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For years, I've been writing about natural alliances, or lack thereof. (Go to end of this column for links.) First, I bemoaned the riff between two key constituencies who should work hand-in-hand, hikers and mountain bikers, who became adversaries instead, mainly over the issue of Wilderness. Hiking groups want it; mountain biking groups oppose it. Consequently, efforts to preserve roadless lands suffered mightily. Then, I wrote about a natural alliance that still had a chance, hunters and wildernuts. Ironically, the Sierra Club deserves the credit for creating this concept--even coining the words "natural alliance." Back in the mid-1990s, the Sierra Club launched its Natural Alliance program to convince hunters they had a common ground with Sierra Clubbers, primarily the protection of wild land. A positive stroke by the Sierra Club, no doubt, but the bond never developed because some Sierra Club chapters, not the parent organization, have taken anti-hunting stands. The National Rifle Association rushed to the podium and shot down the Natural Alliance idea and told hunters that getting cozy with the Sierra Club was sleeping with the enemy.

A Natural Alliance, Finally

For years, I’ve been writing about natural alliances, or lack thereof. (Go to end of this column for links.)

First, I bemoaned the riff between two key constituencies who should work hand-in-hand, hikers and mountain bikers, who became adversaries instead, mainly over the issue of Wilderness. Hiking groups want it; mountain biking groups oppose it. Consequently, efforts to preserve roadless lands suffered mightily.

Then, I wrote about a natural alliance that still had a chance, hunters and wildernuts. Ironically, the Sierra Club deserves the credit for creating this concept–even coining the words “natural alliance.” Back in the mid-1990s, the Sierra Club launched its Natural Alliance program to convince hunters they had a common ground with Sierra Clubbers, primarily the protection of wild land. A positive stroke by the Sierra Club, no doubt, but the bond never developed because some Sierra Club chapters, not the parent organization, have taken anti-hunting stands. The National Rifle Association rushed to the podium and shot down the Natural Alliance idea and told hunters that getting cozy with the Sierra Club was sleeping with the enemy.

That background seems important because yesterday, I received a press release. Actually, I receive enough PRs to wear out a delete key every three months, including five or six each day from Ken Salazar’s office, plus two or three daily from his boss in the White House. But unlike 98 percent of the PRs, this one was a Red Alert for me, as it should have for anybody interested in keeping roadless lands roadless.

Here’s the first paragraph: “A consortium of prominent outdoor-oriented groups has united in support of responsible management of inventoried roadless areas with a goal of sustaining the high-quality sporting and recreational opportunities provided by America’s backcountry. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance, together representing millions of public-lands users, have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that a directive be issued requiring high-level review of proposed development of roadless areas until permanent rules for their management can be resolved.”

The wording might be a yawner to some, but to me, it shouts “About Time!”

A triumvirate of powerful coalitions all pulling hard, side-by-side, in the same direction–like a troika–could quickly become the most influential lobby in protecting roadless lands and non-motorized recreation. Finally, anglers, climbers, hikers, hunters, mountain bikers, paddlers and skiers all on the same page! To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, I feel a great disturbance in the (Political) Force.

It might be easy to underestimate the significance. Most media didn’t cover the creation, let alone earlier joint efforts by the same consortium in support of ongoing climate change legislation and the Omnibus Public Lands Bill signed by President Obama last Monday. In addition, I suspect many readers don’t know much about these three collectives. Each is actually a combine of partners representing many thousands if not millions of like-minded people.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is a trade group for most outdoor manufacturers and a few retailers; hundreds of companies that make virtually anything you buy at an outdoor retailer.

The Outdoor Alliance (OA) is a relatively new union of six “human-powered” recreation groups that really needed to get together: Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American Whitewater, International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, only formed seven years ago, has rapidly put together a stunning consortium of major “hook and bullet” groups such as Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, Mule Deer Foundation, North American Grouse Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, Whitetails Unlimited, plus professional groups like the American Fisheries Society and Wildlife Management Institute, plus land trusts like The Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Land, plus the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents most state and federal land-managing and wildlife agencies, plus the Union Sportsman’s Alliance, which represents twenty trade unions, plus many hunting and fishing equipment manufacturers such as Benelli, Beretta, Buck Knives, Chevrolet, Orvis, Patagonia, Remington, Scott Fly Rods, and Triton Boats.

Bet you’ve never seen those companies and nonprofits (and I listed less than half of them) on the same list going the same direction on the same issue. If I were a lobbyist for the motorized recreation, mining or other single-use industries that fight every attempt to protect roadless lands, I’d add up the numbers and start thinking career change or retirement.

Now, back to the subject of the press release–urging Vilsack to put a hold on any development (translate, new roads) that might compromise roadless lands. (Click here to read the letter.)

I called all three members of the new troika to drill down a little deeper. What they want is no more roads for two or three years. In the meantime, they will, hopefully, develop and go to Congress with a detailed strategy for the future of those 58.5 million acres of national forest. We have 193 million acres in our national forests, roughly two-thirds already devoted to natural resource extraction and crisscrossed with around 375,000 miles of roads, but we have been running in place for twenty years trying to decide what to do with the remaining one-third.

Let’s be clear. This consortium immediately becomes the 900-pound green gorilla with enough political muscle to finally make something happen. When talking to the groups, I detected some hesitancy on whether they would collectively come up with a plan for those 58.5 million acres, but to me, they must take the lead. They can’t just say: Protect them until somebody else decides what to do.

But developing a plan will cause some internal strife, to say the least, hopefully not too much to rip apart this desperately needed coalition. Witness the incredibly skillful wording of the press release and letter, obviously intended to avoid stepping on the toes of that proverbial Elephant in the Room–Wilderness.

Assuming Congress finally gets in the mood to actually do something to protect roadless lands, our elected representatives have three geneal options:

1. Codifying the Roadless Rule and leaving us with more or less what we have today, one-third of our national forests open to all forms of muscle-powered recreation and two-thirds devoted to motorized wreckreation. (Interesting, don’t you agree, that two-thirds is not enough for motorheads.)

2. Designating many roadless lands as Wilderness, which thanks to the Forest Service’s questionable interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964 would ban mountain biking.

3. Opt for an alterative designation (yet to be named) allowing bicycle use, climbing anchors, and some other current prohibitions, but otherwise providing the same protection Wilderness does. I’ve started calling this the “Wilderness Lite” option.

For many roadless areas, the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and many groups won’t want anything less than Wilderness. But will the Outdoor Troika support Wilderness? Probably not. The internal debate for the future will certainly test the will of partners of today, especially in OA where IMBA casts a long shadow and has been fighting Wilderness proposals for decades, but also in OIA, which represents some bicycle manufacturers and retailers selling bicycles.

It seems likely to me that avoiding an implosion within the triumvirate will be so important that in line with the current craze for collaboration, it could lead to a national Wilderness Lite proposal. If this happens, and I hope it does, it should have enough political wind behind it to blow over objections from not only the usual suspects who oppose anything without roads, but also opposition from wilderness groups. To me, this seems like nothing less than a Perfect Storm for roadless lands.

Related articles:

A Natural Alliance Foiled

A Natural Alliance Not Foiled, Yet

The Natural Allies Chronology

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  1. Kudos on this excellent article!

  2. Bill,
    Nicely done. As folks recognize the important economic benefit of outdoor recreation i think coalitions like these will have greater chance of success. Hunter, anglers and other folks who enjoy the great outdoors understand that “good habitat is good business.”

  3. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    This article is nothing but the same old, tired rhetoric (Rhetoric — the Art of Lying), still proposing the same old, tired anthropocentric philosophy: “Humans own the Earth, and only what humans want (especially MONEY) matters”. Luckily, many of your readers aren’t dumb enough to fall for that.

  4. It may not be the bed of roses that you describe. In newwest’s own pages there’s plenty of evidence of bickering between people who don’t want to share their trials with other users like mt. bikers and horses for example. It probably boils down to local stake holders hammering out compromises for each roadless area.

  5. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Re: “don’t want to share their trials with other users”

    Why can’t people tell the truth? No one has a problem with other users. We only have a problem with BICYCLES, which are machines, and not users. We have no problem sharing the trail with other trail users.

    I suspect that the reason people don’t tell the truth is that, if they were to tell the truth, it would be obvious that they don’t have a case! For example, mountain bikers love to claim that they are “discriminated against”. But that is impossible, since the exact same rules apply to everyone. If there really were any discrimination, they could file a lawsuit, and win. That lawsuit WAS filed in 1994, and they LOST!: http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/mtb10. That proved that there is no “right” to mountain bike.

  6. Johnny Thundersockeye

    Thanks Bill ,I think option 3 or Wilderness lite does stand a pretty good chance,with all the un-ill collaborative winds blowing!.I would like to point out that ,while I personally cherish and value the federal W system and would like to see most of the RARE II era lands finally added ,I have one huge beef with the current operating procedure-regarding the W system. Commercial hunting and fishing guides operate as business ventures based upon the harvest of wild game and fish within these areas and thats GREAT! I am ALL! for it! -so WHY IN THE WORLD CAN WE NOT COMMERCIALLY HARVEST MOREL MUSHROOMS IN WILDERNESS!!!!This is absolute and utter lunacy,and to all those with bad attitudes about commercial picking -IM sorry but you dont have any ecologically sound reasoning to stand upon -and you should ask yourself why you dont like it? Plain and simple ,yes just like with hunting ,fishing ,hiking or climbing there are a few assholes that irresponsibly litter and break the rules,but I sure dont propose banning all such activities over them!! Morels ,unlike Matsutakes are not mechanically harvested using rakes that disturb soil and due to the extremely temporary presence of such organisms,they are NOT! any sort of important food source for any wildlife!There are quite frankly no more adverse impacts upon the environment from harvesting morels than from hiking since thats essentially all your doing while you harvest them-and oh YEAH bending over about 4 billion times ,on a good day!The thing is it already just turns in to a senseless cat and mouse game between people going ahead and illegally harvesting and the usually heavy handed and ignorant uninformed Forest Service Law Enforement officials who cant wait to zealously try and persecute us criminals,for the deplorable act of pursuing the American dream through HARD! physical labor and entreprenurial spirit!?? This -in a society that supposedly values capitalism,democracy and hard work???In this age of diminishing forest employment it is an unexcusable shame to let millions of dollars worth of morels literally rot away in to oblivion when unemployed loggers and all sorts of folks could and would really use the income opportunity!Some sorts of mushroom harvest do disturb the environment and those should be banned,but even without stretching the interpretation of the act to include what are to me the much more questionable though I suppose defendable,activites of mountain biking and bolt fixing it should be obvious to any reasonable person or FS officials that this ban is TOTALLY LUDICROUS!!!!!!

  7. Well, you call for no new roads in designated roadless areas, but new designated ATV trails proposals should also be off limits. My beloved roadless area with highly erodible soils has been targeted by the motorized ATV groups for a new motorized trail. Never mind that they already have a designated motorized trail, plus existing forest roads that provide access to this roadless area, that allow them to roam over and around it. ATV trails open the roadless area to cross country ATV abuse. New trails are being pioneered every year in roadless areas. No, there is never enough motorized trails for these motorized groups, and the local county politicians they sway to get their way.
    These groups and politicians ignore soil science. They do not care about causing soil erosion, stream degradation, and damaging the vegetative landscape.

  8. Good point about roads and ATV trails. But ALL trails and roads are basically the same thing: habitat destruction that facilitates human access. Most of them should be restored to habitat. Wildlife have already lost far too much habitat.

    Vehicles of all types (motorized or not) cause people to travel faster than they can appreciate what they are seeing. The result is that they easily get bored and then want more roads and more trails, in a never-ending cycle of destruction. The only solution is to restrict all vehicles to pavement, where they can’t do as much harm.

  9. See what I mean? It sure doesn’t sound like an alliance to me.

  10. Mike: Maybe try thinking about the issue from a slightly different perspective. A bicycle, while allowing a user to travel faster through wilderness and possibly miss a few details does allow a person to travel further and deeper into the mountains, to places where there is less human impact and fewer other humans to encounter-all while doing less damage than most other forms of overland transportation. Instead of hiking for half a day, setting up camp, and heading out the next day a cyclist can get to the same location, take some pictures, enjoy the grandeur that nature provides, and ride out (leaving only faint tire prints) before the walker takes his fourth pee break.
    That cyclist can then just as effectively write a letter to his representatives stressing the importance of saving that land from development or mining. That cyclist is just as passionate about keeping the land in its natural state as any hiker.
    Mike, your desire to protect the land and mine are almost the same. I don’t ride for a pure, unbridled thrill a’la Red Bull Rampage. I ride because I love the outdoors. I love the mountains. I love being able to get someplace where I am not around people or their effects. I love the physical and mental challenge of riding a bicycle on a narrow trail. I love how riding a bike on trails keeps me mentally and physically fit. And hey, it’s fun.

    If you’re ever in Bozeman we should go for a ride together. I can get my hands on a bike and helmet for you. Then we’ll talk about how much we have in common over a couple of beers.

  11. John, allowing bikes in natural areas increases the human presence in the area, harming the wildlife. If bikes aren’t allowed, people like you who are too lazy to WALK wouldn’t go there, or wouldn’t go as far. Your wish (and the wildlife’s wish) to be around fewer people would be satisfied. Instead of having to ride several miles, you would get the same amount of nature experience in a one mile hike: hikers don’t have to give their full attention to controlling a bike. They can see, hear, touch, and smell nature — which is, after all, the whole idea. Isn’t it?! If you want a physical challenge, ride on the road, as Lance Armstrong does. I can’t think of even ONE good reason to allow bikes in natural areas. Nor can mountain bikers. There are plenty of environmentally benign ways to accomplish everything that they want to do — IF they really cared about the environment!

  12. Michael Pearlman

    The reason this partnership is significant is because of the number of users and wide range of user groups it represents. The exciting thing is that all these groups agree that the federal government should slow down and come up with a logical, well-thought out plan for managing roadless areas instead of the piecemeal, industry-friendly approach we’ve seen over the past eight years.

    IMBA has been on the forefront of designing sustainable mountain bike trails, which I can guarantee are less damaging to the soil then the muddy, hoof-hammered gullys or overgrazed meadows I’ve walked through in several Wyoming wilderness areas. A poorly maintained campsite or large pack trip can do as much environmental damage as a bicycle tire. Should we just abandon every wilderness trail and only allow people to bushwhack into publicly owned roadless areas?

    Hopefully this alliance is a much-needed step towards real compromise from users who all care about protecting wild land.

  13. Mike-
    I respectfully disagree. First, nobody rides a bicycle off road because of laziness. It’s challenging. It’s physically taxing. And as a reminder that this issue is more polarized than it should be, I DO hike. Frequently. I hike trails that I ride on and trails in Wilderness areas (which I am not proposing to allow bikes in). A bicycle is more akin to XC skis: quiet, swift, non-intrusive. I have ridden past a reclining moose and foraging bears disturbing them less than had I been walking- therefore disturbing me less!

    A respectfully ridden bike is environmentally benign. The bicycle is, after all, the noblest invention- the people’s nag. I encourage you to try it. My offer stands indefinitely.


  14. Nice analysis, Bill. I like the idea — though the name Wilderness Lite not so much. But a good name can be easily (?) found as the system develops. I think the troika will come to an agreement.

    I do, however, have to take issue with your categorizing the FS’s policy of forbidding mountain biking in wilderness as a “questionable interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964.” (And it’s not just the FS — all 4 agencies forbid it.) The Act (Section 4(c)) allows (the exceptions aren’t applicable here) “…no use of motor vehicles…[and] no OTHER form of mechanical transport…” (emphasis added). Clearly Congress meant to prohibit two different classes of mechanization. Those that think no one could have meant mountain bikes because they hadn’t been invented in 1964 (though I cutting trails and riding my three-speed through the woods before that!), probably don’t know that some of the people responsible for starting the Wilderness Society also fought the Park Service’s proposal to turn the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah into a bike trail — back in the 1930’s.

    But legal wording and history aside, it is not a secret that all four agencies prohibit biking in wilderness, and Congress has never seen fit to change that. When the FS saw that “grazing…shall be permitted to continue” (Section 4(d)(4)(2)) but that “there shall be no…structures” (Section 4(c)), the FS set out to have fences, stockponds, etc. removed from wildernesses. In 1980, Congress corrected that interpretation with the Congressional Grazing Guidelines attached to the Colorado Wilderness Act. In 1990, Congress defined what kinds of wheelchairs (another form of mechanical transport) are allowed in wilderness in the ADA’s Section 507(c). There have been scores of opportunities for Congress to correct the agencies’ interpretations on biking. Don’t you think that because Congress has not done so, that means the agencies have been correct?

    This ban is not about the biophysical impact of bikes — all but the most stubborn horse people know that packstock do far more damage than bicycles. It is about our relationship with the land. In wilderness we are supposed to forego, as the Act’s author, Howard Zahniser, wrote: “…our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.” Bicycles do just that — they allow us to go farther and faster than any “natural” source of locomotion.

    Of course bicycles belong in the woods. The quiet woods. Just not in Wilderness.

    And — Johnny T: I feel your pain. Oooh — that sounded too Clintonesque. You’re right in that responsible morel harvesting has far less biophysical impact than some of these almost-permanent outfitter camps. But, again, the reason commercial collecting is prohibited is not because of its biophysical impact. All commercial enterprise in wilderness is forbidden (Section 4(c)), except for “commercial SERVICES…to the extent necessary for…realizing the recreational or other WILDERNESS purposes…” (Section 4(d)(6) — emphases added). Hunting outfitters (supposedly, anyway) are providing a service, a wilderness experience — not selling an elk. [Though if Idaho gets its way, they’ll kill off a bunch of wolves so their outfitters can guarantee that an elk will be part of the end product. And the Forest Service will probably roll over and let them. But that’s another discussion.] So, in a wilderness you get to pick morels for yourself, but not sell them, just as a hunter can kill for himself but not sell the meat; and a horn-collector can pick up antlers to make into a chandelier — but he can neither sell the antlers nor the chandelier; and a trapper can add to his silent zoo, but can’t sell a fur from an animal trapped in wilderness. And Stephen Spielberg can shoot a home movie, but not “Indiana Jones V.” No commercial enterprises.

    A different relationship with the land.

  15. Thanks, George. I wouldn’t expect any serious proposal to be called Wilderness Lite–just my words, not knowing what it will eventually be called. We’ll know it when we hear it, though, right?

    Concerning the Forest Service’s interpretation of the Wilderness Act, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. The word, bicycle, is not in the Act, and I’m sure it was a pre-existing use, although not a major one, like horse use, because it passed before the advent of the modern mountain bike, so the founders really didn’t consider this issue. If that Act passed today, which it probably wouldn’t, but if it did, I strongly suspect it would include bicycling as one of the activities allowed. Just my opinion, of course.

    True, all four agencies have wilderness regs banning bikes, but it all started with the Forest Service, and the others just followed that lead, since the FS was the major agency involved in wilderness issues.

    In any regard, we’d have a lot more wilderness today if the FS would have interpreted the Act as allowing bicycling.

    Here’s a link to one article I wrote on the subject, plus a ton of comments.



  16. I must start by differentiating between the big and little ‘w’ when talking about wilderness in the modern parley of land protection. The little ‘w’ refers to a natural uncultivated state and the big ‘W’ is an act of Congress.

    In this dialog we must remember that Wilderness is not a religion, it is a LAND protection tool, which, along with other permanent companion designations offer options on how to best manage, care for and protect our public resources while balancing recreational access. While our own private relationship with wild public lands might be spiritual in nature, we cannot manage these areas by using the subjective yardstick of solitude and serenity. Our wilderness must be governed through conservation based on science, education and the ability to share.

    Bicycles absolutely belong in wilderness, just not designated Wilderness areas. As an avid mountain biker and occasional hiker, I enjoy the attributes of Wilderness like the most ardent wild land supporter. I have few issues with bicycles being banned from the big ‘W’ Wilderness areas except when I experience trails and meadows when hiking in Wilderness that have been trashed by thoughtless equestrians or humans in general. This always prompts the question for me of what is a Wilderness designation protecting: the LAND or the First Amendment rights of those users who recreate by the sanctity of the foot and hoof?

    The issue at hand is not whether bikes belong in Wilderness.
    That, unfortunately, was decided long ago. The question has become how do we permanently protect our public lands as we go forward from this point in history? Montana has not had designated Wilderness in 25 years and the religious-like fervor that demands Wilderness at any cost is precisely what has prevented even one acre from being blessed by Congress.

    Now is the time to embrace the companion designations, boundary adjustments and corridors that can be combined with new, socially responsible Wilderness that will offer permanent legislative protection and allow continued quiet, muscle powered bicycle access to important trails. This is not to say cyclists want to be on every trail everywhere. But consideration should be given to the historically and economically important cycling routes as landscapes are recommended as having Wilderness potential. National Protection Areas are a viable solution to some of the gridlock in our land protection and access debate. It is ludicrous that hikers and bicyclists have been forced to opposing sides concerning non-motorized access to our public wilderness areas.

    Management proposals based on science, education, economics, good will, open minds and the ability to share will do more for our spectacular public lands than the provincial posturing of the past ever has.

    Whatever the social question, a bicycle should be part of the answer…

  17. Wilderness not a religion? Gee, just read Terry Tempest Williams if you don’t think so.
    As for this natural alliance…well, let’s not forget the biggest funder of TRCP just happens to be the same as the largest funder of the “mainstream wilderness” groups AND the biggest fiscal backer of the “grassroots” support for the Dombeck roadless initiative, Pew Uncharitable Trusts.
    The largest failing of the Green hype campaign for the roadless areas was they didn’t have much traction with the hook-and-bulleters, many of whom are conservative, or tend to work in resource industries. Never mind that the sporting community is hugely fractured into regional and single-species groups, so seeing the big picture is difficult. And nobody in OWAA has the integrity to report on it.
    I just wish you’d stop pumping this, Bill. It’s a dishonest presentation. Pew has the money and determination to coopt gullible “hunters and anglers” for its own ends. Eventually, they’ll collect and pay off enough useful idiots, and not only is the sporting community going to be the long-term losers, but this nation as well.

  18. Thanks for your considered response, Bill.

    I think my main point may have gotten lost. Regardless of who was thinking about what when, Congress has passed a hundred and thirty or so wilderness bills creating close to 750 wilderness areas now, and has never said bicycles should be allowed in one of them. In fact, the most recent — signed just last Monday — excludes a portion of Rocky Mountain from wilderness so that it can be used as a bike trail. What better time for the Congress to tell the agencies they have been wrong all these years? They corrected the agencies on grazing, and put wheelchairs in wilderness long after the original Act. Congress has had ample opportunity to put bicycles in wilderness. That they have not done so seems a pretty good indication that Congress doesn’t want them there — and the agencies’ interpretation is correct.

    Have I convinced you yet?

    [And any deference by the other agencies to the FS as “leader” died decades ago. I think even a FS employee would attest to that!]

    I absolutely agree that there should be wild places for people to mountain bike. But the experience will be fundamentally different in them than in wilderness. Not worse, just different. And the symbolism of the place, as articulated by Zahniser, would be different. Not inferior, different.

    Now, “a lot more wilderness” if the FS had allowed bikes? Some, maybe — but I’m not sure how much. I’ve worked on a lot of legislation, and I’ve never found IMBA to carry much weight. The opposition with strength still comes from those “Lords of Yesterday” teaming up with the motorized crowd.

    I do find it interesting that in the years since Montana’s last wilderness bill was passed, Congress has designated over 475 other areas totaling over 25 million acres in over 30 states — and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, for crying out loud! So what’s up with Montana?

  19. John, “A respectfully ridden bike is environmentally benign” is BS. You aren’t listening, nor are you familiar with the science. Anyone who’s ever seen the aftermath of mountain biking knows that either (1) NO ONE rides “respectfully”, or (2) even “respectfully” ridden mountain bikers harm the environment. No matter HOW you ride, you still: create V-shaped ruts that ruin the trails for everyone, including mountain bikers; kill small animals and plants on and under the trail; drive wildlife out of their habitat, at least temporarily; drive other trail users off of the trails and out of the parks; and teach kids that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable (of course, it’s NOT!). Empty rhetoric isn’t going to solve the problem of bikes where they don’t belong. Allowing bikes on trails won’t enable the creation of more wilderness, because when bikes are allowed in (or loud radios, mountain boards, guns, or other machinery), IT IS NO LONGER WILDERNESS! Ever hear the expression “love the land ot death”? That’s what it refers to: making it serve selfish humans, instead of the wildlife, whose home it is. Of course, people who know nothing about nature won’t understand this, and will continue pretending that the Emperor is fully clothed….

  20. George,

    Well, I do have an open mind, but I can be stubborn, too.

    You can’t really compare the bicycle issue with the wheelchair issue? Who is against allowing wheelchairs in Wilderness? Nobody. Who is against allowing bicycles in Wilderness? Lots of people, including the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, most if not all other hiking groups, most if not all state-based wilderness groups, the Forest Service and other federal land-managing agencies with wilderness responsibilities, most backcountry horseman groups, most ranchers with wilderness grazing allotments, etc. etc. etc. IMBA doesn’t have a chance against this lobby, and they’ve know it. That’s why Congress has not allowed bicycles in Wilderness.

    On grazing issues, since this was part of the original compromise that gave us the Wilderness Act, major green groups did not oppose this adjustment because it would have been going against the spirit of their deal to get the Act passed, even though grazing probably has much greater impact on Wilderness than unlimited use of bicycles on trails ever would. So, same comeback here, no real opposition to making this change, unlike there would be if IMBA tried to amend the Act to allow bicycles.

    Actually, I think the hiking groups should push to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness, so they can double the pro-wilderness constituency and avoid the ground-level battles going on everywhere over the bicycle issue–and get more Wilderness.

    Those who oppose Wilderness, with help from the Forest Service, have very successfully used the mountain biking issue as a divide-and-conquer strategy to make Wilderness designation much more difficult politically.

    Incidentally, George, you might be interested in knowing that I’m an avid hiker, written several hiking guides, used to be an American Hiking Society board member. I’m not a mountain biker, and have no plans to ever ride a mountain bike on a single-track.

    Anyway, thanks for your great comments, even if we can’t completely agree.


  21. George,

    Oops. I forgot to address your other question. What’s the deal with Montana?

    I’ve written extensively about this. If interested, you can find most of the articles in the Natural Allies Chronology link at the end of the above commentary, but briefly, two answers.

    First answer is that people who should be united to protect Montana roadless areas as Wilderness spend way too much time fighting each other–and not just the same old mountain bikers vs. hikers problem that has slowed down wilderness designation everywhere. The green groups in the state have been at a complete impasse for years. What politician would touch a Wilderness bill when half of the wilderness advocates in the state would oppose it?

    Second answer is that our delegation has been either opposed or embarrassingly disinterested in wilderness bills, partly but not completely because of the first answer. They want wilderness to be controversy-free. They want everybody to get together, love each other, all agree on a bill, so nobody will say bad things about them in the press, which will never happen with any wilderness bill. Consequently, they have been ignoring a large part of their constituency year after year by not even trying to solve the wilderness issue.

    Sad but true–twenty-six years since our last wilderness bill and no end in sight.


  22. Mike V.
    There’s a few details that seems to get lost in the heat of this particular argument. This is distressing, because the real loser in the battle is nature. But let’s revisit some of your statements:

    “…respectfully” ridden mountain bikers harm the environment. No matter HOW you ride, you still: create V-shaped ruts …” Around my home in Bozeman the majority of our trails parallel streams and rivers. Flowing water creates v-shaped ruts, not tires. The science you speak of supports this.

    “…kill small animals and plants on and under the trail…” In 18 years of riding bicycles off road, I have never killed an animal, other than some insects.

    “…drive other trail users off of the trails and out of the parks…” That’s not the impression I get when I stop to talk to hikers and equestrians when I’m riding my bike. My interaction with other trail users has been overwhelmingly positive.

    “… teach kids that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable…” There’s no more rough treatment of nature with a bicycle than with any other non-motorized means of conveyance. But what I do think is acceptable is teaching kids that there are a lot of fun things to do besides playing video games, and bikes are a great way to get kids thinking about and respecting nature.

    As someone who is equally passionate with regards to the natural world and bicycles (of all types) it saddens me to see the protection of nature suffer because the people who have similar opinions can’t keep from petty bickering and sniping. Mountain Bikers don’t want to change any existing Wilderness area, we just want to be included in a lawful land management process that includes multiple uses.

    Our biggest threats are extractive industries and development. Not people having fun riding bikes in the dirt. Please work with us.

    Bill- Thanks for the thoughtful and inclusive article.

  23. John, tell the truth! One of the pro-mountain biking research articles I reviewed at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/scb7 ADMITTED that hiking flattens the trail, and mountain biking creates V-shaped ruts. It’s also obvious from the trails and from the nature of the bike tire. Absent mountain biking, rain doesn’t naturally create long, straight ruts in the shape of a mountain bike track!

    You say you have never killed animals, except insects. So you ADMIT killing animals, just as I said! Since mountain bikers have to pay attention to negotiating the trail, they wouldn’t always know if they killed a small animal, such as a snake or lizard. It happens frequently.

    You only interact with hikers who HAVEN’T been driven off the trails, so your sample is biased. Many people, such as kids or older people, find the presence of large pieces of MACHINERY on the trail very intimidating — OF COURSE! Wherever mountain biking has been permitted, they have largely abandoned the trails.

    The science (see my review) doesn’t support your assertion that bike impacts are no worse than hiking impacts. For one thing, mountain bikers travel several times as far and as fast as hikers, so they do AT LEAST several times as much damage. But all a kid has to do is LOOK at a mountain bike to get the message that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable to adults. Just look at the TIRES, which are perfectly designed to rip up the soil.

    You may be passionate, but unfortunately NOT about telling the truth, nor about protecting the wildlife and the natural world. That’s obvious.

  24. Thanks for the return to reason, Bob.

    Mike, This has been an enlightening conversation. I want nothing more than two things: to protect natural land from development and to have a serious, rational, and proactive discussion on how to best protect land from development. It seems that that won’t happen here. Thanks for your viewpoint.


  25. Bob, I don’t support using animals as vehicles, but horses evolved in North America and have a right to go wherever they want to. They don’t damage the land, they ARE the land! Bicycles, of course, are pieces of machinery, and have NO rights.

    John, there is only one way to protect land from development, which is designating it as Wilderness. Mountain biking IS development! Too bad mountain bikers and some others are too selfish to support that, in spite of promising to do so (in the Park City Agreement with the Sierra Club in 1994)!

  26. Arguing about various forms of human play (recreation) marginalizes the incredibly scarce values wilderness, and/or Wilderness, represent. Codified use restrictions protect these values. Wilderness lite, like many modern marketing misperceptions based on deregulation and hype, fails to address essential elements of wilderness, like ecology, spirituality, and solitude. What about speed of travel? Human fitness, competition, and social identity now represent real threats too difficult to discuss.

    Making wilderness more politically popular presumes Senators in Montana, or Idaho care. These are not cut from the cloth of Metcalf or Church. Will adding bikes, or snowmobiles, bring in the big campaign bucks, or the approval of the oligarchs who keep them in office? Best to look at the whole environmental voting record, not the movement of the lips before selling the farm. Add Goldman Sachs and you might get a Montana bill pronto.

  27. Steve Kelly, I wish the news was different; but, you’ve been dead on lately. Many of the rest of us sucked it up, kept our irritation about the blurring of what should or shouldn’t be allowed in Wilderness to ourselves, did our best to wear our “collaborative” hat, and even rhetorically kissed Senator Crappo’s rear to celebrate his efforts on that ever-so-imperfect public lands bill. Now, less than two weeks after the bill was signed, the old snake vomits up a bill to put firearms into the parks. The poaching in Yellowstone is already on the increase, north end and south; gut piles resulted in a record number of bear deaths last year; and, with the amount of hostility surrounding the wolf issue, guns in Yellowstone is a sure recipe for a few dead wolves. I guess we have it coming for letting our guard down and trusting in “compromise” with guys like Crappo.

  28. Bill, you have absolutely correctly characterized the wheelchair and grazing issues– both as to the history and the impact. (I’ve read Brower’s testimony on grazing. I wonder if he came to regret that as he did his acquiescence on Glen Canyon.)

    But I think you also indirectly agreed with me. It would take an Act of Congress to put bicycles in wilderness — because they are currently forbidden as mechanical transport. That was my original point, not whether the Act should be amended to include them. (I don’t think it should, but that’s an opinion — and on another question.) It’s a matter of law, not of policy, that bicycles are forbidden.

    I know the Blue Ribbon Coalition has tried to use mountain bikes as a wedge, but I think their alliance with the extractive industries and playing up anti-Fed sentiments have proven more fruitful in blocking wilderness designations.

    But we absolutely agree on your point brought about by the formation of the troika that spurred your original post. There absolutely should be places for people to ride single-track in peace. That, too, is a wonderful experience — you should try it!

    (And speaking of your background, I know somewhat who you are, Bill. I’m not sure I would have responded otherwise. My copy of your Yellowstone hiking guide is so worn that you might just get a second royalty out of me. (Are you advocating that the backcountry trails of Yellowstone be opened to mountain biking?))

    Thanks for your insight on what’s up with MT. Steve Kelly, too, has an important point — where are the heirs to Metcalf and Church? Not in our current delegations, obviously. When has Max gone out on a limb about anything? And Tester seems to be learning at his knee. If either of them were to answer for this they’d probably say you can’t do any good if you don’t get re-elected. And, as you pointed out, with so much internal dissention in the MT wilderness community, why should either of them put themselves on the line? But at least Frank Church DID something for the land before he lost his seat.

    Some of this impasse has to do with “our” Representative. A member of the House is necessary to carry a wilderness bill, and since 1990 no state with only one Representative has gotten a wilderness bill signed. (Well, except for this last omnibus bill — but the Izembek deal is so squirrelly I don’t think it should be counted as a wilderness bill, even if 40+K acres will get added.) We know from reputable surveys that even in those one-Rep states, a majority of the citizens want more wilderness in their own state. The support is broad — but, with some exceptions of course, somewhat shallow. On the other hand, the opposition to wilderness, while narrow, runs deep. And anyone who studies river currents knows which flow dominates. Of course, back when MT had two Reps, and one of them carried a wilderness bill, what happened? Which comes back to your point about the warring wilderness factions in this state. And arguments about “the perfect being the enemy of the good” versus “we’ve already compromised enough.” And there we are — STILL without wilderness protection on some exquisite land.

  29. Thanks, George, and yes, much more agreement than disagreement. To me, it’s all about saving what’s left, and if that means allowing mountain bikes in Wilderness, that’s a minute price to pay. As a hiker, I don’t have a social conflict with mountain bikers. They’re just another trail user to me, and that would be true for Yellowstone Park, too……Bill

  30. Bill, you might feel different if your face had been smashed by a speeding mtn. biker, as mine was in Farmington, NM. I was on my mtn. bike on a popular singletrack trail and being my usual careful self when some gonzo dude came screaming around a blind curve, leaving me with a bloody, blackened eye socket and numerous bruises. I shudder to think what could happen to a hiker on a steep section of trail when he or she is the unintended target of an out-of-control bike. So yeah, cyclists might be just another trail-user to you, but I’m happy to know I won’t meet them in Wilderness.

  31. Pronghorn-
    It’s distressing that the proverbial bad apple can cause such physical and emotional damage. I go out of my way to encourage fellow mtn bikers to ride with respect to the land and other users, and I’ll be the first to unleash some choice words on a careless mtn biker.

    I’m also not against excluding mountain bikes or any other user group from certain areas as long as it’s done through legal channels with plenty of public comment and scientific support.

    What I am against is losing the land preservation war because we can’t work together. And while I’ve never advocated for it or considered working towards this goal, if allowing mtn bikes accomplishes this then I support it (and like Bill stated, this should be initiated by a hiking group). And I’ll be first in line to support excluding mtn bikes from areas on a case-by-case basis. I’ll also not advocate to open existing Wilderness to bikes.

    Last time I checked, energy companies have more impact in Congress than conservation groups. All it takes is a common enemy, a charismatic leader, and some protracted financial hard times for any environmental protection we have to be signed away. The only defense will be a populace that loves the wilderness. Let’s do what we can to get more people excited about saving what wilderness is left.

  32. Pronghorn, you can multiply your encounter by several thousand such encounters on trails all over the world. Even if one event seemed insignificant, when you multiply by the millions of mountain bikers out “shredding” (THEIR term) our natural areas every week, it is obviously pretty significant.

    But the bottom line is that if bikes (or other destructive machinery) were ever allowed in Wilderness, it would no longer be Wilderness. If we who enjoy nature wanted to be around bicycles and the other accoutrements of the city, we would stay in the city! Who would want to expend all the effort to get somewhere that looks like the way nature was intended to be, if it were changed into something as dangerous and unpleasant as a city street?????

    Of course, the mountain bikers, ATVers, hunters, etc. won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Or, at least, wouldn’t admit it….

  33. Pronghorn,

    Thanks for the great comment, and yes, I might feel differently, but I still might not. I can’t answer because it’s never happened to me. I do agree that bikers can be their own worst enemy, though, but hopefully, we won’t let a few hammerheads keep hiking and biking groups from working together to protect roadless lands, which was the point of the above commentary.

    I live next to a Mount Helena City Park and have hiked and ran many thousands of miles on those trails. The park is also heavily used by mountain bikers, and in the nearly 40 years I’ve lived here and used that park, there has not been one accident between a biker and a hiker that I know of. I have never had a hazardous or even discourteous encounter. Contrary to the fiction that Mike Vandeman inserts into every mountain biking comment thread on the Internet, all mountain bikers I’ve met on the trail, and that’s a lot of them, have been courteous, riding under control, yielding to the hikers.


  34. Bill, you complain about me writing “fictions”, but you are unable to name any. You say you have been hiking with bikers for 40 years, but mountain biking has only been in existence for about 20 years in California, where it originated. Your experience with polite bikers in no way contradicts others’ experience with rude, belligerent, and reckless ones. We have had different experience. I suggest that you try hiking on trails that are closed to bikes. I only hike where bikes aren’t allowed, because hiking around mountain bikers is dangerous and very unpleasant (who wants to watch people ripping up nature?). But I still see mountain bikers or their fresh tracks. When you see a mountain biker riding illegally, they are as sweet as can be, until you challenge them for riding illegally. Then they turn very nasty, very fast. We aren’t talking about “a few bad apples”, as mountain bikers like to claim. There are enough that they can be found in any park where there are restrictions on mountain biking. It isn’t just I who has been complaining. Lots of other people have had the same experience, or WORSE. One guy challenged a mountain biker riding illegally, and the biker rode back up the trail, turned around, and rammed his bike into the hiker, bloodying all four limbs. The lawsuit IMBA brought against the NPS in 1994 was lost because of NUMEROUS incidents like that on trails in Marin County, CA. The EBMUD (water district) board went to Marin County to investigate whether to open their watershed to mountain biking. While they were hiking, a mountain biker came by and yelled at them for not getting out of his way fast enough (pedestrians have the right of way, of course). That “helped” them decide not to allow mountain biking. Etc.

    But my opposition to mountain biking is not based on the characteristics of mountain bikers (since hikers could conceivably also be rude, although I have never seen it). It is based on the impacts of mountain biking that occur regardless of how it is done. No matter how “politely” someone rides, he/she still creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives other trail users off the trails and hence out of the parks, and teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable (it’s NOT). The laws of physics and biology are the same everywhere, so it’s silly to have different rules in different parks. The ONLY way to avoid all of these problems is to restrict bikes and other vehicles to paved roads.

  35. It is really nice of the hikers to allow others to access their land as long as those who do follow their rules.
    The problem is it is not wilderness if humans access it, period! Hikers have an impact with every step, every trail that is built for them, every time they urinate and every time they defecate. They also impact every thing in a given area when they cook a meal.
    If “more wilderness” is what you want, then it should be totally off limits to everyone. Make it an acutal wilderness, other wise learn to share!

  36. Todd, I have been advocating designating some areas as off-limits to all humans for a decade. But most humans are too selfish to do so, which is why there still isn’t one square inch of the Earth so designated.

    But your “learn to share” comment is irrational. As I said earlier, NO ONE has ever opposed sharing trails with mountain bikers. We only oppose the presence of BICYCLES. Mountain bikers are free to enjoy every Wilderness area just like everyone else: ON FOOT. Why that isn’t good enough for you is a mystery to me. And apparently to everyone else as well, because I have never heard an explanation. Maybe you can be the first to answer the question: WHY CAN’T MOUNTAIN BIKERS ENJOY WILDERNESS THE WAY EVERYONE ELSE DOES?

    Still waiting for an answer, after 14 years….

  37. Mike-
    I think a little empirical data is missing from your “data”. You should borrow or rent a bike and try it. In the name of science, of course. You might like it and maybe even see things from our point of view.

    Still wondering why more people don’t ride, after 18 years…

  38. Mike, the only folks who would be affected by making wilderness off limits would be those on foot, so it is your words calling them selfish. I’ve noticed that a lot of hikers seem to think parsing words and claiming that recreation land is not off limits to other users is really clever, they just have to follow the rules laid down by the hikers, but selfishness is selfishness. And believe me “everybody else” cannot and does not hike….fortunately. If “everyone” did, the whole wilderness would smell like a latrine.

  39. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    John, I already tried that. It was even more boring and unpleasant than I expected (see http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ebrpd16). I can’t imagine anyone but an adrenaline junkie enjoying mountain biking. It completely prevents what I go to the parks for: the enjoyment of nature. 99% of your attention is required on controlling the bike, so you won’t crash. That doesn’t allow you to notice much of anything else, unless you stop, which, judging by mountain bikers’ videos, doesn’t happen much.

    Todd, we do live in a democracy, so the rules are always created by the majority, although mountain bikers would like their tiny minority to set the rules. But since everyone has equal access to Wilderness, what is the problem? The REAL selfishness lies in mountain bikers insisting on being different, and bringing large pieces of MACHINERY with them everywhere they go, even though they know that the MAJORITY (who created the rules) don’t want that. If you want the minority to control things, maybe you would be more comfortable in Russia, China, North Korea, or another dictatorship.

  40. Mike – Again you seem to be missing the point of Bill’s article.

    Personally, as an avid backcountry mountain biker, I enjoy the experience of hiking in Wilderness. I don’t miss my bike when I’m there but I am always reminded of the hypocrisy of banning bicycles when so many other forms of mechanization are allowed and that other ‘traditional’ users cause so much impact.

    The issue is not whether bikes should be allowed in existing Wilderness areas but how do we permanently protect roadless lands into the future. Like it or not, mountain bike users will be part of this dialog and the solution. Embracing the fact that this aspect of the cycling community is here to stay and are natural allies to the conservation movement will bring more land into permanent protection, including new, socially responsible Wilderness, more quickly.

    I’m still waiting to hear how you propose to solve the problem of trail destruction, weed spreading and etc. by the few irresponsible equestrians that do so much damage on public lands because they are the holiest, most pure of users – both in Wilderness and wilderness?

  41. Wilderness lite does exist, and it has an acceptable sounding name. National Protection Area. NPA’s do not allow roads. Do not allow structures unless they already exist. Do not allow summer motorized use. Only allow winter motorized use in special managment areas during specified time periods. Some NPA’s would simply not allow any motorized use at all. Chainsaws are allowed, and motorized trail construction equipment as well. Bicycles are allowed. Administrative management can put further restrictions to the trails in an NPA, such as closing areas for elk calving, or restricting use during mud season. Wilderness can be blended into an NPA.

    I don’t know of a single federal land zoning designation that can’t be used in conjunction with another. Wilderness advocates won’t admit or embrace this fact. Corridors, boundary adjustments, companion designations, they all work. Wilderness by itself is a myopic viewpoint. This is another reason why Montana hasn’t had any new Wilderness.

    Wilderness drought is misleading. We have millions of acres of Montana wilderness. A short while ago the idea of Wilderness in Glacier National Park was advanced. Would that help temporarily quench the Wilderness thirst?

    By the way, it’s public record. The Montana Mountain Bike Alliance’s comments concerning the B-D Forest Plan approved of over 90% of the Recommended Wilderness in that plan. The MMBA did ask for some adjustments that amounted to less than 10%. We haven’t seen a single concession from the B-D. That shows how polarizing Wilderness can be.

    Looking at blends of Wilderness plus other designations can go a long way towards solving problems.

    I see that IMBA is part of the coalition described by Bill. For those of you who are unaware, IMBA supported most of the Wilderness bills in the Omnibus Bill. They withheld support on 2 or 3 of them.

  42. Bob, I didn’t miss Bill’s point. He just doesn’t understand Wilderness. Land with bikes in it would no longer be Wilderness. Or wilderness. It wouldn’t satisfy the needs of the wildlife, nor those of the vast MAJORITY of humans who use it. Bicycles and other large, fast-moving pieces of MACHINERY are exactly what we go to Wilderness to GET AWAY FROM! If we wanted to be around that stuff, we would stay in the city.

    It’s not “hypocritical” to ban bikes, but very intelligent and logical. I don’t support the use of technologies in Wilderness that greatly increase the human footprint, which is what bikes (especially with knobby tires) do.

    There is absolutely nothing preventing mountain bikers from being part of the dialogue nor part of the solution. But bikes don’t belong in any natural areas. You yourselves prevent “alliance” by insisting on bringing your bikes along with you, like some kind of security blanket.

    I’m not an equestrian, and I don’t support the use of animals as vehicles, but experts tell me that responsible equestrians don’t use exotic feed. However, I don’t understand why you think it helps your case to find others abusing the land. You seem to be saying “THEY are allowed to abuse the land, so we should be allowed to do it, too!” Your logic escapes me.

    If you want to know why Wilderness advocates aren’t flocking to your side, look in the mirror! You don’t advocate Wilderness, you advocate ruining it. And all just so you don’t have to walk! At least that’s what it looks like, because none of you will give a good reason why you need to being your security blankets — uh, bicycles — with you everywhere. Are you worried that your $3000 machines will get stolen, if you leave them behind?

  43. Ahhhhh…..whatever!

    One can be part of the backward looking problem or the forward thinking solution. I choose the latter.

    I’m done. Bye Bye!

    Ride On!

  44. Hey All,

    In response to Todd’s comment regarding closing some Wildernesses to all human recreational access — there are several designated Wildernesses that are closed to such use, including hiking, some all year-round and some for part of every year.

    The reason is because recreation is only an “allowable public use” in Wilderness to the extent that it does not harm the intrinsic wilderness character of the area. In other words, recreation is not “the” legislated purpose of Wilderness under the 1964 Act.

    A small side comment.. in skimming down through this thread I couldn’t help but notice that it’s been all males, sigh…

  45. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    What are the areas that are off-limits to all people? Usually those areas are off-limits to all but scientists (e.g. the NW Hawaiian Islands). Scientists are people….

  46. Hi Mike,

    I don’t know of any areas that are closed to all scientists; my post only referenced Wildernesses that are closed to all recreationists.

    Many of them are island Wildernesses (such as Pelican Island and the West Sister Islands). The Brigantine Wilderness is a strip along New Jersey’s coastline that is closed 6 months of the year to the public in order to protect indigenous nesting Plovers. The Mesa Verde Wilderness is closed to the public to protect archaeological sites (arguably not really a key aspect of wilderness character). The Salish-Kootenai Tribe’s Mission Mountain Wilderness is closed several months in summer and fall so that grizzlies can forage in peace.

    My recollection is that there are 10 Wildernesses managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that are closed completely or temporarily to all recreational uses annually. For the complete list you may want to contact wilderness.net or staff at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute.

  47. Mike Vanderman;You are absolutely correct when you say that we humans do not own the earth;which is precisly why people like you do not have any buisness dictating to others the means by which people may or may not interact with nature.

    I personaly do not care much for mountain bikers,atver’s et.However if we are to be a free scociety people have to be free to engage in activities which other people disagree with,unless those activities are proven to be destructive.Do mountain bikes really do any more damage to the natural terrain than say a 900 pound elk tromping through the forest ?

    In regards to the commercial collection of forest products.The non mechanical ,non destructive harvest of natural resources should always be allowed.By making ceartain natural areas,and or the collection of abundant forest products off limits to humans,we are assuring greater human dependence upon more destructive modes of resource extraction.Besides we humans are very much part of nature,it is only ceartain choices we make which so often are detrimental to nature.

    The best way to assure the survival of wild areas is by protecting the rights of people to use those areas in a sustainable manner.If I can earn a dollar from gathering forest products,or gather a meal from the forest then I will not be forced to earn money by employment with say a development firm,nor will I be forced to buy my food from sources who promote the widespread destruction of wildland for the sake of commercial farming.If you know your history,then you know that one reason we have so few wild areas left is that for so long now the powers that be have by law and decree strongly discouraged sustainable forest resource extraction.Of course they have done this for the sake of garnishing greater control of the common people via a form of forced capitalism.When people can sustain themselves via nature,they are not as dependent upon development orientated capitalism,nor are they as easy to control.

  48. “Do mountain bikes really do any more damage to the natural terrain than say a 900 pound elk tromping through the forest?” Dumb question! The forest has had millions of years to learn how to deal with elk, and only 20 years for mountain bikes. No comparison. Elk also have the right to be there; bicycles have NO rights whatsoever.

    “we humans are very much part of nature”. Yes, but WHICH part? Humans are a newcomer everywhere but Africa, and hence an exotic species. Exotic species have no right to be where they are.

    But more important is the fact that humans are 100% dependent on the existence & welfare of other species, so we had better learn how to protect them. Unnecessary activities like running over wildlife with mountain bikes need to be stopped. Which option should we choose?: thrills for a tiny minority of the population who want to mountain bike, or the survival of mankind? Most sane people would prefer the latter.

    Luckily, mountain biking is somewhat self-limiting, since mountain bikers regularly maim and kill themselves, for the good of the species: http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/mtb_dangerous — evolution in action!