This new Wilderness B = Wilderness with Bikes is starting to take off, like Snake Hawk’s VDB has a posse movement. I first came across it on the Facebook, and slowly have been able to see it gather some steam. From what I can tell this gang of intelligent people, are all about modifications to pre-existing Wilderness restrictions, so that bicycle recreation could take place within Wilderness boundaries. While this is not a new concept, I dig what they are all about, and suggest you give them a quick view, and maybe hop on board. While IMBA and other Bicycle Advocacy groups have been on board with this concept for a while, the more organized groups the better. Having seen the shitstorm that went down this past April when Montana mountain bikers lost over 150 miles of singletrack because of “solitude”, I’m of the opinion that the more organized groups working around the country for this common goal, the better. Remember, if it can happen in one state, it can happen in the other 49.
Less signs like this….
More like this
A March 2010 article from Outside Magazine summed it up nicely, what almost all mountain bikers go through when they start to think about planning some rides in wilderness areas:
Through years of misinformation, mountain bikes have gotten lumped in with ATVs, snowmobiles, and other maligned vehicles by people citing environmental concerns. But on several different metrics—erosion, runoff, soil compaction, loss of vegetation—study after study has found the trail impact of mountain bikers to be equal to or less than that caused by hikers, and far less than equestrians. A 2006 study by the National Park Service concluded that “Horse and ATV trails are significantly more degraded than hiking and biking trails…[T]he proportion of trails with severe erosion…is 24% for ATV trails, 9% for horse trails, 1.4% for hiking trails and 0.6% for bike trails.”
Of course, the authors of the Wilderness Act never meant to ban any of these. A 2004 review of the legislation by a staff attorney for California’s Supreme Court found that “Congress did not intend for the Act to prohibit human-powered transport…Accordingly, the regulations of the Forest Service…prohibiting mountain bike use in Wilderness require reevaluation.”
In fact, bikes weren’t even banned until 1984, when the U.S. Forest Service refined regulations prohibiting their use. Depending on whose boundaries they overlap, Wilderness areas come under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, or Bureau of Land Management. When the Forest Service moved against bikes, the other agencies followed.
Since we all got our two cents about bikes in the wilderness (and I plan to provide you with mine), I will also give you my background as far as Wilderness goes. I spent the Summer of 2003 living in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho and Montana. I don’t know the exact numbers as far as its size, but it’s pretty fucking big as far as Wilderness goes in the lower 48. I spent the better part of 12 weeks “working” for the Forest Service doing an inventory of noxious weeds, slept out under the starts, bathed in rivers, picked wild huckleberries, all the shit that an 18 year old who was raised in New Jersey should do at some point in their young life.
Prior to packing up my car and heading out west, I tried to get an idea of the mountain biking that I’d get to do in the Selway. Government regulation then came forth and smacked me in the face, I would not be riding my bike in the Selway that summer. Pay no attention to the men at that ourfitter camp loading up a string of pack mules with their camping gear, then getting on their horses so they could head off into the woods to go shoot bears, you on your bike is a greater threat to the overall ecological health of the wilderness. As a mountain biker am i biased regarding this topic? Yes I am, but that doesnt mean the cause I support is not some combination of reasonable and correct.
With that, if you are in favor of changes and modifications to the rules that are presently enforced regarding this topic, I suggest you go take a look at Wilderness B = Wilderness with Bikes, if you are on Facebook, go ahead and show your support by liking them. The more people who get on board with this movement, get organized, educate people who do not have all the facts, practice safe multi-use trail use, the more likely it would be for mountain biking to be allowed in designated Wilderness areas. With that I will leave you with a final image of why bikes should be allowed in the Wilderness. This comes from the Black Bicycle Corps which in 1897 rode from Fort Missoula to St. Louis. Montana in the late 1800’s is pretty close to a wilderness if you ask me, and here you have people riding bikes, looks like something that should be allowed again.