The newsletter of Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness , apprising you of important activities in and around Eagles Nest, Holy Cross, and Ptarmigan Wilderness Areas.
Greetings! Our newsletter topic this month is an issue of growing concern:
(they currently are not)
Introduction: Mountain biking has grown tremendously in popularity during the past several decades. Likewise, the acreage of federally-designated Wilderness has also increased significantly. Bikes are not allowed in Wilderness, and some bikers feel shut out. In his essay below, Tim Drescher reviews these events and presents an interesting and useful solution, which is being put to the test right now...
Bikes in Wilderness
An emerging topic of conversation that has been getting increasing run in the mainstream news is the issue of whether to allow mountain biking in our Wilderness areas. Currently, mountain biking is banned in Wilderness. Various mountain biking advocacy groups - led by the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) and International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) - have raised more than $117,000 to lobby congress to lift the ban.
Why the fuss? After a Google search and a cup of coffee you will soon find yourself sucked into the vortex of this debate. Mountain bikers are feeling left out of decisions to designate increasing acreage as Wilderness. In some cases, biking trails that have been used for years have been closed after an area was given Wilderness status. You may be feeling deja vu right now - that is precisely what the Bundy brothers were on about as they occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge - protesting as their decades-long grazing practices were progressively limited by the BLM in order to protect the natural environment (see After Malheur by FENW president Currie Craven). Many mountain bikers are genuinely conflicted - should we support Wilderness preservationists or side with mining, timber, and business interests, who also want Wilderness access?
STC and IMBA face a mountainous hurdle, for several reasons. Most salient, the Wilderness Act of 1964 states categorically that there shall be no "form of mechanical transport" in Wilderness. Arguments that bikes are, like hikers, muscle-powered conveyances, and that while bikes are mechanical, so are oar locks (which are allowed in Wilderness) are a tough sell for most people. In addition, the traditional spiritual values of the wilderness experience - solitude, natural challenges, humility - are not descriptors one typically employs while enumerating the joys of mountain biking, such as exhilaration, adrenalin-rush, and other adjectives that explain why mountain bikers wear all that protective gear. (for more, see the High Country News article by Tim Lydon)
Still, mountain bikers love wild places, and they are a rapidly growing, vocal group. A win-win way forward is exemplified in The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, sponsored by Colorado U.S. Representative Jared Polis. Now in congressional committee, the Act was drafted by hundreds of collaborating stakeholders, including a local IMBA chapter (Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association) and the Summit Fat Tire Society. The Act has something for everyone. The WILDERNESS part would designate 40,000 additional acres of land as traditional Wilderness (no bikes), and the RECREATION part of the Act would designate 15,000 acres of White River National Forest as 'Special Management' zones, where mountain biking would be allowed. This demonstrated a successful partnership between often misunderstood forces, transitioning into important co-stakeholders for the success of the introduction of this bill at a federal level. This type of collaboration should serve as the gold standard for new potential Wilderness addition. There are many other threats to our public lands and open spaces; creating an unnecessary wall of resentment between two very ideologically-aligned groups who share conservationist values would be deeply counter-productive. Get informed, stay educated and continue to support your local Wilderness stewards!
About Tim Drescher: Tim resides in Eagle County and is a Wilderness advocate both locally and nationally. His popular blog www.timdcy.com chronicles his frequent backcountry adventures with informative trip reports and beautiful photos, mainly in Eagles Nest Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness. Tim's mission has gradually morphed from a personal journey to one that encourages his readers to get outdoors and otherwise celebrate Wilderness, which he feels goes underappreciated by many. Tim is a relative newcomer to FENW, but he hopes to become more involved in what he calls a "great organization." He aims to raise support and get more of you involved, too.
FENW TAKES A STAND: While the Wilderness Act and most rules - including the ban on bicycles - that govern activities in Wilderness Areas were created before mountain bikes evolved to the popular status that they enjoy today,
the essence of the Wilderness Act
is best honored by continuing to
ban the use of bicycles in Wilderness,
Mountain biking opportunities blanket hundreds of millions of acres on National Forest Lands, BLM Lands and Special Management Areas, without encroaching on designated Wilderness Areas, which preserve for us and future generations the most pristine, untrammeled acreage. The underfunded and under-staffed USFS is already challenged to monitor Wilderness; the increased traffic, deeper penetration, and new social trails created by mountain bikes would be nearly impossible to manage.
The "blended approach" like that proposed in Representative Polis' Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act incorporates pure Wilderness as well as "zone" areas where human powered recreation (bikes) would be allowed.
One advocate argues, "Bicycles are machines, but only in the way that oarlocks ... or even soft-soled shoes are." Link
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Tell us how you feel about bikes in Wilderness. Email FENW
Become a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger! Applications due by June 1. Details
2016 Trail projects:
Day Projects Saturdays: June 4, June 18, July 9
Pack-in weekends (Fri-Sun): July 15-17 and August 12-14. Details
We also need volunteers
Details: contact Bill Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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*The FENW Board: Currie Craven (Pres), George Resseguie (VP & Secy), Bill Reed, Bill Betz, Ken Harper, Cyndi Koop, Mike Mayrer, Frank Gutmann.