Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

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turtle
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Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by turtle » October 1st, 2016, 7:20 pm

This link should go to a story about a proposed bill to lift the current ban on bikes in designated wilderness areas. I'll quote a section of the story below:
The bill from U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, both Utah Republicans, would give local officials with the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and other federal management agencies two years to decide in each wilderness area if bikes will be allowed. If no decision is made within two years, the bike ban would be lifted in that area.
The underline for emphasis is mine.

This is the first I'm hearing of this and the story is about a month old. It is worrisome to me that inaction on the part of land managers results in the weakening of the Wilderness Act and lifting of the bike ban. I personally am going to contact my Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley to express my concerns. Would TKO have an opinion on this? I'll also contact the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Washington Trails Association. Anyone else that would be helpful come to mind? Thanks for your time.

Edit: Here are a couple of links that might be interesting: NY Times and mtbr.com forum thread.

This bill seems further along than I thought.
Last edited by turtle on October 3rd, 2016, 6:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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vibramhead
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by vibramhead » October 2nd, 2016, 5:45 pm

This is an awful idea. It would be the camel's nose under the tent. First bikes, next who knows what kind of mechanized contraption? It's hard to imagine that eroding that clear line at the wilderness boundary isn't these senators' real agenda.
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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 3rd, 2016, 7:13 am

Well, I think that giving local managers some discretion regarding low-impact, human-powered recreational uses on Forest lands makes sense. After all, it wasn't until decades after Johnson signed the Wilderness Bill that bicycles were banned from Wildernesses. This would be a return to the management regime that sufficed during those years.

As to the authors of the bill, I don't think it's surprising that they're both Republicans: Utah's entire Congressional delegation and both Senators are Republicans. Given that Utah is a world famous mountain biking destination, the coincidence is not surprising.

Now, if you're worried about their motives, just think of this: any time the Bundys of the world try to take over or sell off our public lands, they should have as many opponents as possible. Wouldn't it be good to have mountain bikers on our side? Why not enlarge the ranks of those who would keep our lands public, open and free? Why, instead, are we hikers fighting other quiet recreationists? Why are we turning our fire on those who would be our allies, instead of joining forces against the real threats, like the Bundy crew, loggers, and miners?

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retired jerry
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by retired jerry » October 3rd, 2016, 8:51 am

uh oh - fire was simmering, not threatening to flame up again :twisted:

I don't like the provision that if the managers don't do something, then bikes will be allowed with no restriction

Better to find trails in non wilderness areas to satisfy demand, maybe allow a few experiments in wilderness areas

I agree it would be good to include bicyclists in the pool of people wanting to preserve wilderness areas

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BigBear
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by BigBear » October 3rd, 2016, 11:55 am

Fact check: the reason bikes were not specifically mentioned in the 1964 bill is the same reason drones aren't mentioned in the 1984 bill. The mountain biking sport got started in the mid-80s and has only taken off recently. There were no mountain bike sin 1964 and thus no mention beyond "wheeled" devices. Drones are now being limited and I suspect they will be include din the next wilderness act update.

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BigBear
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by BigBear » October 3rd, 2016, 11:59 am

The trails are too crowded today. Allowing a previously banned activity will only mean more users competing for the same trails. Back in the mid-90s, the USFS tried to limit access on Mt. Hood to 10% of the users at that time. Public response was 94% opposed, so USFS had to withdraw the plan because they did not have enough staff to confront a public that was opposed to the plan.

Roll forward to 2016 where trailheads are packed by 9 am on a sunny weekend and you have to really plan your comfort break to avoid being seen. Increasing access is not the answer.

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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 3rd, 2016, 12:25 pm

BigBear wrote:Roll forward to 2016 where trailheads are packed by 9 am on a sunny weekend and you have to really plan your comfort break to avoid being seen. Increasing access is not the answer.
I don't like crowds anymore than anyone else in this forum, but I see crowds differently: any area that has lots of hikers and bike riders is less likely to fall prey to the developers and the resource extractors. If an area is loved, it is more protected. That cliche "loved to death" is one of my least favorite, because the "death" in this case would be referring to seeing other nature lovers on the trail, whereas the real death, in my opinion, is a clear cut, LNG pipeline, or fracking operation. Modern environmentalism has reached a dead end if it insists on comparing the two, and, more importantly, elevating emotional concerns about the former over the hard reality of the latter. Because, really, if the best thing for a place is for there to be no human visitors, then it's us avid hikers who are the worst offenders. That's a misanthropic morality.

More to the point, if trail use is up and you don't like it, what is your suggestion? I think there needs to be a massive trail building program to spread out users. I wonder how we can drum up enough excitement and, maybe, get some new voters and advocates on board with increasing the trail miles in our region? Luckily, there is a group of people out here who love trails and have a lot of experience building and maintaining them: mountain bikers. Unfortunately, hikers are content to squeeze past each other on crowded trails and gather on the internet to make enemies of mountain bikers, instead of enlisting their support. I think that's short-sighted.

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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 3rd, 2016, 12:49 pm

BigBear wrote:Fact check: the reason bikes were not specifically mentioned in the 1964 bill is the same reason drones aren't mentioned in the 1984 bill. The mountain biking sport got started in the mid-80s and has only taken off recently. There were no mountain bike sin 1964 and thus no mention beyond "wheeled" devices. Drones are now being limited and I suspect they will be include din the next wilderness act update.
Your comparison to a drone is ludicrous: bicycles were invented in the 19th century, and were, in 1964, quite commonly used on gravel and dirt roads and tracks all across this country. My grandmother used to ride down the dirt road behind her dairy farm in eastern Tennessee as fast as she could. You don't think members of Congress had ever seen a bicycle? You think that the technology of a drone is comparable to that of a bicycle???

The exact language from the original regulation defines the meaning of "mechanical transport":

(a) 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.

(36 CFR 293.6(a))

The obvious intent of the law was to ban motorized vehicles, and only in its 1984 re-interpretation of that law did the Forest Service disagree. The law still stands as originally written, and needs no alteration; the Forest Service merely needs to read it again.

Though people have been riding bikes in subsequently designated Wilderness areas since both before and for twenty years after the law, you are correct that mountain biking's popularity is relatively recent. Does that not signal the time for a reconsideration of the current blanket, undifferentiated ban on the activity?

Some trails are perfect for cyclists, others are not. Right now, the Forest Service won't allow its land managers to manage the two any differently. I think that's a shame: it's clearly not the intent of the law, nor does it reflect the history of the law's enforcement in its first 20 years.
Last edited by Charley on October 3rd, 2016, 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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vibramhead
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by vibramhead » October 3rd, 2016, 1:02 pm

Charley wrote:[The exact language from the original bill defines the meaning of "mechanical transport":

(a) 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.

(36 CFR 293.6(a))
Actually, what you're quoting from isn't the Wilderness Act, but just an old now-abandoned Forest Service regulation that attempted to interpret the Wilderness Act. The original language of the 1964 Wilderness Act prohibits all mechanical transport, and not just that which is propelled by a nonliving power source:
(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.
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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 3rd, 2016, 1:27 pm

Thanks! I've edited my post to reflect that.

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