Should mountain bikers support wilderness?

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Friday, December 16, 2005
By Yokota Fritz

The answer to this question seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? So why do the IMBA and many mountain bikers oppose Wilderness designation on Forest Service lands?

When U.S. Forest Service land is given a "Wilderness" designation, all forms of mechanized transportation are prohibited by the Wilderness Act of 1964. When mountain bikes appeared, the Forest Service interpreted the law to include mountain bikes as "other form of mechanical transport" and banned mountain bikes from Wilderness areas.

According to attorney Theodore Stoll, however, Congress never intended to ban mountain bikes from Wilderness trails.

Access is a hot button issue for mountain bikers, and it seems natural for mountain bikers to lobby for increased access to wilderness areas. Outdoor writer Bill Schneider believes, however, that this opposition is "narrow and shortsighted." He also believes that hiker opposition to mountain bike access is shortsighted as well, believing that hikers and bikers should work together to (1) lobby for increased wilderness to exclude motorized access to the backcountry and (2) lobby for allowing bikes on Wilderness trails.

Schneider concludes with this summary: "Mountain bikers and hikers are a natural alliance that has been foiled. The two groups—which oddly enough are often the same people—should form a symbiotic relationship and work together to protect the last roadless lands."

What do you think? Should mountain bikers support Wilderness designations?

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