Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wilderness is more important than thrill rides

    As a former resident of the North Fork of the Big Lost River, and a property owner in Custer County, I have spent a lot of time within the proposed Boulder White Clouds area. And as a mountain biker, I believe the single best way to preserve the Boulder-White Clouds area is wilderness designation.
    I am extremely disappointed in the overall selfish message from the mountain-biking community that seems to believe that all public lands are nothing more than a playground or outdoor gymnasium for their self-gratification. Wilderness is about limits. It is the recognition that some places are so special they should be off-limits to mechanical advantages. I have been riding versions of mountain bikes since the 1980s when I first encountered some prototypes in bike shops in Missoula, Mont. Mostly, we used those early bikes to ride dirt roads. However, the technological advantage of mountain bikes has improved tremendously since that time. People on the latest equipment can climb hills, go farther, go longer and descend steeper terrain than ever before. There is really no limit to the technological advantages. And each advance shrinks wilderness. It means fewer areas of our wildlands will be truly remote. It means fewer refuges for sensitive wildlife. Many of today’s hardcore mountain bikers are essentially thrillcraft enthusiasts, no different than dirt bikers, jet skiers and others who relish speed and daredevil antics.
    I love riding my bike. It is good exercise. It is fun when ridden in appropriate places. However, our remaining wildlands are not one of those places. That is why I have formed a group of mountain bike enthusiasts (Mountain Bikers for Wildlands) who believe protecting our last wildlands should be the highest priority. If a conflict over specific trail riding and wilderness protection exists, default should be toward wilderness designation, not our individual desires for a specific recreational experience. We believe that a large wilderness classification overlay of the Boulder White Clouds National Monument proposal is the best strategy for protecting the core wildlands values that all hope to leave unmarred for the future.
George Wuerthner
Mountain Bikers for Wildlands
Bend, Ore.


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