Bikes in the Wilderness – WMBC’s Response
Hello WMBC Supporters,
A couple of weeks ago, a NY Times reporter was in Bellingham to cover another story. While the reporter was in town, he wanted to interview mountain bikers and representatives within the WMBC to get our response to the proposed Senate Bill 3205 – Human-Powered Travel in the Wilderness Act. Surprisingly, the article thrust our little organization headfirst into this discussion. If you’ve not seen the NY Times article, you can read it here.
WMBC, along with our friends at Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, have been tracking this issue closely and we’ve conversed with the Sustainable Trails Coalition about the bill’s potential impact to mountain bikers in our state and nationwide.
As a 30-year old organization, it’s never been clearer how much mountain biker’s value the natural and wild areas in which we recreate. Our Community also recognizes the importance of getting youth into our forests to form their life-long relationship with the outdoors. We take great pride in helping to create our next generation of trail stewards and trail maintenance volunteers.
In Washington State, mountain bikers have had numerous successes partnering with conservation organizations and other recreation users to enhance recreation access while also preserving wild places. Locally, examples of those collaborative efforts can be seen with the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance, the Upper Nooksack Access and Travel Management Plan, ongoing efforts on Blanchard and Galbraith Mountains, and the Colville National Forest Management Plan. Additionally, Evergreen (EMBA) has had many successes over the years working with conservation groups with the creation of several Wilderness areas without losing access to high-value mountain bike trails.
However, we recognize that’s not been the case in other areas of the country where mountain bikers have continued to lose access despite their best efforts of partnering and collaboration – most recently in Idaho and Montana. Often times, the mountain bike community has been a large maintainer of these trail networks. Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area designation may mean the loss of these trails, which, in turn, limits access to these wild places moving forward.
Due to the current blanket ban on bikes in the Wilderness, mountain bikers are often placed in a conflicting position; mountain bikers are conservationists by nature and yearn to preserve these same wild places, yet supporting wilderness can mean lost connections to our most favorite trails. Not unlike our hiking and equestrian counterparts, we love wilderness areas for their views, mountain lakes and streams, wildlife, and the solitude they provide in a busy and wired world.
In our discussions with both Sustainable Trails Coalition and Evergreen, we’ve noted the intent and the way the Bill is currently written is tight and free of any “Trojan horses”. However, legislation is often changed during hearings and committees and we are currently concerned about additions or changes to the bill that could weaken land protection and open up resource extraction. The current sponsors of the Bill – Senators Lee and Hatch – have a history of attempting to transfer Federal lands to State ownership and, as such, there is skepticism from many mountain bikers about their motives behind this Bill.
WMBC will monitor the progress of SB 3205, and will look for both bi-partisan support and any additions and revisions that are incorporated before we can consider voicing support.
We commend the Sustainable Trails Coalition for starting this much-needed discussion surrounding human-powered bicycle access into Wilderness, and for looking at better ways to maintain trails in an era of declining budgets for land managers and trail crews. As we learn more, we will keep our supporters up-to-date on SB 3205’s progress, and we will continue to work collaboratively with conservation partners locally and across the state to preserve and enhance non-motorized recreation wherever possible.
Other Information Below:
Senate Bill 3205 – Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act:
Bike Mag Video about the Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho.
Pinkbike Series on this topic: