riding on. And right now they are deciding whether you belong there or not. Strong pressure, and rhetoric, against your access is on land managers.

But what’s a land access fight really about: your right to enjoy the outdoors on a bike, your rights versus business interests, protecting the environment, petty legislative squabbling? A bit of all that actually and, make no mistake, the issue is serious. 

At its core, access is about reasonably balancing protection and usage. Without protection or some sort of management, America's wilderness areas will be abused for profit and destroyed. That’s the way we humans work. But too much protection and nobody can use it for anything. If properly protected, we'll all get to enjoy it for reflection and recreation, but it remains 'wild'. Worst case scenario is wilderness becomes a legislated privilege available only to some but not others.

Unfortunately, mountain bikers are currently on the wrong side of the balance. Despite playing (mostly) nice for 30 years we find ourselves in the environment abuser/destroyer camp, restricted from much of America's wilderness. Let’s move through some relevant background info quickly and then (further below) take action to help us all mountain bike, hike and coexist going forward.

How Federal Wilderness Came To Be

Yosemite is one of many natural spaces that is federally protected from personal and commercial use. Flickr photo.

Following pressure from naturalist and wilderness advocacy groups, the Wilderness Act of 1964 designated certain U.S. areas as strictly protected from commercial interests. Again, that’s a good thing. We don’t want federal land used for predatory toxic waste dumping, fracking, clear-cutting, strip mining, etc.

Specifically, the act did 3 things:

#1: Created a way for Congress and Americans to designate "Wilderness Areas." That designation would represent our nation's most stringent form of land protection. The areas include any land under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government: national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. No roads, motorized vehicles [emphasis added], commercial activity like logging or mining, or permanent structures were to be allowed in these designated Wilderness Areas.

#2: Created the National Wilderness Preservation System to manage these protected wilderness areas. This System leverages the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

#3: Immediately put 9.1 million acres of wild American lands into this National Preservation System for protection. Today, the amount of land has grown to roughly 109 million acres within 762 individual Wilderness Areas.

The Act also succinctly and beautifully defines wilderness :

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own 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.

We need space where ecosystems remain intact and evolve organically, where wildlife can go unmolested and a place where we as a people can reconnect with nature and be at peace. So… we leave it alone. And for 20 years, we were all able to bike, hike, ride horses and enjoy these areas together.

Then, in 1984, We Got The Boot

In In 1984 mountain bikers got the boot from places like Grand Teton National Park. Ryan Dunfee photo.

In 1984, the Wilderness Act was reinterpreted by the US Department of Agriculture/Forest Service because of pressure from The Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society to specifically ban bicycles from Wilderness Areas. They don’t (or didn't) like mountain bikes.

The relevant provision reinterpreted in the Act is Section 4(b), which prohibits all "use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport..." The initial USDA interpretation of that section was “Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device." [emphasis added] Of course this explicitly defined restricted motorized and/or mechanized travel as any conveyance propelled by a non-living power source. Specifically, motors. 

That original regulation language probably came from a discussion in 1964 about what "mechanical transport" actually means. A bicycle is certainly a machine which provides mechanical advantage to propel us faster than we could go on two legs. Though Congress was most certainly NOT thinking about regulating bikes in 1964. And, obviously, neither was the Forest Service. The four agencies responsible for implementing the Act had broad discretion to each define terms on their own—though why four separate agencies enforce the act, and why they were given broad discretion to interpret it, is anyone's guess.

Regardless, in 1984, the USDA Forest Service reinterpreted  mechanical with language amending the definition to include "...or is a bicycle or a hang glider.” Yes, just that simple bit was added in ‘84 for designated Wilderness areas.

In their defense, there was not a lot of data that showed mountain biking's impact one way or another and the USDA was under pressure to do something. They were just being cautious, I guess.

Unfortunately one domino tips others. The other three agencies that manage wilderness–the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service–soon also reinterpreted  'mechanical' to mean 'bicycle'. And out the door we went.

Maddeningly, all current research shows mountain biking does NOT have a greater impact on trails and nature than any other activity allowed by the Wilderness Act. NO GREATER IMPACT. But government isn't great at changing policy, even in the face of overwhelming research, if there's support for an entrenched position.

To be clear, not all national forests carry the Wilderness designation. There is singletrack riding on some national forests that don't carry that protection. However, the balance between management and riders can be sketchy in those areas, too. The goverment position is often used as guidance.

Where We're At Today

Cruising through Moab, where mountain bikers enjoy some of the best desert riding anywhere in the world. Flickr photo.

This is where the crux of stupidity is for me; Mountain bikers are now forced to OPPOSE using the Wilderness designation to protect beautiful spaces, even though we ride, dig trails, and advocate for nature because we enjoy being out in it. We don’t like strip mining. We find peace, excitement and invigoration in nature just like everyone else. If you prick us, do we not bleed? Yet protecting what we love shuts us out.

If you like mountain biking, and go charging around state parks, federal land, private trusts, gravel pathways or wherever; somebody manages that land you're riding on. And right now they either have made, or will soon make, a decision about whether you belong there or not.

You know that reverent, almost religious feeling as you come upon a magnificent vista or epic bit of scenery out in the middle of nowhere? If you ask yourself in that moment, does this place deserve America’s most stringent and precious environmental protections, the answer should be "YES!" not "Umm… it’s complicated."

We can’t fault most non-cyclists for supporting the Wilderness designation. They’re not aware of our horrible conundrum and would rather see nature protected than not. They know if mining, grazing or industry exist on any land, that activity is likely to get grandfathered in even after an area becomes Wilderness designated, so protect it quick. Also, not all Wilderness lands are even suitable for mountain biking.

Vernon Felton, long time editor at Bike Magazine and now with Pinkbike, has done some really great think pieces on this. If you haven’t seen this video, check it out below:

Great stuff, right? Especially because it has Rebecca Rusch in it; she’s awesome. The loss of Boulder/White Clouds is tragic and hopefully you will take action. 

But there’s also an interesting take-away in it. You may have noticed Aaron Clark, IMBA conservation manager, shows how not to be taken seriously even if you have something good to say. As an MTB advocate, he puts in some hard work on our behalf, and probably doesn’t always ride as much as he likes because of it. However, when trying to impress an audience who may or may not be on your side, sit up straight, put the beer away, take off your sunglasses, don’t whine, and don’t make faces. The Sierra Club guy, while I disagree with him 100%, is firm in his position, holds his ground, and doesn’t hedge.

As Felton points out, at the bottom of all this is petty human crap. That much of the reason we’re denied access to land is not because of MTB's impact, it’s because other, more organized people just don’t feel like sharing a scarce resource. We have to create a better impression than those people.

State and Local Lands: Unique And Also Tough

State and local land manager relationships still need careful management. You wouldn't want her kicked off the trail. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Of course, Wilderness designation is only relative to federal land. But that doesn’t mean you can just ride anyplace that’s not federally managed. The rest of our riding land is either state or privately owned. Someone always manages any land and, unless that’s you, they get to decide if mountain bikers can use it or not. Inspiration for many current rules came from federal guidelines and the fight is the same.

State parks are generally amenable to mountain biking unless a particularly onerous relationship exists between them and us. Often, control of state land is ceded to  ‘Friends of... [name of area]” organizations, towns or local land groups for upkeep, trail maintenance and management. If that's the case, making nice with those organizations is critical.

Local governments can go either way. Sometimes they view trails and riders as a tourism and economic boon, or they could think of us as troublemakers. Rural populations have occasionally even spoken out against the federal Wilderness designation, keeping lands local, because of their economic reliance on bicycle tourism or natural resources, or may protest other restrictions Wilderness brings to public lands.

Private lands, and land managed by trusts, need to be coaxed to allow mountain bikers. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Land trusts and private lands can be particularly fickle. If some old lady's Bichon Frise gets spooked by a rider, she’ll likely write a nasty letter with several hyperbolic overstatements (or outright fabrications) to her friend on the board of the land trust to try to get us restricted. I’ve seen mountain bikers accused of throwing water bottles at children for fun–which is silly. Those cost money! Some people hate mountain bikers to the point of trying to murder us.

Get out there and dig trail. Dig like you never dug before. Land managers love that and it’s pretty much impossible for them to kick you off once you’ve (legally) dug the actual trail you’re riding.

I’ve seen letters to the editor from citizens appalled that riders might have the audacity to ride in groups. GROUPS! Some people want to walk alone in leisure socks and sandals, composing Victorian poetry, unburdened by any possibility of having a mountain biker pass through their sight. Some people think we might run into them. Some people don’t want us near their horses.

Local trusts can be great friends, though, and some even have mountain bikers running them. With these, a bit of help with trail maintenance and tree-fall cleanup goes a long way to bridging different people. Most citizens don’t know how trails are made, maintained, or that mountain bikers spend hours and days taking care of them. We dig in the dirt, spend money on tools, pick deer ticks off ourselves so that EVERYONE can enjoy the outdoors. Once folks find that out, they usually gain a bit of respect very quickly.

Action: who’s doing what, and what you can do

Think globally, act locally when it comes to advocating for trail access and new trails. Ryan Dunfee photo.

So, what do we do? Some mountain bikers say we have to be nice, be ambassadors, yield rights of way, and be nice. That’s a good starting point, I do that, and so should you. But there’s only so much shit I’ll eat. Being human, I hate being told what to do. I’d rather do a lot and than expect a lot in return.

Think globally and act locally seems to work as a good strategy. Join national groups like IMBA or STC who advocate for changes to federal law or managed lands access policy. And then also join and be active in your local chapters.

Join A National Group

IMBA advocates for mountain biking nationally, and promotes the economic vitality brought out by good trails with their Ride Center designations, like Park City's Gold level trails above. Ryan Dunfee photo.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the International Mountain Bike Association. Many of you might be members. IMBA's position on Wilderness Access is “...mountain biking, as a rigorous test of the human body mind and spirit, is compatible with the purposes of Wilderness. However, IMBA is not advocating the introduction of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness. IMBA also respects the authority of our partners in the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service and does not encourage breaking the law by mountain biking in designated Wilderness.” Here's their specific advocacy link

I disagree and think we should be able to ride in Wilderness areas. I believe we can help be responsible for maintaining trails on those lands. And I’d like to see IMBA put its formidable resources toward advocating our access to these areas. Regardless, IMBA feels greater impact can be made focusing on other areas, both federal and state. IMBA membership is very valuable and not wasted, so consider it.

The  Sustainable Trails Coalition arose in response to IMBA’s position in the Wilderness debate. They’ve fundraised and hired lobbyists, because they feel mountain bikers should be allowed in Wilderness areas. In fact, one of the founders of IMBA, Jim Hasenauer, a Mountain Bike hall of fame inductee, wrote an open letter supporting STC’s efforts. Join STC here.

NEMBA serves the New England mountain biking community. It's a coalition of local chapters like IMBA, only in chowda flavor. If you are in New England, you'd join this instead of IMBA, because there are very few actual IMBA chapters (well, just one, in northern Maine) in the Northeast. NEMBA differs with IMBA on how to handle the Wilderness Act, thinking we should get access, but there's less federal land out here to fight over.

There's also a host of others. JORBA (for New Jersey), CORBA etc. etc.  Here's a complete list so you can find the advocacy group closest to you.

What To Do After You Join? Be Nice, Be Disciplined, Be a Partner

Bonus! We get to play with chainsaws. FCNEMBA photo.

I have the good fortune to belong to a local NEMBA chapter with an incredibly engaged and talented group of individuals,  FC NEMBA. The president of FC Nemba is Ryan Tucker, who offered his thoughts below on this issue. From Ryan's perspective, good advocacy drives great sustainable trails and positive relationships with our land managers and fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

An advocate's goal in a nutshell is to have mountain bikes and bikers be an accepted and positive member of the outdoor trail user community, while providing that entire trail user community access to great trails. - Ryan Tucker

FC NEMBA's Principles:

#1: We’re the new kids on the block with regards to trail access, so as with anything where you’re new to the scene, be polite, respectful, and helpful. Stating that, we know access is a privilege and not a right.

#2: Be disciplined. If your mountain bike group’s internal organization is a mess, be disciplined and present one clear calm face to the outside. You will encounter people that want nothing to do with mountain biking and mountain bikers, and they can be vitriolic. 

Stick to your goals & objectives while being respectful. If you’re not getting meetings or time at the table, keep trying to find the person with the relationship and stick to being polite, respectful, and helpful however you can.

#3: Get to know the people you’re interacting with and find common ground. After all, they’re humans and love the outdoors, too. Don’t like mountain biking? Maybe they’re beer/sports/Star Wars/travel/something fans. Connect and find the common place.

#4: Be credible. Know what you’re talking about–hyperbole and assumptions aren’t easy to back up with a smart land manager or other user groups that want to restrict access and don't even want to hear us out. Start small and know that you’re not going to get the three-mile flow or DH-only trail after your first meeting, but that crappy, muddy 10-foot section that could use some armor or drainage? That’s where you begin. Do the small things, do them well, and you build credibility. Credibility will turn into responsibility.

Respect land management rules, even if February happens to stay warm and there's some trails you can't ride.

#5: Be a partner. It is not just about the trails, it is also about keeping beautiful places to be beautiful places to be on foot or bike. Remember that your land managers and other user groups begin to see you as a partner. You get access and an opportunity to shape and improve trails… you don’t just do the work you want to do and walk away. 

Help the other groups with their goals; don’t be shy to advocate both ways, as in “Hey fellow mountain bikers, the Laurel Trail runs by a vernal pool and given the ecosystems around it–let's stay off Laurel for a few weeks and give the salamanders a chance."

#6: Work with your local advocacy group. They have credibility and can help you. They’re probably all volunteers, so expect lots of leg work on your part, but having a group with organization makes life easier and tells land managers it is more than just YOU asking for something."

Contact Your Representatives

Find your representatives using the links below. Send them emails. Tell your MTB friends to do the same. Seriously, if they know your position and want your vote, they’ll act.  Email Congress is a great website to start with, as is the fed's comprehensive list of publicly elected officials. Here, also, is a link to your Senators. And one for finding your person in the House of Reps by using your zip code.

TGR has a template for a letter you should feel free to cut, paste and/or modify.

What To Do On The Ground 

Building trail is building bridges. Dave Francefort photo.

After joining your local chapter, connect with local land managers as part of that group and help maintain trails where you like to ride. Listen to land managers. Find out what their main points are and address them. If they don’t like when mountain bikers ride wet trails, then help stop that.

Get out there and dig trail. Dig like you've never dug before. Land managers love that, and it’s pretty much impossible for them to kick you off once you’ve (legally) dug the actual trail you’re riding. This can also be a lot of fun. My own chapter has some majorly talented trail builders.

We also have outreach, sponsorship, group rides, etc. We have a beer sponsor for our trail days (beer after digging trail tastes ALMOST as good as beer after a ride), a retail sponsor for our tools, we get grants and bike shops sometimes sponsor trail days with food. We usually group ride after we dig, too.

The always critical rock cradle. Dave Francefort photo.

Again, Ryan Tucker on what to look for going forward: "As alluded to above, there’s always going to be someone in your advocacy experience who is anti-bikes. Being respectful and continuing to show up and be a positive member of the trail user community means eventually you get to know more about the other than whatever labels you had given each other early on. Be patient and find intermediaries where you can.

The rogue user–whether it’s a rider or builder–they’re out there and they’re doing everything on their own terms. Maybe they build decent trail or show up every trail day, but no matter what you do, they do their own thing. If it's destructive to access, you have to reign them in. Peer pressure, email campaign, direct communication, or even reminding people of the legal outcomes associated with trespassing and illegally building. Some people know advocates will clean up their messes, crappy building, illegal building, etc… not cool because we lose time away from getting new trails open or built and from building positive credibility."

And... What About E-Bikes?

FCNEMBA's Kyaiera Tucker running mini excavator at Farrington Woods Park, Danbury, Connecticut. Paula Burton photo.

Tucker: "E-bikes, they have a non-human power source and have motors. Slippery slope and what every land manager that has worried about with allowing mountain bike access since day one. They’re welcome on trails where motorized use is permitted. The progress we’ve made for access in the past five years is stunning, and it's because we, as mountain bike advocates, have spent the time investing in credibility with land managers and other trail users. Continuing to keep building that credibility would be great. There are numerous arguments from both sides here, but the imperative is to maintain access, and in the US, e-bikes are a clear threat to that."

So, where do we go from here? 

There's been a little movement on the IMBA/STC front; less than a month ago they released a  joint press statement supporting each other's efforts. After all, we both like mountain biking and want to see trail access. And it's tough to see mommy and daddy fight. 

NEMBA, initially strongly in STC's camp, remains strongly in STC's camp, because fuck you, we took it to the British and started the Revolution. 

In all seriousness, write to your local representation.  Use this form if you like. Join a national organization, whichever one you feel best represents your point of view. And take care of your local MTB trails and scene, and keep riding.

In the near term at least, there's more to riding than just pedaling. You'll have to do a little work legitimizing the sport you love. But that doesn't have to be painful; you might even make a friend or two doing it. I have.  

There's not much point to guess what the 'framers' of the Wilderness act had it mind other than protecting the land for everyone, for all time. And even though it seems clear as day that we should have every right afforded to other users of America's trails, not everyone sees it that way. I feel interpretation of law, and appropriate modification, is the responsibility of a current population, not past politicians. And while, at this moment, our culture seems coarse, and willing to entrench on any issue without regard to other's rights or feelings, we still need to be cool, rise above, and think about other people. 

This is a fluid and dynamic situation that can be positively influenced by YOUR actions. Take a moment to move the needle. Join. Engage. Dig. Ride.

First of all Gunnar, you misquoted the Wilderness Act in #1
The Act Reads:
“PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES
(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there 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.”

Did you read the part about “NO OTHER FORM OF MECHANICAL TRANSPORT?”

So, bikes have been BANNED from the very beginning.  The 1984 order just clarified the original Act.

SO, The BASIS of YOUR WHOLE ARTICLE is totally WRONG

AND next time you quote the WILDERNESS ACT, at least quote it right

    Thank you for reading the article Todd. I have read the original and my understanding is that the ‘motorized’ portion your reference is amended language to the Act, which remains, of course, the ‘Wilderness Act of 1964’. Even though it has provisions in language added to it in 1984. I never mind being asked to check facts, I’m not perfect and could certainly have misinterpreted something. I will dig farther and amend if necessary.

    Bikes were not banned from the beginning, that is incorrect. Certainly the interpretation of the Act by the USDA Forest Service in 1984 shut the door to bikes at that point in time, which is the premise of that portion of the article. Again, thank you for reading the article. In this case I’m pretty sure that my research truthfully represented and accurate.

      Well, Gunnar, maybe if you studied it a little further you would have come to a different conclusion.

      Look at the wording of the Wilderness Act.
      “there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport,”

      It mentions no motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, then goes on to say
      “no other form of mechanical transport”  Now if “mechanical” is SUPPOSED to mean “motorized” that would have been totally REDUNDANT to the stuff listed in the earlier part of the sentence.  It’s the rules of English, my friend.

      If you want more info I have a bunch of related documents including the full text of the Wilderness Act posted here:  https://sites.google.com/site/preservethepct/

      You’ve got to quit drinking the kool aid of the Sustainable Trails Coalition.  They’ve been caught several times dishing out misinformation.  The latest one is that the “When the President of the United States signed the Wilderness Act of 1964 he wasn’t banning bicycles, wheelbarrows, and strollers.”  REALLY?  Does the Sustainable Trails Coalition have JUST ONE quote from Lyndon Johnson to support that claim?  They are making up stuff out of thin air.

        Todd the Troll posts comments on more mt. articles than Mike Vandeman.

    Gunnar, I just wanted to clarify the law.  Todd is correct that the language of the law did not change and your article does not allege that it did.

    However, when the US Forest Service wrote the regulations interpreting the law in 1966, it interpreted the law to allow bicycles since it was not a “mechanical transport powered by a nonliving power source”.  Bottom line, they allowed bikes in 1966 and the ban was only on motors.

    Move forward to 1984, and BLM and NFS adopted the exact same language in their regulations but added “or is a bicycle”.  Therefore, in 1984 they specifically banned bikes which had been allowed for 20 years when interpreting the same statutory language on the land they controlled.  It is alleged it was as a result of pressure from the existing user groups, primarily hikers and environmentalists.

    So Todd is correct that the law has not changed.  However, he is incorrect that bikes have been banned from the beginning.  They were allowed from 1966 to 1984.

    Moreover, there is a fair amount of evidence that Congress did not intend to ban bikes when they wrote the law and the ban contradicts the original intent of the law.  If that is the case, political pressure caused the ban in the course of interpretation, not the law.

    Once again, money and influence has determined public policy in our great America.  In my view, the Mountain bikers should use their money and influence to get these regulations rewritten or the law changed back to its original language and to allow biking.

    “The Wilderness Act of 1964 states that there shall be no “mechanical transport” in Wilderness.  What does this mean? Does the phrase mean the bicycles are banned by that law?

    Potential sources of guidance include the legislative history of the Wilderness Act, the interpretation of the clause by federal agencies, legal scholarship, by examples of uses the word, and in meaning and logic in the English language.

    The paragraph in which the clause occurs prohibits a number of activities, such as permanent roads and commercial enterprise. It particularly prohibits motor vehicles, motorized equipment, aircraft, and “no other form of mechanical transport.” Does that clause mean “more things like we have already listed,” or “other kinds of things that are not listed here”? There is nothing in the Act itself, nor in other official Congressional language, to indicate which of those approaches the legislators intended in the early-1960s. Mountain bicycles were not yet known, so they were not addressed.

    In a law review journal article, “Congress’s Intent in Banning Mechanical Transport in the Wilderness Act of 1964"1, attorney Theodore Stroll traced many of the ideas expressed by members of Congress as they debated the proposed Wilderness Act. They spoke of a nation whose people were growing flabby, who need the benefits of outdoor recreation propelled by their own muscles. They wanted people to appreciate Nature through non-motorized travel. Alarmed in Cold War times by a nation whose people were not engaged in strenuous physical activity.

    Only national forests had Wilderness in the initial Act and the U.S. Forest Service was charged with implementing the law. The agency wrote rules that provided more specific interpretation to the Act. Regarding mechanical transport, the rule, published in 1966, specified that “Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device.” (emphasis added) The word “and” is critical here, for it means a device is not mechanical if its power source is alive. This rule remains in the Code of Federal Regulations at 36CFR Sec. 293.6(a).

    In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service adopted identical language, except they added the clause, “or is a bicycle or a hang glider.”....

    The 1964 Wilderness Act did not ban bicycles from Wilderness; 1984 regulations did. It’s likely that at the time, that ban was merely one of several instances of hiking and environmental organizations exerting their influence on public land policy. They were wary of the emerging number of mountain bicyclists showing up on trails on US public lands.”
    quotes from wildernessbicycling.org

      What part of “you can walk” don’t you understand? And thanks for all the photos of mountain bikers destroying wildlife habitat (you call it “trail building”)! Mountain bikers are environmentally and biologically CLUELESS!

The conflicts are all about existing users (hikers and horses) keeping out new users. 

They rely on irrational and emotional arguments. 

Be sweet and overwhelm them.

    Johnboy, just be sweet and stay on trails that mountain biking is allowed on.

    It’s all good, John, I don’t mind being checked. And getting a comment that isn’t from some automated foreign bot is actually kind of nice.

Your article is chock full of blatant lies. Is it any wonder that no one wants to work with mountain bikers????? For example, complaining about being “excluded” from Wilderness. Mountain bikers have NEVER been excluded from Wilderness. Only their BIKES are excluded. And mountain bikers aren’t treated differently: the exact same rules apply to everyone. And the research doesn’t show that mountain biking impacts are the same as hikers’.

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: http://mjvande.info/mtb10.htm . It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else—ON FOOT! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking….

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.info/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: http://mjvande.info/mtb_dangerous.htm .

For more information: http://mjvande.info/mtbfaq.htm .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users—hikers and equestrians—who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about—an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

    Mike,

    If we agree with your comments and this is Wildlife habitat, then clearly hikers should not be allowed either.  Everything has some impact, causes some damage and disturbs the wildlife.  Hikers need trails, make braids, effect animal movement, and cause erosion.

    In defense of Gunnar, your statement your article is “chock full of blatant lies” is a fair bit of hyperbole. 

    You allege all these studies are wrong, but cite no research or evidence other than your observations. 

    It is clear that horses are far more damaging than bikes, but somehow you don’t seem to address them. 

    As for the sad state of our educational system, I would merely note that you have a Phd.

      Johnboy
      Horse live freely in some wilderness areas. So, it’s really hard to ban them.  Besides, they are not Mechanical Transport which is banned in Wilderness Areas.  Their damage is about the same as other animals including bison and moose that live in wilderness areas.  So, did I address horse enough for you?

      “chock full of blatant lies” is not an exaggeration. The whole article is based on one big fat lie: that mountain bikers are “excluded” from Wilderness. Mountain bikers can all walk, they are just too LAZY to do it. You conveniently ignored that fact. Mountain bikers travel much farther & faster than hikers, so do a lot more damage. Your own photo shows a trail with a deep groove down the middle. The video shows mountain bikers riding as fast as they can, endangering wildlife, other trail users, & THEMSELVES. Horses evolved in North America; they are wildlife. Bikes are MACHINERY, which obviously doesn’t belong in Wilderness. You claim that everyone else “forces” you to oppose Wilderness. How can anyone “force” you to do something? We can’t even “force” you to obey the law or tell the truth! Why can’t mountain bikers EVER tell the truth????? No wonder no one wants to work with you.

Gunnar, I just wanted to clarify the law.  Todd is correct that the language of the law did not change and your article does not allege that it did. 

However, when the US Forest Service wrote the regulations interpreting the law in 1966, it interpreted the law to allow bicycles since it was not a “mechanical transport powered by a nonliving power source”.  Bottom line, they allowed bikes in 1966 and the ban was only on motors.

Move forward to 1984, and BLM and NFS adopted the exact same language in their regulations but added “or is a bicycle”.  Therefore, in 1984 they specifically banned bikes which had been allowed for 20 years when interpreting the same statutory language on the land they controlled.  It is alleged it was as a result of pressure from the existing user groups, primarily hikers and environmentalists.

So Todd is correct that the law has not changed.  However, he is incorrect that bikes have been banned from the beginning.  They were allowed from 1966 to 1984. 

Moreover, there is a fair amount of evidence that Congress did not intend to ban bikes when they wrote the law and the ban contradicts the original intent of the law.  If that is the case, political pressure caused the ban in the course of interpretation, not the law. 

Once again, money and influence has determined public policy in our great America.  In my view, the Mountain bikers should use their money and influence to get these regulations rewritten or the law changed back to its original language and to allow biking. 

“The Wilderness Act of 1964 states that there shall be no “mechanical transport” in Wilderness.  What does this mean? Does the phrase mean the bicycles are banned by that law?

Potential sources of guidance include the legislative history of the Wilderness Act, the interpretation of the clause by federal agencies, legal scholarship, by examples of uses the word, and in meaning and logic in the English language.

The paragraph in which the clause occurs prohibits a number of activities, such as permanent roads and commercial enterprise. It particularly prohibits motor vehicles, motorized equipment, aircraft, and “no other form of mechanical transport.” Does that clause mean “more things like we have already listed,” or “other kinds of things that are not listed here”? There is nothing in the Act itself, nor in other official Congressional language, to indicate which of those approaches the legislators intended in the early-1960s. Mountain bicycles were not yet known, so they were not addressed.

In a law review journal article, “Congress’s Intent in Banning Mechanical Transport in the Wilderness Act of 1964"1, attorney Theodore Stroll traced many of the ideas expressed by members of Congress as they debated the proposed Wilderness Act. They spoke of a nation whose people were growing flabby, who need the benefits of outdoor recreation propelled by their own muscles. They wanted people to appreciate Nature through non-motorized travel. Alarmed in Cold War times by a nation whose people were not engaged in strenuous physical activity.

Only national forests had Wilderness in the initial Act and the U.S. Forest Service was charged with implementing the law. The agency wrote rules that provided more specific interpretation to the Act. Regarding mechanical transport, the rule, published in 1966, specified that “Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device.” (emphasis added) The word “and” is critical here, for it means a device is not mechanical if its power source is alive. This rule remains in the Code of Federal Regulations at 36CFR Sec. 293.6(a).

In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service adopted identical language, except they added the clause, “or is a bicycle or a hang glider.”....

The 1964 Wilderness Act did not ban bicycles from Wilderness; 1984 regulations did. It’s likely that at the time, that ban was merely one of several instances of hiking and environmental organizations exerting their influence on public land policy. They were wary of the emerging number of mountain bicyclists showing up on trails on US public lands.”
quotes from wildernessbicycling.org

    Johnboy

    There is Not a fair amount of evidence that “Congress did not intend to ban bikes when they wrote the law…” that is a blatant lie.  Recently, a Legistlative Counsel to Mo Udall recounted a Forest Service meeting with Udall.  The Forest Service asked if bikes should be banned in Wilderness Areas and Mo Udall said yes.

    Again, the Wilderness Act says “no other form of mechanical transport.”  Bicycles ARE mechanical transport.  Just because the Forest Service wrote confusing language into their regulation, well that doesn’t take priority over the Wilderness Act.

    You can MAKE UP all sorts of stuff to try to support your cause, but still at the end of the day, “no other form of mechanical transport” means bikes are excluded from Wilderness Areas

      False. There are definitely forms of mechanical transport allowed in Wilderness.

And the 2 BIGGEST anti-bike trolls in America show up… Todd McMahon and Mike Vandeman!  As far as I’m concerned, you’ve struck a nerve that makes these idiotic psychos nervous.  Good job Gunnar.

Visit the STC website or STC Facebook page to get accurate, unbiased review of legislative history.

    Empty Beer, if you want an accurate, unbiased review of the legislative history of the “bikes in the wilderness” issue, well, to put it frankly, their is no legislative history.  Take a look around, it’s half way into June of 2016.  The Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2015 has YET to find a member of Congress to sponsor their bill.  That’s probably because the Sustainable Trails Coalition is spewing misinformation.  For instance, you say there are forms of mechanical transport allowed in Wilderness Areas.  You failed to mention any.  I hope you are not referring to snowshoes, XC skis and oarlocks, all of which were originally made out of wood, therefor NOT mechanical transport.

      If anything, you’re predictable, Todd! And as you are a Wilderness Act purist, “no other form of mechanical transport” most certainly applies to ALL forms of mechanical transport, including the forms you listed.

      But if “originally made out of wood” is the laughable loophole that allows your conscience to be okay with SOME forms of mechanical transport, let me show you what the original bicycle looked like: 

      https://p2.liveauctioneers.com/106/12865/3719759_1_l.jpg

        What permitted form of mechanical transport is more damaging than mountain biking? Skis? Canoes? Shoes? NONE of them. QED. Idiot.

        Empty Beer or whatever your name is.

        That model wasn’t even a bicycle. I was called a walking machine.
        And even the early models had brass bushings in the wheels.
        So, your claim is laughable.

        Furthermore, XC Skis, Snowshoes and Oarlocks have been around since
        ancient times, bicycles have been around since the early 1800’s

        Next time, use your real name if you are going to call someone else a troll.

          You Mcmahon, are a special kind of retard.  What part of “no other form of mechanical transport” do you not understand, purist? Your personal delineation for what is acceptable mechanical transport and what is not continues to be laughable.

          Lastly, you are an internet troll visiting an online community where everyone uses a screen name and not their birth name. GTFO jong!!!!

    STC “unbiased”? You must be kidding! Or lying.

This is one of the most epic comment threads in TGR history, both for its valuable legal insight and for some hilariously irrational biases on display. Keep it up!

    Too bad you can’t add anything relevant. Such as: Why should bikes be allowed on trails? Why do mountain bikers claim to be “excluded” from Wilderness, when they are all capable of walking? Why do mountain bikers claim to do no harm to trails, when the damage is obvious to everyone else? I guess not one of you have the guts to tell the truth about any of these issues….

      I mean… why shouldn’t they? Horses are in many places, and the weight of an animal that large can certainly do serious damage to a trail that isn’t dry. They get to poop in the middle of the trail, too, yet hikers, bikers, and dogs don’t enjoy the same culturally-accepted privilege. I don’t think “no harm” is what any biker would claim, there are certainly better riding practices than others when it comes to respecting the trail, but on the flip side, mountain bike member groups often do the majority of trial maintenance in their local areas, so do they not pay for their supposed extra abuse?

      And yes, we all understand that any mountain biker could gladly go ahead and dump the bike and start walking, but that’s just some semantics you’re arguing about. There’s clearly some assumptions in your above statements that, by your standards of the bikers’ posts in this thread, are a bit underwhelming. We’re all lazy? Not sure we’d been working hard to spend thousands of bucks on a bike only to have to lug it up hill all day if we were. And being able to go farther certainly doesn’t mean, by default, that bikers cause more damage. A popular local hiking trail here in Jackson Hole was closed for several weeks because not enough dog owners were cleaning up their dogs’ poop, which was concentrated close to the trailhead. Yet mountain bikers covered trails miles into the woods, yet their “impact” has never caused issues on that scale.

        Note that you weren’t capable of giving a single reason to allow bikes on trails.

        Horses don’t damage nature, they ARE nature - the same as deer. The horse evolved in North America.

        You also conveniently failed to explain how mountain bikers are “excluded” from Wilderness, when they are capable of walking (but obviously too lazy to walk). And you are too lazy (or too dishonest?) to answer a direct question.

        Trail maintenance is nothing to be proud of. It destroys habitat. And it is simply an attempt to mitigate damage that you yourselves have done! It would be better not to do the damage in the first place. DUH!

          Why should bikers be allowed on trails? Because it’s America, and you’re free to do things you enjoy, even ride ATVs into the woods and blast through mud? Because it’s fun? By your logic, since as what I assume is an enthusiastic hiker, should you not be outlawed from the country’s trails since your footprints cause damage?

          Is a person riding a horse and directing their footprints on a specific, public trail, and focusing their pooping on said trail, constitute a natural state of that animal’s activity? Since humans also evolved in North America, naturally, is it okay if I start taking a dump in the middle of the trail, too?

          I think you meant to say that trail BUILDING destroys habitat. Indeed it does, as do roads, subdivisions, chairlifts, bike paths, hiking trails, etc. It’s all relative. We allow for a lot of highways in our society. Why not a few bike trails, and maintain them such that riding them does not do additional damage?

          I also feel amiss having gone on a hike in the woods with my dogs this morning without my mountain bike. I should have brought it in order to remind myself that my rights are being oppressed!

            Ryan, if you want to blast around the woods for fun because “this is America,” well there are plenty of places to do that without going into Wilderness Areas.  In fact, there are land areas that are exclusively set up for that.  You ever hear of a National Recreation Area?  Again, they are set up for recreation.  Other land designations like National Monuments and National Parks also allow mountain biking.

            Wilderness Areas are less than 3% of the land area in the lower 48 states and mountain bikers are less than 3% of the population.  This is hardly an issue that will get any traction in Congress.  In fact, nothing has happened even though STC has supposedly raised over $100,000 to lobby Congress.

            As far as horses, again you are barking up the wrong tree.  Horses live freely in some Wilderness Areas, so it would be really hard to ban them.  They are not “Mechanical Transport,” which is specifically banned in the Wilderness Act.  And other wild animals like Bison and Moose can do about the same amount of damage as horses.

              This is better than the Alta suit.

              White… privileged… males… whining about not being able to ride their $3000 bikes where ever they want.

              Priceless

            You don’t read very well, do you? I asked you why BIKES should be allowed on trails. Bikers are already allowed on trails. You have a right to be on the trail, but there is NO right to bring a bike with you, which is very destructive and dangerous to other trail users & YOURSELF. Humans didn’t “evolve” in North America. They evolved in Africa. Trail building AND maintenance destroys wildlife habitat. I guess you never took biology in school, huh? There is no way to maintain a trail to avoid bike damage. Knobby tires are designed to shred the soil, and they do. That’s why it is called “shredding”. Your “rights” are not being oppressed. There is no right to mountain bike, as decided in federal court in 1996 (http://mjvande.info/mtb10.htm).

          Better to just assault bikers, right Mikey?

          http://fcdn.mtbr.com/attachments/arizona/548078d1275838471-suspect-described-vandeman-michael-j-vandeman.jpg

            JA, you are behind the times.
            It has been widely reported on the internet
            that all charges have been dismissed against
            Vandeman.  He even scanned the paperwork
            and posted it.

              Todd that statement just proves how ill informed you are

              He was convicted, given a sentence and under California law after a period of time he was able to petition the court to have his record EXPUNGED and dismissed. Very common for first time offenders to have this done.

              Feel free to educate yourself

              http://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sbs-expunging-criminal-records.pdf

                Also if you wish to read all about the trial and conviction, you can spend $5.99 and order the online copy of Bike magazine Nov 2011 edition

                https://www.zinio.com/www/browse/issue.jsp?skuId=416191718#/

                  Unless you want to know the truth, in which case, you’ll have to ask ME. Bike Magazine is out to sell sensationalism.

                JA SURF or whoever you are

                The paperwork says the charges are dismissed.
                According to MJV, the mountain biker admitted
                that MJV was not brandishing a weapon, plus the
                jury did not follow its instructions.  That’s why the
                charges were dropped

                There’s absolutely nothing in the paperwork that
                indicates it was an expungement. Unless you have
                anything that proves otherwise I would just shut your
                mouth about it.

                Listen, I don’t agree with some of Mike Vandeman’s
                tactics, but the guy has an educated opinion that
                he stands by.  You may not like his opinions but
                at least he is not spewing misinformation like the
                Sustainable Trails Coalition.

                  Yup you get paper work saying it is dismissed once the court grants your request for expungment. But if he gets in trouble again it will go back on his record. And although he can legally tell an employer he has never been convicted of a crime, he legally cannot say that if running for a public office.  Your only source of information is from LIAR Mike himself.


                  https://tgr.scdn2.secure.raxcdn.com/images/ci-images/49747/mikeyconvicted_crop__enlarged.jpg

                    Your libel is duly noted. What is the lie? This should be good. Since you weren’t there, you haven’t the foggiest idea what happened, do you? Mountain bikers have a BIG incentive to lie, since this started with them riding illegally.

                    JA SURF
                    The Charges were dismissed after the trial.
                    So, the article you provided is totally irrelevant

                    You also need to check the paperwork again.
                    The part about notifying the public if running for office, etc, doesn’t
                    apply to every case.

                That’s exactly what he said: all charges were dismissed. Because they were all bogus, based on mountain biker lies. What else is new?

                  Dismissed a couple years later ha ha ha ha, yea right you liar, dismissed because you served your sentence and petitioned the court to have them dismissed.

                  See section 5a of your dismissal document your LIAR , ha ha ha haaaaaa

                  http://www.bermstyle.com/the-trial-of-mike-vandeman/

                    Also note the date of the dismissal March 26 2013, a couple years after your conviction and serving your sentence, just proces nothing you say can be trusted LIAR

                  Hey Mike, you can kindly go fuck yourself as well.

                    Thank you for demonstrating exactly what mountain bikers are like, in front of the whole world!

Dear Todd/Mike.

You old fucks will die off soon enough and we won’t need to listen to your blather any longer. Time and nature take care of things like that.

Meanwhile I will ride my bike where I feel like and you can just fuck right off.

    Rance, your language is despicable and is not helping your cause. Ted Stroll of the Sustainable Trails Coalition is the exact same age as me.  Furthermore, due to the advances in medicine, the amount of older people is going to grow by 50% by 2050. So there will be a lot more people wanting to just go out and hike a trail without being run over by mountain bikers.

    And JA SURF, the legal process takes time.  The charges against MJV have been dismissed. That is a known fact.  I find it ironic that someone using a fact name is calling MJV a liar.

      Don’t like it? Too fucking bad, I would bet I am a good bit older than you (58).

      You don’t care about “my cause” so skip the crocodile tears and piss off.

      Todd the fact that you still defend Mikey on this makes you just as big of a laughingstock as him.  You said it was WIDELY reported the charges got dropped because the biker was to have discovered to have been lying years later after his conviction???  who was it reported by accept by Mike?  This would be big news and Mikey would be putting links to it every where.  Where are the records of charges of perjury against the biker, California Courts don’t take kindly to lying it’s a CRIME, you can’t find it because there are none. You can’t find records of the conviction being overturned because it was not.

      If I stole a car, got got convicted and served my sentence and had been a good citizen before that I could petition the court to have my record expunged just like Mike did and get a the judgement against me dismissed and have a paper just like the one Mikey got, yea you can do that in California.

      The fact that you can’t rationally figure out on your own that magically his charge got dismissed without any news about it (Except from Mike) after his his sentence was completed and dismissed under a common method to allow first time offenders to clean up there record in order to not have there record marred for life speaks volumes on your own cognitive thinking which shows up in your other arguments also.

      So if it was all LIES Mikey why no libel lawsuit against Bike Magazine, why no Lawsuit against it’s author Peter?  I may not have been in the courtroom, but I do live in the bay area and a friend of mine did attend, I believe his version more than your psychopathic blather.

        It’s really quite simple: a libel suit is useless, because you have to prove you’ve been harmed by the libel. But no one who matters cares about any of this. They know exactly what mountain bikers are like. So it’s all a big waste of time. And the only people who care about all this are mountain bikers, who can’t defend their selfish, destructive sport with any facts or logic, so they choose instead to attack those who tell the TRUTH about mountain biking. Apparently they think that lying about me is easier than telling the truth about mountain biking. For example, no one has yet been able to answer this simple question in the nearly 40 years since mountain biking was invented: Why should BIKES be allowed on trails? And Why do mountain bikers claim to be “excluded from Wilderness”? No mountain biker is willing to answer these questions honestly….

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