Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Keep mountain bikes out of high wilderness

    Once again, some mountain bikers have shown themselves to be more interested in their personal recreational opportunities than long-term protection of wild places. As a mountain biker myself, I understand the pleasures of biking. But selfish pleasure should not override what is ultimately best for the land and future generations.
    The recently announced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and several mountain-biking advocacy groups regarding bike use in the proposed Boulder-White Clouds (BWC) National Monument is a huge disappointment in terms of protection of our natural heritage.
    The current MOU would permit mountain biking to utilize trails in the alpine heart of the BWC proposal. Places like Ants Basin, Born Lakes, Chamberlain Basin, Castle Divide, Washington Lake and other high-elevation areas surrounding the highest peaks would be open to mountain biking.
    These areas, along with the entire wild Warm Springs canyon, Germania Creek, the West Fork of the East Fork and Galena Gulch were recommended for wilderness designation by the Sawtooth National Forest. However, the MOU says that these wild places would have to allow mountain-bike use and even include motorized equipment such as chainsaws and small bulldozers like Bobcats to be utilized for trail development and maintenance.
    There are numerous problems with mountain biking, such as the mechanical advantage provided by bikes, which allow individuals to travel much further in a single day than anyone on foot or even horse. This means wildlife and places that were and could still be relatively remote would have less human influence. For instance, wildlife sensitive to human intrusions might be negatively affected by an increase in human presence facilitated by mountain bikes.
    I am afraid if this MOU is permitted to move forward without modification and removal of at least the high-elevation trails, then the largest roadless area in the West that could be designated wilderness by Congress will be doomed from any future wildlands protection.
    That is why I oppose many of the specific terms of the agreement and why my organization, Mountain Bikers for Wilderness, opposes fragmentation of the BWC with numerous mountain-bike and/or motorized trail routes and supports maximum wilderness designation for all roadless lands in the BWC.
George Wuerthner
Bend, Ore.

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