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In April, I posted a two-part series (links at end of column) on the conflict between hikers and bikers over roadless land protection. The comment threads following these commentaries exploded with a plethora of wide-reaching and innovative thought. Unlike most threads, most commenters stayed reasonably close to the subject and built on the original commentaries with a massive collection of good ideas. A bit too massive, actually, as the nearly 400 comments exceeded the limits of our system and regrettably some of the later comments may be lost forever in cyberspace. I read them all, though, and I'll try to summarize some of the key thoughts coming out of this sincere exchange of opinions.

Hikers, Mountain Bikers and Wilderness, Afterthoughts

In April, I posted a two-part series (links at end of column) on the conflict between hikers and bikers over roadless land protection. The comment threads following these commentaries exploded with a plethora of wide-reaching and innovative thought. Unlike most threads, most commenters stayed reasonably close to the subject and built on the original commentaries with a massive collection of good ideas.

A bit too massive, actually, as the nearly 400 comments exceeded the limits of our system and regrettably some of the later comments may be lost forever in cyberspace. I read them all, though, and I’ll try to summarize some of the key thoughts coming out of this sincere exchange of opinions.

1. Existing vs. New Wilderness. With few exceptions, mountain bikers seem cool with the concept of leaving existing Wilderness area off the table and have no intention of trying to open these pristine areas up to bicycling. I wholeheartedly agree with this majority opinion, but for new Wilderness proposals, especially those near urban areas where mountain biking has been popular for many years, we need a new option to “Big W” Wilderness.

Taking existing Wilderness areas off the table means one of my suggested options, revising the administrative rules governing the use of Wilderness to allow mountain biking, goes into the trash. Any such revision wouldn’t be restricted to new Wilderness proposals. It would also cover existing Wilderness areas.

2. Pre-existing Uses. When the Wilderness Act passed back in 1964, the creators were careful to preserve “pre-existing uses” such as riding horses on trails. In the early 1960s, mountain biking was not a “pre-existing use” in any proposed Wilderness, but now it is in most roadless areas. So, using the same logic as used when the Wilderness Act passed, mountain biking should be allowed in new designations because it is, without doubt, a pre-existing use.

3. Where are the Big Greens? The entire point of the commentaries was to encourage national hiking and wilderness groups such as the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society to step in and help solve this problem, and I confess to some frustration and embarrassment that we didn’t hear one peep from any of them. They still, apparently, consider mountain bikers the enemy and place no priority on trying to resolve the conflict and form a united constituency for protecting roadless lands. With this attitude, it’s hard to be optimistic about the future.

The Montana Wilderness Association entered the thread with an appropriate reminder of its successful collaborative effort called the High Divide Quiet Trails project, which I had applauded two years earlier. (Click here to see that column.)

The good news about this project is it displays the type of attitude on a local level that we need to see on the national level. The bad news is that it’s only administrative, which means the next administrator can come along, get some pressure from the motorized lobby to open up these quiet trails to ATVs. Also, the Wilderness component of the quiet trails proposal is only conceptual with no congressional action to protect it and likewise subject to administrative whim.

4. ATV Sacrifice Areas. One point made clearly and accurately by several commenters was that the motorized recreation constituency must be part of the solution. Wilderness and mountain biking groups should not only join forces but jointly accept the eventuality of having to devote some scenic areas to motorized use–“sacrifice areas” where agencies manage primarily for motorized recreation. More later on this one.

5. IMBA Riding in No Man’s Land The mountain biking community, led by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), has a serious identity problem. Most mountain bikers I know and most commenting on these commentaries are more aligned with hikers than ATVers, but because of their affiliation with IMBA or local IMBA-supported clubs, they end up on the same side of the podium as the motorized recreation lobby. If hikers and mountain bikers are ever to work together to protect roadless lands for non-motorized recreation only, IMBA needs to avoid any perception that they side with the motorized recreation industry that always opposes Wilderness and any non-motorized alternative to it.

Witness the news coming out during the comment section where IMBA signed up with several motorized groups in a “Sharing Our Trails” program in California. To me, there’s no such thing as a trail successfully shared by ATVers and hikers, mountain bikers or horses, and IMBA shouldn’t be part of any effort to promote the impossible.

In this case, interestingly, it looks like the local mountain bikers were sold on the deal by motorized groups. IMBA, the parent organization based in Colorado, had nothing to do with the deal, only an IMBA-affiliated California club, but in the press release, this fact was conveniently omitted. Instead, it listed the entire organization as a partner, and only the motorized groups put the release on their websites, not IMBA or the equestrian groups. What does this say?

IMBA should back out of this deal and avoid any similar alliances, local or national, with motorized recreation in the future. Every time bicycles are viewed as OHVs, we take a step backwards in efforts to resolve this conflict and form a natural alliance between hikers and bikers.

In recent chats with IMBA officials, it’s clear they disagree and think they can and should work with both ATV groups and hikers, but I say, Earth to IMBA, you can’t have it both ways. The ATV groups want you in their fold to keep you out of a natural alliance of non-motorized groups, and it’s working. You’ve been had.

IMBA, make your choice. If you choose motorized, I can stop trying to get hikers and mountain bikers to join forces, and I’ll consider IMBA an enemy instead of an ally in efforts to protect roadless lands. If you’re an IMBA member and care about roadless lands, I suggest writing your organization and urge them make the right choice.

6. The Backcountry Brand. With the exception of the major green groups where, I can only theorize, egos preclude change, most commenters see the best solution as a new organic act to create a true Wilderness Lite option–a “wilderness with mountain biking” designation. I suggested we call it Backcountry.

I’m sorry to say that on the surface the Big Greens scoff at the idea. Under the surface, they fear it. They know politicians sick of the Wilderness debate will embrace it as a more friendly, popular option, so in my opinion, what we all really need to happen right now, more than anything else, is for one prominent politician pick up the Backcountry ball and run with it. In doing so, he or she could become the hero who solved the problem and prevented another 25 years of conflict.


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  1. Well done Bill.

    #5 got my interest most. While I love mountain biking, I love backpacking and the idea of wilderness even more. But I got to thinking about how many mountain bikers might actually use a backcountry area. I don’t think it’s all that many to ruin an experience. Motorized use can and will ruin it.

    If IMBA extracts head from anus, sides with the non-motorized crowd, and comes to the table with viable solutions, they can have my support and my money.

    The same with hikers. We need to think hard about what’s going to happen in the near future if motorized users become too influential. To steal a phrase from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, using the quads God gave you doesn’t lock anyone out of land, but it does cut down on the number of users as it makes you actually work to get into some areas. I don’t hike where motorized users ride, and they shouldn’t ride where I hike. Their activity kicks me out if areas. It’s just not safe for me to be there. In essence, their presence locks me out. It does need to be an us vs them discussion. Us being human quad-powered and them being motorized.

  2. Great follow up on an important issue. I have to disagree with point #5. Do you have any legitimate data to support your theory regarding Mountain Bikers favoring the hiker side over ATV. Conversations within a sphere of influence isn’t necessarily an effective way to form an opinion. I participate in all three of the activities and I disagree with your assessment regarding shared trail use. In Boise we do it and I think we do it very well. The lower trails are closed to ATV and motorcycles but about half way up in the Boise foothills, the trails become open to everyone. I am sure some conflicts have happened but our biggest problem on the trails these days is centered around dogs on leashes.
    Granted this is not an area deemed “Wilderness” but we all share and seem to respect the needs of each user group.

    Thanks Bill for a great story.

    Don Crowell

  3. Thanks for these reflections, Bill. I offer a few quibbles, which should not be read as diminishing my appreciation for the thoughtfulness of your comments.

    1. I’m only an IMBA member and can’t speak for the organization, but as a member, I perceive IMBA to hew invariably to the nonmotorized side.

    I have the impression that IMBA has been courted many times by motorized access advocacy groups and has regularly spurned those overtures. An IMBA subgroup in California signed on to a narrowly drafted document in which all user groups, including motorized users, hikers, equestrians, and cyclists acknowledged one another’s de facto presence on trails (without either endorsing or condeming such presences) and agreed to basic principles of etiquette and safety considerations.

    It’s quite incorrect, as far as I know, to say that IMBA is trying to have it both ways vis-à-vis its alliances. I haven’t seen it do anything but try to work with the nonmotorized coalition, even though its efforts are sometimes received with indifference, rudeness, or arrogance.

    If I were on the IMBA board, I would encourage tactical alliances with motorized advocacy groups. But I bet I would be in a minority of one if I were on the board and took that stance. So, in sum, I think your fifth point misunderstands IMBA’s philosophy.

    2. The 1964 Wilderness Act grandfathered in existing property rights but not preexisting uses, unless there’s a provision of it that I’ve forgotten or overlooked.

  4. Bill Schneider

    Agreed, Ted. Pre-existing uses are listed in the Act, but I believe protecting them was important in lobbying it through Congress and if the ACt had disallowed horse use, it likely wouldn’t have passed. I’m just saying that we should have the same attitude toward mountain biking now…..Bill

  5. Bill, great summary to a good series, but your bias comes through ….

    I quote;’ “The ATV groups want you in their fold to keep you out of a natural alliance of non-motorized groups…”
    1. a survey of the posts on your two articles and a couple of closely related NEW WEST stories points to a more natural alliance between the members of Order of the Wheels be they man or machine powered. Far more compatible goals between MTB & ORV than ever producing any joint purpose effort from MTBers and the devotees of the Scared Foot Order of the Holy Forest Path. The Purist Hiker ilk [Mike Vanderman, et al] would remove all wheeled machines to fire roads, next to the freeway in their plans. There is no compromise to the Scared Forest Purist that Sierra Clubbers represent, that’s why SC can’t make alliances with the NRA or I. Walton League. Those groups know they’ll be had if they play into the Purist’s game.

    2. 2nd quote: “and it’s working. You’ve been had.”

    MTBer’s will not truly know the pleasure of being bent over and seriously HAD until they lay down with the likes of the Sierra Club. Wreakreationalists, us of the Church of Thrillcraft, will not be coming back to take away riding areas in a decade. There’s a history of that happening to ORV land users already. Just a month ago in the new Wilderness Bill areas that previously had been given designation as open riding are closed.

    If IMBA or any organization that wants wilderness access thinks that Purist Hikers are trustworthy in deals for public land use just look at their history. Sure they want to join with you, look at the words the Purists use to describe both MTB and ORV – Thrillcraft, Wreakreationalist [I do LOVE that one, FYI], they SEE no difference. It’s the WHEEL that’s the villain.

    So, Bill I must say again, to all the readers and fans out there… If your want to ride a MTB then your ONLY friends are the other brethren of the Wheel. Otherwise you will have complete full access like everyone else, on foot.

  6. I think what is missing in Bill’s article is context. Mountain bikers and ATV’ers currently have access to the vast majority of our lower 48 public lands – tens of thousands of miles of roads and trails. All those motorized roads and trails sacrifice quiet and solitude for both humans and other critters. Bicycles travel through the forest much faster than feet or hooves. The Wilderness system wasn’t designed for high speed travel, it was set up to permanently protect the few remaining wild places – wheeled sports make them less wild. There is a recent article in the Missoulian that explains why letting in mountain bikes is a very bad precedent: http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/05/20/opinion/opinion61.txt

    The fact that IMBA is anti-wilderness is a shame and I appreciate that Bill took them to task.

  7. The Missoulian OPINION piece is a shame.

    The comments that followed spoke more eloquently of how cyclists can and do support Wilderness when they are part of the dialog and solution. The cycling community is a key component in future protection of our roadless lands including new socially responsible Wilderness Areas.

  8. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Bill: “Every time bicycles are viewed as OHVs, we take a step backwards in efforts to resolve this conflict and form a natural alliance between hikers and bikers.”

    Mountain bikes ARE OHVs. That’s exactly the point. As street bicyclists are wont to point out, bicycles are VEHICLES! You can’t have it both ways. You either are a vehicle, or you aren’t. The difference between mountain bikes and motorcycles is only one of degree — how fast you want the natural world to be destroyed. And mountain bikers make up for their lower horsepower in the numbers of people doing it.

  9. I am an advocate of NREPA and of preserving the lands, all the lands, that it would protect. And, the speed of MTBs truly does constitute a very different impact on wildness than hiking or horse travel. And, just personally, I find the punk attitude of MTBers hard to get past. But, grandfathering pre-existing uses was a major element of the original Act and the idea of updating the Act to reflect today’s “compatible” pre-existing uses has come up, even with the current NREPA incarnation. Ultimately, however, we’re still just talking, talking generalities, talking concepts, talking abstractions. This kind of discussion could go on forever; it’s a settled outcome that always speaks the loudest and ends all the other talk. Similarly, if the MTBers join the thrillcrafters to simply stop NREPA, either by blocking it outright or poisoning it with either shrinkage or significant motorized use inclusions; nothing really gets decided. The argument simply stays open until the next round with the next version of NREPA. But, if the MTBers were somehow able to go ahead, take the lead, and push forward an intact NREPA, simply amended to include NONMOTORIZED two-wheeled MTBs as a modern “compatible” pre-existing use; then they would certainly have the ball, would end the debate, and the rest of the “greens,” big and otherwise, would fall in behind them. If this new kind of NREPA were to actually pass into law and these lands were to be designated Wilderness …forever, through the rallying actions and leadership of the MTBers; then an outcome like that would speak with deafening authority and the game and the role and positional power of the MTBers in the game would truly be changed …forever. Much has been said about it being time for a changing of the guard and for MTBers to be allowed to come to the front. Well, nobody “allowed” us to come to the front way back when we the ones changing the guard. We just did it; the outcomes did the talking and the allowing. Nobody has a lock on the door. Come on, quit talking and lead, follow, or get the…

  10. Quote #1. Mike V… “You either are a vehicle, or you aren’t. The difference between mountain bikes and motorcycles is only one of degree”
    If you think the sort of folk holding this opinion will ever allow a MTB access you are seriously delusional.

    Quote #2. The Real Mike … “Similarly, if the MTBers join the thrillcrafters to simply stop NREPA, either by blocking it outright or poisoning it with either shrinkage or significant motorized use inclusions; nothing really gets decided. The argument simply stays open until the next round with the next version of NREPA.”
    [NOTE, thrillcraft is used to describe MTBers often]
    Both these statements prove my point that if you want to put a WHEEL in the wilderness, then MTB’s only friends are motorized advocates for CHOICE in recreational use of public land.

    In quote 2, the writer basically admits that if the Hiker Purists make a deal with the motorized clans, they will be back to try to change it again. Next round, next version, next opportunity to close more lands. Fact is MTB riders are all punks and ORV owners are all rednecks, didn’t y’all know that? I thinks it’s page 122 of the Sierra Club rule book.
    These posts are clear warning messages. Hope you won’t be fooled and end up regulated to private MTB tracks and illegal outlaw riding.

  11. we all get together at a great microbrew in helena….now what was the name?….blackfoot something? start the meeting at 3:00….several growlers and tankards should be consumed to break the ice…..brawling starts promptly at 5:00 then break for first aid and dinner break…..resume talks satisfied and tired at 6:00 after proprietor duct tapes chairs and windows back to serviceability then imbibe until closing where we stroll out arm in arm singing at the top of our lungs all united on a plan for coming together to save some important wild lands for future generations….i am game…

    sure worth a try….

  12. In the beginning nearly all western national forest trails were quiet trails, –designed for traditional non-motorized travel, primarily foot and packstock. There were also thousands of miles more backcountry trails before the advent of USFS road building boom 1950s-1990.

    In Montana forest road miles more than quadrupled while trails–thousands of miles– were bulldozed over and lost–including many fine foothills trails. Estimated trail miles on Montana national forests was about 23,000 miles in 1950, reduced by roads to 14,000 trail miles or so today.

    The next huge loss of traditional forest (single track) trails occurred as a result of a decision by the Washington Office -U S Forest Service to remove the long standing “40 inch rule” which blocked ATVs from driving on ALL national forest trails. This rule was removed June 25, 1990 at the behest of ATV manufacturers who wanted to market ATVs as “trail vehicles.”

    If you check most pre-1990 national forest visitor maps you will see this rule displayed. For example the Gallatin Forest visitor maps prior to 1990 stated it was “prohibited” to drive a vehicle wider than 40 inches on ALL forest trails (single track trails are typically 12- 24 inches wide tread). Following the rule change the maps merely suggested you don’t drive an ATV on narrow forest trails. mistake!

    ATVs began to drive and widen trail after trail, the FS was reconstructing single track into 6-8 foot wide ATV ways (troads) –even in wilderness study areas.

    Thousands of miles of single track trails were damaged and widened into wide rutted ATV roads — wherever enforcement lagged –which was most everywhere

    Hiker, biker, hunter horsemen, its impossible to ignore the damage and abuse from unmanaged OHV traffic which has become so common. Nearly all private landowners who allow public access for hunting or other uses prohibit OHVs.

    Only a few areas are actually recommended for wilderness by the U S Forest Service (at least in Montana) Not even 15 % of qualifying roadless lands are recommended for wilderness.

    So it only make sense for quiet recreationists to work together and develop agreements to protect as much as possible of wild Montana before it vanishes.

    I dont expect national groups to do this work for us — after all we live here. Although it would be helpful if they realized the value of working together to protect wild lands and actively supported local agreements like Montana High Divide Trails.

    I think the IMBA trail Care Crew learned this last september when they joined us for a ride up Thunderbolt Creek and new trail project bordering the Electric Peak Recommended Wilderness.

    Join us this August 8-9 when we go back to complete the new 7.5 mile trail, creating a new 14 + mile loop.

    learn more — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR7VPth8f2s

    Inside beltway job? When Montana Wilderness Association sued the Forest Service to obtain the records for the removal of the forty inch trail rule –there were only two letters of support for this national rule change–both from off road vehicle lobbyists in Washington DC.

  13. Greg Beardslee

    Bill, you stated, “If you choose motorized, I can stop trying to get hikers and mountain bikers to join forces, and I’ll consider IMBA an enemy instead of an ally in efforts to protect roadless lands.”

    This reads like a threat, and smacks of the “all or nothing, no compromise spirit” that has stymied progress so far. When talking about conserving wild Montana lands, realize that each area has a unique quality, wildlife habitat, geology, and social structure. Almost all of Montana’s Forest Service WSA has some sort of motorized component on it. Some of the recommended wilderness areas do as well. Learning the details of a Forest Plan and a district travel plan is a necessary step that all of us need to take before spouting off about imposing further restrictions.

    IMBA recognizes that we must all listen to each other. Without making threats or sending up ultimatums as you did in point #5.

    I understand all your other points, but am squirming uncomfortably when you talk about ATV sacrifice areas (# 4).

  14. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Greg Beardslee: “I understand all your other points, but am squirming uncomfortably when you talk about ATV sacrifice areas”.

    There are NUMEROUS reasons not to support motorized access to wilderness — global warming, air pollution, water pollution, erosion, destruction of streams, noise pollution, wasting limited resources for frivolous activities, bad role modelling for young people, ozone depletion, killing animals & plants, ruining the health of people who refuse to walk, etc. In fact, there isn’t even ONE good reason to support recreational ORVs. ORV arguments are dead in the water.

  15. Bill Schneider

    Not a threat, Greg, only an admission that if IMBA persists in trying to be “half-motorized” there is no chance the group can become an ally in efforts to protect roadless land, including, sadly, efforts to have a new Wilderness Lite alternative that would ban motorized use……..Bill

    P.S. As far as ATV Sacrifice Areas,” I support it as long as we put them somewhere in the two-thirds of our public lands that is already full of roads instead of devoting roadless lands to this legitimate use.

  16. Mike V – I would respond to your long list of crap but I’m on my way to go riding, kill a few fish and eat THEM

    But I’ll be back tomorrow

  17. I hope that the self-righteous Mikes of the world WALK to the trailhead. The hypocrisy of many hikers is astounding: they drive huge SUV’s to the trailhead and then get pissed when they encounter bikers who rode their bikes from home to get to the same place. Then they make wild speculations about how bicycles destroy the planet. I like to hike too: but I don’t freak out when I encounter people who are not part of my religion.

  18. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Of course I walk, but you are just trying to change the subject and avoid telling the truth. That is the worst hypocrisy. When you were going through school, did you refuse to learn from any teacher you didn’t like? That is the height of ignorance. I listen to, and learn from, everyone. For example, I learn that mountain bikers and ORV users are willfully ignorant and dishonest to the core. The only way they can defend their disgusting habits is through LYING and DECEIPT.

  19. Quoting from John Gatchell’s post: “it only make sense for quiet recreationists to work together and develop agreements to protect as much as possible of wild Montana before it vanishes.”

    I’d agree, but I’d urge mountain bikers to be careful when forming alliances, given the recent track record of Mr. Gatchell’s organization. Here’s what I mean specifically:

    Mr. Gatchell is, according to the Montana Wilderness Association’s website, its conservation director.

    The Montana Wilderness Association filed suit against the Forest Service not long ago. The suit challenged the Forest Service’s plans for mountain biking in Wilderness Study Areas in Montana. The suit lumped mountain biking in with motorized recreation. Basically, it alleged that mountain biking is just as bad in a Wilderness Study Area as is motorized recreation.

    In this lawsuit, the Montana Wilderness Assocation was represented by “Earthjustice,” which is the ineffably self-righteous and pompous name for the successor organization to the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. (It appears, however, that Earthjustice is independent from the Sierra Club in a formal sense.)

    The activities of “Earthjustice” are, it may be assumed, funded by well-meaning, well-heeled, and yet clueless urban or suburban dwellers in places like Marin County, Calif. (which is the birthplace of mountain biking but which also sees the daftest and most quixotic opposition to people riding a bicycle on a trail), and Westchester County, N.Y. I bet many of these people, if they ever visit a Wilderness area someday, will soon be wondering why it lacks flush toilets, hot water, lodges with maid service, and cell-phone access.

    But I digress . . . .

    The Montana Wilderness Association’s lawsuit alleged, among other things, as follows:

    “Mountain bikes, which did not exist in 1977, now abound in the WSA. Both . . . motorized and mechanized activities have therefore increased . . . over the levels existing in 1977 . . . . These new activities . . . disturb and displace wildlife . . . .”

    “The Travel Plan also authorizes mountain bike use on these same WSA trails. Mountain biking is a mechanized activity that is inconsistent with wilderness character, and that did not occur in the WSA in 1977. The Forest Service did not address the aggregated mountain bike-motorcycle impacts on wilderness character, despite evidence of intensified motorcycle use and greatly increased mountain bike activity since 1977.”

    “The Forest Service’s decision to allow increased summertime motorized and mechanized transport in the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn WSA in the form of aggregated mountain bike and motorcycle use violates the Montana Wilderness Study Act because it does not ‘maintain [the] presently existing wilderness character’ of the WSA as of 1977, when the Act was passed.”

    “[T]he [Final Environmental Impact Statement] fails to disclose and analyze adverse impacts on the WSA’s wilderness character due to increased levels and spatial extent of: (1) summertime motorcycle and mountain bike activity; and (2) wintertime snowmobile activity. The agency decision is thus arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law, and must be set aside.”

    (Italics added.)

    Alas, the lawsuit persuaded a United States magistrate judge, who last September issued a ruling imperiling mountain biking in Montana. Quoting from the magistrate judge’s ruling: the “Forest Service has in fact increased the number of miles actually subject to regular mountain bike use. And in doing so, the Forest Service neglected to address the intensity with which mountain bikes will be used on the trails open to that use under the summer travel plan. For these reasons, the [Record of Decision] and [Final Environmental Impact Statement] violate the MWSA insofar as they pertain to mountain bike use.” (See http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/findings-and-recs-of-judge-in-gallatin-orv-travel-plan.pdf.)

    How does the Montana Wilderness Association expect mountain bikers to work with it after it sued to oust us from traditional riding places in Montana? How do we know that, flush with success in booting us off those trails, it won’t continue in the same vein?

    Earlier in this thread, Max Frisson wrote, “If you think the sort of folk holding this opinion will ever allow a MTB access you are seriously delusional.” I think he’s probably right in the case of the Montana Wilderness Association. What can Mr. Gatchell or anyone else say to prove him wrong and show your bona fides?

  20. Wheelie of Death

    Just like in the Wizard of Oz, ignore the Ph.D. behind the curtain.

  21. Binky Griptight

    Since this seems to be the manner of his digressions … it would seem that Ted Stroll, a lawyer, feels so obviously superior living in Oakland, CA.

    Do you, sir, have much knowledge of the travel planning process that the US Forest Service conducted prior to the lawsuit? I’m sure John Gatchell does. Does he gain superiority having walked the trails?

  22. Do I have much knowledge of the travel planning process that led to the MWA lawsuit? No. But do you doubt that the quotations from the MWA lawsuit are accurate? They speak for themselves: mountain biking, motorcycles, and ATVs are similar and they’re all bad.

    Hey, what’s wrong with Oakland? It’s hardly the embodiment of urban snootiness. Check out the Raiders’ cheering sections the next time they’re on national TV.

  23. One thing none of you are mentioning as you talk about who is going to be allowed to use our public lands. Who is going to pay for taking out roads, building trails, hauling out trash, etc? The folks who are being shut out by chance?????? It seems to me that some of the same people who are insisting they are the only ones special enough to use the forests are also the same ones crying and moaning about having to pay anything to use forests. It seems there is a constant push to keep others from sharing the forests, the attempts to shut everyone except the hikers increases year by year. There is never enough for them, they constantly beat the drum for more and more.
    Millions of people want to be able to drive to a creek or picnic area for a day because that is all of the time and money they have. The hikers feel other people should not be allowed because it is disturbing to their reverie.

  24. cyclist: most of the gearheads I see at trailheads show up in enormous SUVs with bikes, boats, and whatever other crap they feel they need strapped to the vehicle. Wilderness in the USA has been thoroughly commodified–whether by bikers or boaters or climbers whining about some non-existent persecution, or by guidebook writers and bloggers who fancy themselves arbiters a ‘new’ style of wilderness. The Wilderness Act is the only accessible, readable piece of legislation which specifically sets the statutes for creating new wilderness. Mountian biking–like four-wheelers–is another aspect of the outdoor recreation industry backed by huge corporate interests and its NRA-style “public” interest group, the IMBA.
    When gearheads like mountain bikers and boaters (and four-wheeler drivers) can stop claiming persecution, maybe then they can be a part of the “conversation”. Until then everyone can follow the law as it is very simply written.

  25. “Mountian [sic] biking—like four-wheelers—is another aspect of the outdoor recreation industry backed by huge corporate interests and its NRA-style ‘public’ interest group, the IMBA.”

    It’s true! First there was Big Tobacco, then Big Oil. Now there’s Big Mountain Bike.

    The same shadowy forces that are foisting those enormous SUVs on an unwilling public are the ones pushing the mountain bike invasion that is ruining our few acres of pristine remaining wildlands. Thank God for the crusaders who are risking their very lives to expose and confront the masters of deceit.

    Informed sources believe that the shadowy forces are probably a combination of the Trilateral Commission, the Mossad, the National Security Agency, the Illuminati, Opus Dei, and the New York State Thruway Authority. Never heard of any of them? That’s just the way they want it.

    Only a few are insightful enough to perceive and unravel these schemes. Most people still believe that planes actually flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon! And most believe the moon landings were real, when in fact they were filmed in a warehouse in Albuquerque, N.M. (Think it’s a coincidence that Albuquerque is close to Roswell, site of the alien spaceship crash?)

    Thank heavens there are a few out there who know the truth and dare to expose it.

    I cannot reveal my true name lest I become a target. I salute the courage of those who are openly and courageously working to stop Big Mountain Bike.

  26. I forgot to mention that the Wilderness Act prohibits wheeled vehicles, so I’m not sure Schneider’s ‘pre-existing’ idea will fly. Also, if different kind of ‘wilderness’ is set up for mountain bikers, then it makes perfect sense to create a new kind of ‘wilderness’ or ‘backcountry’ for snowmobilers, then another type ATV drivers, etc. I’m just not convinced that a consumer interest group like the IMBA or mountain bikers and the corporations that back them (because let’s face it; mountain bikers are consumers, and the makers of the goods bikers consume has a vested interest in the ‘needs’ of these consumers) really deserve a ‘voice in the conversation’ or a specially designed public sphere in which to enjoy their consumerism.

    Its too bad area 51 doesn’t understand the corporate interests which influence consumer interest groups like the IMBA.

  27. Cort- the bicycle industry makes in a year what the greeting card industry makes on valentines day. It is very small. Yes we can live with the law as it’s written… and there will be no new wilderness created. That’s fine by me. I just hope that those of you who claim to care about the environment practice what you preach in ALL aspect of your life.

  28. cyclist–my point is, if mountain bikes are included then it ain’t wilderness–Schneider even has that much figured out. I don’t agree with creating consumer-based public land policy, though, like Schneider is advocating. Plus it isn’t just the manufacturers of bikes, but also other outdoor gear & equipment–like Polaris–who want these special designations as a “compromise”. And why would we ever compromise on Wilderness? Because a relative handful of gear-heads who spend lots of cash on these products are whining about being excluded.

  29. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Cort Felts: “Because a relative handful of gear-heads who spend lots of cash on these products are whining about being excluded”

    CORRECTION: LYING about being excluded. They are just too lazy to walk, as Larry Kralj noted.

  30. I think Cort and Mike “Kaczynski” Vandeman Phd. should firebomb IMBA headquarters. Or better yet, WALK to IMBA and stomp them with your hiking boots! That’ll stop the evil marauding nature hating corporate-backed bicyclists! “Too lazy to walk”?!!- You obviously don’t know WTF you are talking about. Mountain biking is much harder than hiking in many ways.

  31. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    cyclist: “Mountain biking is much harder than hiking in many ways.”

    According to a Scientific American article, the bicycle is the most energy-efficient form of transportation known. So for any given complete round-trip, it takes a lot less energy to ride a bike that to walk (assuming that the bike + biker has the same weight as the hiker + backpack). On a bike, the downhill portion obviously takes essentially no energy, and the level portion takes hardly any energy. That leaves only the uphill portion for most of the energy use. Walking the same route, carrying the same total weight, takes a lot more energy, as well as a lot more time. That’s exactly why virtually all mountain bikers refuse to walk.

    Ironically, hikers have a much better experience, because they can pay attention to everything, and don’t have to concentrate on controlling a bike. A mountain biker misses most of the sights, smells, sounds, and touch. What a collossal waste of time and money! That would be like a dancer claiming that he is superior, because he can get across the dance floor faster! Speed isn’t everything!

  32. The posts from Mr. Felts show that people continue not to understand what is and what isn’t in the Wilderness Act of 1964. Let me clarify.

    The Wilderness Act of 1964 doesn’t specifically authorize or forbid mountain biking. It’s silent on the subject. Nor does it say anything about “wheels.” Instead, it bans “mechanical transport,” which the agencies later misread as a ban on mountain biking. It also bans, in a separate but related clause, any motorized vehicle or equipment.

    The kind of “mechanical transport” Congress meant to prohibit, it turns out, was the kind that used some other power source to move human beings or cargo along. By contrast, Congress wanted to encourage human-powered travel in Wilderness. There’s little doubt that if mountain biking had been around in 1964, members of Congress would have made nice statements about allowing bicycling in Wilderness on the House and Senate floors. But because it wasn’t, the Wilderness Act refers only to the desirability of “a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.” In the debates leading up to the enactment of the Act, it emerged that “primitive” meant “it just simply means that there will
    not be any manmade structures,” according to an authoritative statement on the House floor. In 1980, moreover, in another Wilderness-creating statute, Congress made clear that “primitive” recreation in that Wilderness included bicycling.

    It took me hundreds of hours of research into dusty old documents and microfiches to discover this long-forgotten fact: human-powered transport was not only to be tolerated, but encouraged, in Wilderness. The Forest Service, however, must have known about this state of affairs in 1966, because its original legislation prohibited only “mechanical transport” that was powered by a “nonliving power source,” just as Congress intended. The regulation is 36 CFR § 293.6(a). It is still on the books! It is, however, not enforced for the benefit of mountain biking.

    For these reasons, and except between 1977 and 1981, until 1984 bicycling was allowed either totally or to some degree in National Forest Wilderness areas. Starting in 1984, alas, the Forest Service conclusively adopted a no-bikes plan for Wilderness, forgetting its original correct understanding of the 1964 Wilderness Act and misconstruing the scope of the Act’s “mechanical transport” ban to include a prohibition on travel by bicycle. The other agencies followed along.

    The agencies have been inconsistent in what they’ve excluded in interpreting the “mechanical transport” ban. You can power your own vertical transport in Wilderness with all the rock-climbing cams and pulleys you want. But you can’t power yourself horizontally on wheels on a bicycle.

    This is all laid out in my 2004 law review article on the subject. It’s available on the Internet at http://www.imba.com/resources/land_protection/stroll.pdf. (Its presence on the IMBA website should not be interpreted as if IMBA necessarily endorses everything I wrote. It’s there for research purposes.)

    It’s too bad that mountain bikers don’t have the same number of lawyers employed by “Earthjustice,” i.e., more than 50 attorneys in eight offices, to work on this issue. If we did, I bet the Wilderness ban would have fallen by the wayside earlier this decade and we’d have legal access to some (not all) trails. Ironically, the prime beneficiaries of such a ruling would be none other than the Wilderness purists. For the tiny price of seeing an occasional mountain bike on a subset of Wilderness trails only during the dry parts of summer, they’d likely have gained many more acres of Wilderness designation. It would be the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory—a fabulous and profitable defeat that any pragmatic person would greet with a sigh of relief.

    Thus do ideology and a kind of quasireligious fervor overpower the kind of pragmatism that ultimately would make both the Wilderness enthusiasts and us mountain bikers (most of whom are also Wilderness enthusiasts) happier. Amazing.

    For the foregoing reasons, people who wants to see more Wilderness areas established ought to write their senators and members of Congress asking them to ask the federal agencies, particularly the Forest Service, to reconsider their erroneous no-bikes-in-Wilderness rules. This includes Wilderness traditionalists and mountain bikers who don’t want to ride in Wilderness themselves but like Wilderness as an idea. By contrast, the people who want to see continued fierce resistance to new Wilderness, from mountain bikers as well as motorcyclists and soon snow-kiters as well, should insist that the current no-bikes rules remain in place, even if they are invalid under the Wilderness Act of 1964 as properly interpreted.

  33. Someone in this thread just derided mountain bikers as too lazy to walk. Actually, we real mountain bikers tend to find walking (i.e., hiking) too easy and, partly for that reason, boring. The only hiking I find interesting is going straight up at high altitude. The rest is somnorific in terms of exercise, though it may lead to picturesque locations.

    I just got back from a mountain bike ride in which I climbed a 20 to 25% dirt road grade for 750 feet. Of that, about 100 feet is 30% or over. In 10.8 miles, the trail climbed and descended 2210 feet, meaning there was 2210 feet of vertical ascent in about five or six miles.

    The other day I rode up a narrow rutted trail that climbs 1,000 feet in about a mile, for an average grade of slightly less than 20%. There’s a wall-like section in the middle that is at the limits of human endurance. But I cleaned it.

    I challenge any hiking-only person on this thread to jump on a mountain bike and try anything similar. Good luck. Frankly, I suspect that the only people as physically fit as we mountain bikers are the trail motorcyclists. It’s very unlikely that most hikers would be; and as for equestrians, as the French say, it is to laugh.

  34. Cort – save the sanctimonious consumerism and corporate fear mongering crap. I’ve seen as many Patagonia and REI outfitted recreationalists using the latest in stoves, tents, GPS, three layered Gortex and fancy hiking boots while talking on their cell phones in Wilderness as any motorized or mechanized trail head. We as a society have dragged the modern technology into the most remote corners of our backcountry areas. So unless you are venturing out in a loincloth and moccasins you made by hand from the deer you killed with a bow – drop it.

    Bill’s article isn’t about getting bikes into existing Wilderness areas but challenges us all to come up with a solution as to how best protect roadless lands where bicycles have ridden for decades. Just saying no to bicycles in the backcountry isn’t presenting a solution. Nor is suggesting ditching the bikes to hike the trails we use to ride. All you are doing is identifying your problem and not realistically coming up with answers that will work for our PUBLIC lands.

    Your question of “why would we ever compromise on Wilderness?” How about that there has been no new Wilderness in Montana for 25 years? And it is precisely this Wilderness-or-nothing attitude from the Wilderness Machine that has prevented any new Wilderness. So cling to your Wilderness-only mentality and watch as the remaining roadless lands languish unprotected.

    Using a blended protection package that includes companion designations (Backcountry) with Wilderness is the future of our roadless lands. Bring the cycling community into the fold, view us as partners and we can help protect these roadless lands including new socially responsible Wilderness areas.

    So what are you going to do?

  35. Ted Stroll: mechanized transport has always been defined as including wheeled vehicles, including bicycles.

    Bob Allen: You are presenting a staw man argument that 1) does not address the all the points I raised–just the one that annoyed you; 2) does address that Bill’s proposal results in dismantling the Wilderness Act–creating new definitions of “existing use” which will open a whole can worms with other consumer interest groups. “Blended protection package” sounds like something Max Baucus would come up with; 3) IMBA and individuals have long clamored to be allowed into existing wilderness–that is a valid concern of not just the Wilderness Machine (who is this? You sound like you’re from the Blue Ribbon Coalition…) but land managers, trail crews and other, actual pre-existing users.

    It is interesting that mountain bikers not only self-victimize about being “shut-out” but now claim that is is wilderness “purists” who keep new wilderness from being created. The Act applies to both Forest Service and NPS, any new ‘blended protection’ legislation would have to include, or any changes to the existing Act would have to consider the disastrous consequences of allowing mountain bikes in the backcountry of a National Park like Yellowstone. A foot in the door–no matter whose foot it is–will minimize the efficacy and essence of the current Act.

  36. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Ted Stroll: “I challenge any hiking-only person on this thread to jump on a mountain bike and try anything similar.”

    You missed the point, as usual. If a hiker did that same trip, with the same weight, it would require a lot more time & energy. You are clearly lazy to use a bike, when you could walk. Why didn’t you hike that route?

    Besides that, and more important, you missed most of the experience that a hiker would get on the same route. You wasted the experience. You use nature as your private gymnasium. That’s not what it’s for.

    And if you really think that bikes aren’t mechanized transport, you need to have your head examined! Only a lawyer could make a claim like that. That’s why the words “liar” and “lawyer” are so hard to distinguish.

  37. Cort – okay, you eloquently and ‘logically’ just said NO to bikes in the backcountry – that can of worms thing.

    So how do you propose to protect these roadless lands in the political realities of 2009? NREPA?

  38. Query: “You missed the point, as usual. If a hiker did that same trip, with the same weight, it would require a lot more time & energy. You are clearly lazy to use a bike, when you could walk. Why didn’t you hike that route?”

    Answer: to walk it would have been, for me, too slow and too easy. It wouldn’t have given me the same vigorous exercise that the ride did. And, even though easier aerobically and anaerobically, it would have been harder on my knees to walk down the steep hills.

    There’s nothing wrong with anyone using a natural setting for a workout. Should we all confine ourselves to running stairs? Also, I ride not just for the exercise, but to appreciate the beauty of the nature preserves with which the Bay Area is so advantaged. Of course I could do that by hiking, too, but I wouldn’t see as much of nature as I can on my mountain bike.

    I think one difference between the cyclists and anticyclists on this thread and others is that we’ve all hiked at some point. I backpacked half of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. By contrast, I suspect very few of the antibike types have ever tried to ride a bike on a fun trail (and by a fun trail, I don’t mean a gently sloped dirt road that you’d be sharing with sedentary families on ATVs). If you did, a few of you might change your views. There’s a fine outfit, Western Spirit, that does multiday mountain biking trips. For some of them, little experience is required. You might want to give it a try and see if your stereotypes are confirmed or, instead, debunked wholly or in part during the trip. See http://www.westernspirit.com.

  39. Ted,
    The Wilderness Act didn’t HAVE to specify. The phrasing, “mechanical transport,” was intended to have an effect on any future inventions. The specific language, in fuller context, is “no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.”
    Mechanical is pretty much anything wheeled. That includes carts. I think it would even include those pole-and-wheel rigs, or gigs, or whatever they are, for horses. I even think wheelbarrows are prohibited, although they would be terrific for select trail maintenance chores.
    It’s a broad prohibition, which is appropriate for “wilderness” if the intent is a primitive, pre-20th-Century experience and environment. Or even further than that. The Indians never developed wheeled conveyance.
    I feel some wilderness with a big W is a good deal. There needs to be places like that. We have 104 million acres of it, which in states like Montana, Alaska and Idaho, is way plenty — yet that’s not enough for the wilderniks.
    Then there is Bill’s basic premise here, that mountain bikers should ally with the non-economic, non petroleum crowd. Wilderness, for all practical purposes, except for a small cadre of iron quadded, iron-lunged wheelers — which of course can be picked off and isolated at a later, more-politically-convenient time. I think you are learning that the non-crowd is pretty quick to condemn uses that aren’t “theirs” and theirs only. You should be looking to people who truly respect and support your uses alongside theirs for support.

  40. Bob-
    Force a change in the way the USFS develops travel plans for starters. The system is outdated and wholly dependent on the personalities of supervisors, et. al. Enough pressure by any one group can and often does sway the process.

    I think it would be better to adjust management of roadless areas than water down the Wilderness Act or create “new types” of Wilderness. The trouble with this is that it takes more than a handful of volunteer hours on trails etc or legislative “victories” (any group can call legislation passed a victory whether it really is or not). It takes actual involvement, year-round, on the ground (Yeah! I’m gonna copywrite that!) involvement and constant pressure on land managers to respond to the interests of citizens and not just interest groups. We –and I do mean “we”–can create all sorts of new management programs and initiatives–let the legislation follow.

    Maybe this is too Utopian but if we stopped thinking about ourselves and started with, say, watersheds, and examined each aspect of a watershed–erosion, water quality, biodiversity, name a few more—and then worked our back to “us” using the tools provided by the watershed itself, we as citizens and users could be a part of the management. The Forest Service would hate this and so would many other interest groups, but maybe we could start to recognize that, in this day and age– more than any previous, Congressional compromises on Wilderness designation might not truly benefit any of us as citizens.

    And just to be clear on the other lines of snark on this thread: I could care less about whether biking is harder than hiking. I’d rather take my time off-trail anyway.

  41. Dave Skinner-
    I rarely of ever agree with you–and I don’t about the need for more wilderness, but your first paragraph is well phrased and to the point.

    I meant to add that we also need to seriously consider any new Wilderness designation in terms of precedent for the wildly different management universes of the NPS and USFS.

  42. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Ted Stroll: “to walk it would have been, for me, too slow and too easy”. Then walk faster! But it’s physically impossible to experience as much when you travel fast, as when you travel slowly. “Too slow” for WHAT?

    “I suspect very few of the antibike types have ever tried to ride a bike on a fun trail”. I did it. I have never had such an unpleasant and boring time in nature as I did on a bike. I had to pay attention to controlling the bike, when I would rather have paid attention to nature. I can’t imagine mountain biking ever being fun.

    Many years ago, before mountain biking had ever been invented, I was hiking along a relatively boring section of trail. The thought came to me that maybe if I had a bike, I could get past the boring part & to the interesting part much faster. But about 2 seconds later, I realized that if I could get there faster, so could everyone else, and the place would be ruined. So much for my mountain biking career — 2 seconds long.

    With your attitude, you probably think that “faster is better” is also true of other areas, such as sex. Maybe your women friends could explain to you why faster is NOT always better.

    Or if you prefer another area, how about eating? With your attitude, you probably like to wolf down your food, and therefore not savor it. Are you beginning to get the picture, Mr. Faster-Is-Better?

  43. Mike, PhD
    Ironically, hikers have a much better experience, because they can pay attention to everything, and don’t have to concentrate on controlling a bike. A mountain biker misses most of the sights, smells, sounds, and touch. What a collossal waste of time and money! That would be like a dancer claiming that he is superior, because he can get across the dance floor faster!

    Value judgment – this is all that crap is, I could stand to walk for maybe half an hour – the sights, smells, blah, blah, blah are just NOT of any real interest, The challenge of the unknown trail is.

    Why in the world are you the sole decider of appropriate recreational behavior?

  44. Mike – To me your “pay attention to nature” in akin to the thrill of watching grass grow. I see as much as I want on my Yamaha and if I wanna see more, to your surprise I am sure, my bike has brakes and can stop to observe if I so desire.

  45. God i hope I never encounter Max Frisson on a trail–sounds like it would be really, really unpleasant.

  46. Cort, if he’s still the same as I recall seeing him, you’d actually be perhaps amused, so to speak. Frisson talks a macho tough guy line; many of them do; but, in person and when I last saw him, you could see the truth from a hundred yards away. He really seems to love prancing about in those skintight motorcycle pants, the clinging jacket, the big manly boots, and only the right tasteful amount of shiny accessories to complete the look. I have to believe that his real passion can’t be off-road, although he may be enamored with being among the crowd it attracts. I have a hunch his real passion must be foreign bullet bikes, what used to be called cafe racers. I don’t know where he’s actually from; but, he seems much more of an urban cowboy type. The kind of guy who goes for bullet bikes; you know, those high frequency vibes under him and the way those bikes tremble and scream with delight when he grabs their throttle. It’s a funny world, sometimes funny one way and other times funny…

  47. Mike,
    I’m amazed at how many people you claim to know, yet you still won’t let your passive-aggressive real self out of the closet.
    As for the bike thing, it’s OKAY to go both ways. The skills learned on the street and road course translate pretty well to dirt and vice versa. And the same goes for using the two-piston muscle motor versus the metal kind…gear selection, ideal RPMs, traction control, situational awareness…it’s OKAY to like MTB’s and like motorcycles. Let’s show a little TOLERANCE for DIVERSITY here.

  48. Max Frisson: “I could stand to walk for maybe half an hour – the sights, smells, blah, blah, blah are just NOT of any real interest, The challenge of the unknown trail is.”

    You can’t have it both ways. Mountain bikers claim they are just like hikers, interested in experiencing nature. Thanks for demonstrating that it’s total BS.

    Dave Skinner: “Let’s show a little TOLERANCE for DIVERSITY here”

    As I have said many times, hikers have no problem sharing trails or anything else with mountain bikers. MACHINES don’t care whether we tolerate them, and tolerance for abusive MACHINERY isn’t on ANYONE’S human-rights agenda (of course! bikes aren’t human!).

  49. Dave (Dave Skinner),

    Thanks for your thoughtful post of yesterday. I hope we meet sometime on a trail, you on your dirt bike and me on my sturdy velocipede.

    Let me say I agree there should be some big-W Wilderness. Almost certainly some of it shouldn’t have any trails in it. Perhaps some of it should be legally accessible only by permit.

    I also agree with your skepticism about the viability of mountain bikers’ efforts to unite with the traditional environmentalists. Such efforts have a lackluster track record so far and even if they appeared to succeed, serious problems would loom.

    There would be the problem you mention, i.e., that the environmentalist crusaders could form an alliance of convenience with mountain bikers only to try to heave us over the cliff later (metaphorically speaking, I would hope, though in reading some of these posts I wonder if they’d stop there). The Montana Wilderness Association’s lawsuit against Montana mountain biking (Montana Wilderness Association v. McAllister) already gives us ample warning of the risks. Maybe it’s not too late for the MWA to drop this challenge. Hello, MWA?

    And beyond that, I’m troubled about the idea of us following the tack of the apartheid-minded subset of hikers and equestrians (i.e., people similar to those who are prominent on this thread) and announcing that wild areas are suited only for our preferred travel mode and ought to be cut off from other current users whom we find not to our taste. You can see how the environmental temperance crusade has made itself despised among tens of millions of Americans with just such an ethos. I don’t want to embrace an ethic of exclusion, privilege, myopia, and selfishness.

    On the other hand, though, I’d like to be able to go places where I won’t hear motors and have to breathe a lot of dust. No offense. I don’t detect that you disagree with that concept.

    I’m going to addresss your other point about the Wilderness Act of 1964 and its mechanical transport prohibition in another post.

  50. Dave,

    You raised this point, and I’m eager to respond to it:

    The Wilderness Act didn’t HAVE to specify. The phrasing, “mechanical transport,” was intended to have an effect on any future inventions. The specific language, in fuller context, is “no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.”

    Mechanical is pretty much anything wheeled. That includes carts. I think it would even include those pole-and-wheel rigs, or gigs, or whatever they are, for horses. I even think wheelbarrows are prohibited, although they would be terrific for select trail maintenance chores.

    It’s a broad prohibition, which is appropriate for “wilderness” if the intent is a primitive, pre-20th-Century experience and environment. Or even further than that. The Indians never developed wheeled conveyance.

    I know that people often find lawyers extremely irritating because of our perceived ability to explain why up is down and vice-versa. But searching past apparently obvious wording to understand it at a deep level is part of what we do, and sometimes it results in surprises. This is such a case.

    On the surface, most people’s immediate reaction to bicycles and “mechanical transport” is that the former is obviously a kind of the latter. That’s not so, however, as far as the Wilderness Act of 1964 is concerned, no matter how commonsensical it may first appear.

    The prohibition is, to quote it precisely, a ban on “mechanical transport.”

    Reading the two-word clause broadly, you couldn’t use a fishing reel in a Wilderness area because it’s a mechanical device for transporting fish out of the water and into your basket. Yet the Congressional Record shows that Congress meant to allow fishing and hunting in Wilderness. In other words, the scope of the prohibition is ambiguous.

    When a statute is ambiguous, research attorneys delve into its legislative history to find out what Congress meant. The Wilderness Act of 1964 has about a decade of legislative history, consisting of many hundreds of pages of committee hearings and reports, statements by members of Congress in the Congressional Record about what they meant by the language in the bills they were considering, and so forth.

    I was the first person to undertake the long hours of research necessary, using two of the best public law libraries in the country, to figure out what the no “mechanical transport” clause was meant to prohibit.

    And it turned out that Congress meant to disallow having people or goods (i.e., passengers or cargo) carried around by any mechanical means powered by a nonliving power source. When I found the deeply buried and obscure legislative history documents that revealed this theretofore unknown information, I felt a bit like Howard Carter on discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.

    To be precise, the prohibition on “mechanical transport” was defined in the legislative history, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, as follows: there should be no “use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or motorboats, or landing of aircraft, nor any other mechanical transport or delivery of persons or supplies, nor any temporary road, nor any structure or installation, in excess of the minimum required. . . .”

    “Transport or delivery of persons or supplies”! In other words, the carrying of human beings as passengers, or the conveyance of supplies as cargo, on a road in a mechanical conveyance like a wagon or by water on a barge. Congress intended to prohibit the passive transport of passengers. It did not intend to prohibit simple forms of human-powered transport, such as bicycles, snowshoes, skis, kayaks, rowboats, or climbing equipment, that can be used quietly on narrow trails or natural features.

    So how did we get from that language to the current no-mechanical-transport language? Following subcommittee and committee hearings in June 1964, the House of Representatives reduced “nor any other mechanical transport or delivery of persons or supplies” to “no other form of mechanical transport,” the language now found in 16 U.S.C. § 1133(c). But this amendment did not widen the prohibition. Rather, the intent of the original “transport or delivery of persons or supplies” language remained following the simplification. The historical record establishes this point: a member of Congress explained to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs that the clause was being amended “solely for the purpose of clarification. The substance and intent of the original language and of the substitute language are the same.” Voilà.

    Now, a perceptive reader may ask: “Right, but the same sentence also prohibits motor vehicles, motorized equipment, aircraft, and motorboats. If Congress didn’t mean bicycles and other things with wheels, the ‘mechanical transport’ language wouldn’t be necessary, because once you’ve banned all motors, what’s left except bicycles and the like?”

    That would be a good question. But 45-year-old legislation often does not make perfect sense when we read it today. Congress could have been thinking of ore carts powered by mules, for example. They’re not motorized but they enable the passive movement of minerals out of mines. Mining figured prominently in the debate surrounding the Wilderness Act.

    What’s clear from the whole legislative history—again, many hundreds of pages of it—is that Congress wanted human-powered travel on Wilderness trails. Such rugged, self-reliant overland travel is identified as the very signature of the Wilderness experience Congress was thinking of. This explains the Act’s specification that Wilderness is to provide “a primitive and unconfined type of recreation” along with opportunities for solitude.

    By the way, even without resort to all of the foregoing, the very words of the prohibition contain a clue to the narrowness of what it prohibits. The prohibition has two words: “mechanical” and “transport.” People tend to focus on the first word: “mechanical.” They think less deeply about the second: “transport.” But notice that Congress did not prohibit, as it could have, “mechanical propulsion,” “mechanized transportation,” “mechanical devices,” or “mechanized travel.” It prohibited only “mechanical transport.” In American English (as opposed to British), the noun “transport” has a rather passive connotation. In fact it’s not that common a noun in American English, except in episodes of Star Trek, where the transporter room was a place of central importance for the passive relocation of crew members from the ship to the planet below. The legislative history establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that “transport” did not mean “travel,” and that’s what counts for our purposes.

    People who find this kind of stuff interesting should read the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision untangling the meaning of the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008). The language of the Second Amendment, just like the Wilderness Act’s no-mechanical-transport clause, is famously obscure: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s fascinating to read the Heller decision and see how the majority opinion dissected that difficult sentence. This is some of the most interesting work research lawyers do.

  51. Ted Stroll: “there should be no ‘use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or motorboats, or landing of aircraft, nor any other mechanical transport or delivery of persons or supplies, or any temporary road, nor any structure or installation, in excess of the minimum required. . . .'”

    Note that it says “transport OR delivery”. Delivery may be passive, but “transport” is synonymous with “transportation”, and includes the use of a bicycle. As road bicyclists are in the habit of repeating endlessly, bicycles are vehicles, and are involved in transportation. The language in no way excludes bicycles from the prohibition. If they wanted to allow bicycles, they could easily have mentioned them, but they didn’t. You have no case whatsoever. But I know that reality won’t stop you from repeating your nonsense endlessly anyway. You are fooling no one.

  52. George Vincent


    Aren’t you disappointed? You try to get people thinking, and all that follows — I exaggerate — what follows for the most part is all heat and no light. The same old same old, even including Stroll again trying to snooker the uninformed (or bolster the wishful-thinking) with his pseudo-“legal” misinterpretation of “mechanical transport.”

    This is why, I fear, your Wilderness Lite crusade might not get the hearing it deserves. I suggest you try a different, serious forum. Not sure what that would be, but life is too short to be reading here over an over again.

    Good luck.

  53. I suppose in this era of audacious spin one might expect those who will wrangle and twist legal language to suit their own purposes. However it remains clear that the “spirit of the law” attempts to define wilderness areas as land purchased for the public to be set aside for conservation reasons.

    It is just silly to argue about REI camp stoves, unless they physically damage the environment the way mountain bikes damage terrain. What the mountain bikers don’t seem to understand is that land managers have an obligation to the public, first and foremost, to provide responsible stewardship that conserves and protects the public’s property from damage and defacement.

    The vast majority of taxpayers in this country are not mountain bikers, and not all mountain bikers even demand to bike wilderness areas. These lands belong to all Americans and we have every reason to expect land managers to protect them by enforcing the spirit of the law in which they were preserved.

  54. Greg Beardslee

    One huge question remains. Who will bring forth the idea of wilderness lite to what receptive congressman? Will this be done in Montana? Idaho? Colorado? Nevada? Any congressman in any state could carry this torch. Who would benifet? bicyclists for sure, but no one else.

    Who wouldn’t like it? Everyone else, both wildernuts and motorheads. Has the time come? yes, the time has come. Would it have a branding or image problem? Yes, I believe so. It would be as hard to grasp for some people as the policies of IMBA are.

    Wilderness Lite is of course not wilderness. Some readers here do not distinguish the difference. It could work. Like Wilderness, it would not solve every issue. I do know a lot of places where it would work quite well though.

    Bill, you have a great idea. When you have become a part time mountain bike rider you will probably understand IMBA’s policies. Until then it IMBA’s policies may continue in your mind as an identity crises, or as you said, riding in no man’s land.

    I bet enviros will not take the idea and run with it, as they are content with promoting wilderness. But if a wilderness group wanted to introduce a wilderness lite bill to congress, they would have the backing of IMBA, and many local and regional cycling clubs. Would they want that backing?

    If a cycling club were to find a sponsor to introduce a wilderness lite bill to congress, I also bet wilderness organizations would be sure to oppose it. Probably with national email campaigns. If we (Montana bicyclists) weren’t so busy trying to retain the few trails in Montana that we find important, we would be taking your idea as far as possible.

    What this comes back to is the power of the wilderness organizations, and how they still are driving the bus. One of them could take the step here, but who of them are inclined to?

  55. Personally the term “wilderness lite” makes me about as nauseous as warm Bud Lite. The “wilderness” definition has legitimate integrity, “wilderness lite” cheapens the whole concept. Call what you’re looking for an Outdoor Recreation Area or something.

  56. You nailed it, Bill. Get in bed with the likes of low class groups like the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and there is no room to work things out.

  57. Bill Schneider

    To answer several questions from several commenters….

    George–I’m a bit disappointed that some comments tend to go back to the same unfruitful ground we’ve been plowing for decades, but also glad to see many commenters trying to work towards a real solution, including in some cases my Backcountry (aka Wilderness Lite) idea.

    Greg–I really don’t think me getting out on some single-track with my old Gary Fisher rigid with street tires would change my views on IMBA. IMBA might be the biggest barrier we have, even more than the non-responsive, egotistical wilderness groups, who refuse to even acknowledge the problem. If IMBA became a truly non-motorized lobby and started really representing the majority of mountain bikers, including many if not most who want to protect key roadless lands, we could move forward. And yes, I agree, wilderness groups would oppose the Wilderness Lite concept, and a sad state of affairs that is. Somebody–bike club or wilderness group–need to pick up the Backcountry ball and run with it and force the “other side’s” hand.

    gw–As I’ve noted in the second column in this series, I agree. It should be called “Wilderness Lite,” but it needs to be a good brand, which I propose be Backcountry.

    Mike–Thanks, and I obviously agree that IMBA should become a non-motorized-only organization, but I aslo think BRC members has a legitimate stake in our public lands. It’s just how to do it, and we can mix motorized and non-motorized on the same trail. Motorheads should have their own areas, sliced out of the two-thirds of our pulbic land that’s already roaded, and in these areas motorized recreation should be the primary if not exclusive outdoor activity.


  58. Ted,
    I’m going to have to, (gulp), agree with our house PhD on ethnic food preferences when it comes to mechanical transport. I grew up near the Bob Marshall and my Dad was a hardcore hunter and pilot. So I got lots of exposure to the wilderness idea during my upbringing. There were lots of nights at the Schaefer camp where we talked about trail upkeep, the rules and regulations, the intent…and ya know, I was cool with the package.
    But I also grew up with the idea of multiple use. The countryside wasn’t just for play, you had to have something to pay the bills.
    For us in Northwest Montana before Al Gore invented the Internet, it was logging, smelting, farming, grazing, and railroading the associated products to market. Oh, and some skiers would come in on the streamliner from Minneapolis and Seattle, and they would hike in Glacier in the summer.
    And incidentally, Glacier was pretty much an exclusive enclave for rich, railroad-and-horse-borne tourists until the Sun Highway was built. Roads pretty much “democratized” the Park and the “park concept,” opened it to the commoners who, while unable to afford a Pullman, could scrape together gas for the flivver (which Henry Ford deliberately priced for the masses) and road-camp it.
    What I’m trying to tell you, Ted, is that Bill Schneider’s model of building a slightly-larger “alliance” in order to remove yet more land from the fine, democratic framework of multiple economic and recreational use, flies in the very face of the concept of shared public assets.
    Greg raises the big question. Who would sponsor? Well, that’s Bill’s intent here, is to raise a “coalition” to encourage a sponsor. And to be honest, it makes me sick and sad to realize that as citizens become less and less connected to the landscape and the realities thereon, they will become more and more susceptible to semantic bullshyte such as “wilderness lite.”

  59. Bill, I appreciate your voice of calm reason and respect in trying to mediate a seemingly intractable issue. I would agree, there certainly could be public land of lesser ecological value that could be set aside in the future for recreational sport use by mountain bikers and ATV users. But you do your cause a broad disservice by continuing use of the misnomer “wilderness lite.” I suggest you abandon the term immediately.

    The term “wilderness lite” will only succeed in creating a visceral reaction of repulsion from the vast majority of environmentalists, that is, the thousands that you can expect to respond to the big enviro org action alerts. The term sends a message of downgrading and cheapening the “wilderness” designation, which the public takes for valuable land set aside for conservation, being threatened by damaging recreational use.

    And in fact, “wilderness lite” isn’t descriptively accurate anyway. I can’t emphasize this enough: The purpose of the Wilderness designation is conservation. The purpose of the “wilderness lite” designation you speak of is recreation. There is a HUGE difference in philosophy, goal and intent, not to mention the actual impact on the land. Environmentalist do NOT want to see their interests combined, water-down or confused with those who consider publicly owned Wilderness just so much “dirt”…..as posted by a mountain biker in another NewWest forum.

    And by the way…..environmentalists take offense at the idea of “multiple economic and recreational uses” because that is not what the Wilderness designation is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about conservation to preserve and protect the land for the future and for benefit of every American. Not exploitation, profiteering and defacement by a few in the present.

  60. Dave,

    Thanks. I understand your views about mechanical transport. In my posts over the weekend I was laying out the legal background but not trying to resolve the policy issues. They seem to be intractable!

    Don’t you think right now it’s a stalemate? I do. No bikes in Wilderness, but also no more Wilderness, at least in Montana.

    I do see Bill’s “Wilderness Lite” concept as being problematic, but at least he’s trying to negotiate something among mutually hostile factions, for which he should be applauded. From the perspective of the agencies and our elected officials, however, I bet we all seem like a bunch of ants scurrying around. I think it will require a politician or bureaucrat with real authority to hammer out a compromise (or impose a solution that isn’t a compromise), and so far no one seems inclined to do so. Maybe Bill could interview Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for a column and see what he thinks.

  61. FYI: THE REAL MIKE… – doubt you know me as max frisson is a noms de plume I use because I’m a very visible part of the powersports industry and I have a habit of generating controversy.

    I work now primarily in the Adventure Touring/Dual Sport niche of the industry. That’s dirt-oriented for those that don’t know. I did work in road racing for many years, Oh yes I do have a european-made, extremely fast sportbike [your bullet bike], it sits next to my 2 off-road bikes. I did have a chopper too but sold it. Point I ride everything – I don’t specialize. Right now, this year I’ll get more seat time on the Dual Sports than the MV. I have a long off-road history starting in the 60s learn to ride of trails then as a MXer, [Bultacos in the 70s], a desert racer,[Honda in the 80s] dual-sport touring[BMWs in the 90s] and very very soon a new KTM for a new form of off-road rally competition that I should still be competitive in even if I’m nearly 60 years old.

    FYI: It’s a boom biz….
    I do wear “All the Gear, All the Time” as the safety slogan goes so when I’m on my Enduro I have by MX Boots and gear and when I ride the MV I wear roadrace leathers. I was really into MTBs in the mid90s [my company made Ti parts for Trek, Specialized, Merlin as a side to our MC race parts] as an alternative to dirt bikes and I wore shorts and a bike helmet when I rode – WOW appropriate gear for activity – so shameful.

    I dropped away from peddle bikes when I saw the same reaction from the forest purists, the hate and the closures, I stuck with the motorized versions.

  62. Cort, my favorite TRAIL bike for mixed use is a Gas-Gas Trials bike. it’s makes little noise and the point is precision, difficulty but not speed.
    Meeting me is not that scary. My high speed stuff has all been achieved in competition. I don’t compete on a Trail ride. That’s for fun. You’ll find that most people who have raced competitively know how to separate the appropriate and inappropriate occasions for speed.

    No my SPEED point was just a goad at MikeV, PhDDDD

  63. Ted, Dave, Bill and of course the Mike and real Mike

    There’s a idea of a slogan in one of the above posts that I could support

    I would support the 104 MILLION acres of current wilderness areas being off-limits and keeping it so if I could get a binding irrevocable restraint of new additions, reductions of existing areas and no backdoor actions such as the Montana suit to close out users after the deal was done. What a dream, huh? What have I been smokin’
    I think that the attitude demonstrated by the members of Loyal Order of the Scared Foot in Forest shows that no matter what the deal, the access will always be threatened.

  64. “There’s a idea of a slogan in one of the above posts that I could support


    I could live with that.

  65. Max,

    I would support it, if it also had this provision:

    “a binding irrevocable restraint of new” postings from Mike V.


  66. corvus, you have it.

    who’s says we can’t work together!!

  67. Ted,
    No more wilderness in Montana, or anywhere for that matter, until one condition is met, one which was intended in the original Wilderness Act. In short, This and No More.
    The ONLY additional wilderness I will ever support are ONLY the recommended wildernesses from the first round of forest plans in the middle 1980s, based on the RARE 1 process, which in turn was based on the original intent of the Wilderness Act. That was conducted before the Greens started second-guessing everything and before the agencies were cleared out of common sense managers.
    I would support designation of those lands as wilderness, mostly, but I would make designation contingent on successful multiple-use programs resuming on the REST of the national forests. In short, I would want ten years of happy loggers, happy miners, happy hunters, happy campers, happy motorheads, happy gearheads, happy foresters, free from litigational paralysis induced by idiot Greens.
    As a final step, after ten years of no litigation monkeywrenching the uses of the “other 98 percent” on the non-wilderness land, each national forest would give the green light to final wilderness designation by having a general election vote in the counties containing each national forest, a yay or a nay on whether the multiple use plan has been successfully implemented.
    A no vote resets the clock for another ten years, a yes vote designates the wilderness with a permanent ban on any future designations.

  68. Are you reading this pompous garbage, guys, neighbors? Isn’t it exactly what I told you? It’s just a small town and he’s just a piker. Like I said, the sooner we can run this puke out of business locally, the sooner his pompous strutting will be over and the sooner we’ll be better off regionally and nationally. Don’t read it and weep; read it and act.

  69. Bill while I agree with you most of the time, the BRC is actually for reverting protected wilderness to roaded, motorized and mining lands. They don’t want to keep something for themselves, but rather to simply end the wilderness act, and take away wilderness for all users.

    Also, motorized activity is already the highest use of our national forest lands by default.

  70. Dave Skinner:

    You say we should “tolerate” diversity on national forest lands, yet you work for a group (the Blue Ribbon Coalition) which actively seeks to remove roadless and wilderness areas in the the roaded and motorized category. The BRC actively seeks to remove widlerness study areas as well.

    The BRc has no use for rare wildlife. They have no use for quiet recreation. Who funds the BRC? Take a look:

    Boise Cascade, Potlatch, U.S. Forest Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, and Exxon,The Idaho Montana, Nevada and Colorado Mining Associations Crown Butte Mines, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Polaris and Ski-Doo.

    The truth is that the Blue Ribbon Coalition is an industry funded anti-conservation group with the main goal of ending wilderness.

    There’s no honor at all to be had. They simply don’t want that kind of outdoor experience to exist in this world. Their mentality is that it’s “useless” land.

  71. GW; – “I could entrust them to Mike Vandeman, who after 10 years would return them to me in pristine condition.”

    No, point is he wouldn’t return them – unless you are reincarnated as a chipmunk! MikeV would like to keep all humans out.

  72. It is true, Mike Vandeman would like to see some human-free zones. But he certainly doesn’t advocate for all ALL public lands to be human-free zones. And in any case, either way, land entrusted to him would be respected rather than ravaged, exploited, raped, pillaged, plundered and bespoiled.

    Let’s put it in the form of a metaphor. Which is indicative of sincere love? To love someone because of who they are? Or to love someone because of the ways you can use them?

    Mike V loves the land for what it is, the geology, wildlife, ecology, all the things that actually comprise the land in its natural state, with or without his own presence.

    You guys only care about what you can use. And from the attitude I’m reading here, as an American taxpayer I’d hesitate to entrust you guys with an anthill.

  73. And you call Mike Vandeman insane? — no I’ll let him do his own work.
    From the estimed mind of Doc V,
    “Cold” Fusion and the Destruction of Life on the Earth”
    and I quote….
    “….Adding oxygen to the atmosphere may seem like a good thing, but I am told that if the concentration of oxygen reaches a certain level, all of the world’s forests will spontaneously combust!”

    OK, I had some extra time this morning, so I went to Doc V’s web site [if this guy was my IT guy I would fire him – what a crap site] and I read a few of the MTB rants, some of his anti-car drivel and then I stumble upon that gem of a “science” article on Cold Fusion.
    He can’t decide if it’s a threat because it will use up all the water in the world [not supportable by any thing closely resembling a FACT] or if the whole world will spontaneously explode in flames. [spark that sets the world ablaze will be caused by MTBer , in case you didn’t know]. This is so far from possible as to be unlikely even as a plot for some B-grade Sci-Fi movie much less environmental science.

    But wait, that’s not all….

    He would have garbage either not picked up in East Bay parks and rely on an “education campaign” or he would hire the homeless to peddle bicycles towing carts to haul trash.

    He would close all parks and make access nearly impossible
    QUOTE….”But managing parks as they should be managed — as wildlife habitat, with an absolute minimum of human access (e.g. a road to the edge of the park, with no parking lot)”

    Anti-Private Property [wonder if he owns a home or is a 50 year old renter]
    QUOTE…..This absurdity is what underlies the “Private Property” myth…

    Anti- Mapping [this one is funny, really – you can’t tell me where not to ride if you don’t have a map of where I not supposed to be, can you?]
    QUOTE….We don’t need more maps, we need to start de-mapping the scanty scraps of viable habitat that remain on the Earth

    Anti-DOG, as companion animal [does he suggest that we release all canines in Wilderness??]
    QUOTE….From Mike V’s anti Dog Park letters to Ed. in 1993, “dogs should not be allowed in the city: there is no place for them to run free and have a satisfying life as a dog. I think it is cruel to raise a dog (and therefore probably people as well) in this concrete desert”
    and just Anti-capitalism, ant-car, anti-THE POPE [look it up] and anti-MAN as far as I can tell

    If you have a hour or two to waste, say around 4:20 one afternoon you ought to cruise Doc. V’s site – you will know the definition of the following.
    Self-Righteousness – the repeated EQUAL ACCESS, where we all have access if we walk like MikeV.

    Sanctamoneous – LAZY, that’s one of his favorites, you have never done any MTBing if you think it’s a LAZY Man’s pursuit. Walking is lazy.

    Repetitive [I found the same phrases and stories used repeatedly, like the “Boring Trail, wanted a bike for 2 seconds” one]

    Delusional – see cold fusion, trash pick up, no roads, no maps . I actually am surprised Doc V has a computer. [a Tandy I hope] as he is a bit of a Luddite

    I expect a sad, bitter and lonely sort of angry curmudgeon before his time – I really would love to meet his guy. I’ll be in the Bay Area for a race next month. 60,000 of us will be drive wildlife crazy at Laguna Seca

    OK, phones ringing – work day begins

  74. You try to make your own stance more amenable by insulting a convenient scapegoat. Who cares what Mike V. thinks about cold fusion? The topic is use/abuse of taxpayer land. Apparently you want to distract the reader by bringing up irrelevent side issues.

  75. GW – You supported his sanity – I responded to show a misguided, out of touch, wacko, typifying what I view as a threat to my personal nirvana. The Land-based Wheeled Vehicle, in it’s many forms, represents my God and my Scared Art.

    He [& you] champions a view of public land access to which I am diametrically opposed. It’s all good as long as you walk like Doc V.

    Matter of fact, if you were trying to find two absolute opposites in world perspectives among men, I image Mike and Max would be near perfect polar opposites.

    I do hope Mike V hates BBQ too!

  76. Wow, this thread would make a great movie:
    Popcorn, anyone?

  77. NewWest should up their web banner rates – traffic must be up 200%

  78. Please remember, folks like Mike Vandeman are very important. Without outspoken opponents of mountain biking, cyclists would not be inspired to become politically active. I remember a guy named Mel Beck who used to write anti-bicycle diatribes in Marin County newspapers many years ago. He is the one who inspired me to do a little activism in Marin, which ultimately led to the formation of the Bicycle Trails Council, etc. For this reason I have nominated Mr. Vandeman to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. I hope others who are members of this organization would second my nomination: http://www.mtnbikehalloffame.com/ . I’m serious. Without outspoken critics, mountain bikers might sit idly by and watch trails quietly close. Mike Vandeman should be an inspiration to all mountain bikers.

    Mike has a really important point that I agree with. It is something that I also thought of long ago. If we can close areas to logging, mining, motorized uses and others, why stop there? Why do equestrians and hikers have special privileges? Why not close an area to all human entry? If that’s too much, why not close an area to all but those humans who will stick to stone age methods? No nylon clothes or Vibram soles. You could only enter wearing animal skins, moccasins on your feet, carry a stone knife, supplies of pemmican and the like. It would be interesting to observe a true human-free wilderness for a few hundred years.

  79. Luddites, beware of what you wish for! You might just get it.

    Here’s what I mean. Following up on Arne Ryason’s post, let me quote from the Nova Scotia (Canada) Wilderness Areas Protection Act (N.S. Stats. 1988, ch. 27, § 1, as amended, N.S. Stats. 2005, ch. 56, § 18):


    “17 . . . (2) Except as provided in this Act or the regulations, within a wilderness area no person shall

    “(d) create, construct, maintain or operate a trail, road, railway, aircraft landing strip or helicopter pad;

    “(e) use or operate a vehicle or bicycle;

    “(f) camp, tent or occupy the land;

    “. . .

    “(l) light or maintain a fire;

    “. . .


    “30 (1) Every person who contravenes this Act or the regulations is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction

    “. . . (b) in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”

    (Italics added.)

    How would the antibike types on this thread who are so sure that their uses of Wilderness are sacrosanct and pure like it if the U.S. Wilderness Act of 1964 had those prohibitions?

  80. I don’t care if Mike V. wears a tin foil hat and sleeps in a bathtub.
    If I owned land that I cared about and wanted responsible stewardship, I’d choose him over you guys. Why? Because I know he would protect my investment.

    Ooops, wait a minute. I do own land that I care about. I’m an American taxpayer.

  81. And here’s something else that the Nova Scotia Wilderness Areas Protection Act provides for. It’s along the lines of what Bill and others on this thread and the prior threads have been suggesting (but—I’m sorry Bill—it appears to allow for motorized too):

    Certain Recreational Uses


    . . .

    “(5) The Minister may issue a licence permitting the holder of the licence to use a vehicle or bicycle on a trail or route within a wilderness area to enable access for wilderness recreation, sport fishing or traditional patterns of hunting or trapping if

    “(a) the wilderness area is included in a Schedule to this Act and the trail or route existed before February 9, 1993; or

    “(b) in any other wilderness area, the trail or route existed before the area was designated as a wilderness area,

    “and, in the opinion of the Minister

    “(c) the continued use will have a minimal environmental impact on the wilderness area; and

    “(d) no reasonable alternative exists to enable the access.

    “(6) The Minister may require a trail or route in a wilderness area to be realigned or re-routed as necessary to minimize the environmental impact on the wilderness area.

    “(7) A licence issued pursuant to this Section shall designate specific routes for use within the wilderness area and may contain such other terms and conditions as are considered necessary, in the opinion of the Minister, for the protection of the wilderness area.”

    (Italics added.)

    Sounds like a template for an accommodation in this country, eh?

  82. gw,

    “responsible stewardship” is a loaded term and subject to interpretation.

    You don’t own the land. You are 1 of 300 million (and counting) shareholders of the land. You certainly have a stake, and a voice.

    Despite it’s shortcomings, our democracy is a democracy. (Though in more cynical moods I think of it as a Theocratic Plutocracy (ever met a politician who didn’t espouse a devote religious belief and benefit from a 7 figure bank account? (I digress.)))

    Point is: Mike V. does not accept that there are a myriad of folks with an interest in the protection and use of wild places; and more importantly – some of those folks want to kill and eat things in those wild places, ride the bicycles in those places and otherwise recreate in a way that gives them a sense of pleasure and nirvana.

    I’m not arguing for a wide-open, do-as-you-please attitude. I believe that there are ways to accommodate most folks, most of the time and protect what little seems to be left of the wide open spaces, flora, and fauna that make up the iconoclastic American West.

    Mike V. does not believe people should ride bikes on public lands. That is not a democratic view. It’s either Fascist or Socialist – depending on the way he intends to enforce it.

    Whether he’s insane or not is, of course, complete conjecture on my part. But the “sky is falling” routine about bicycles is tiring – and there’s the notion that continuing to do (or say) the same thing, with the expectation of different results might be a definition of insanity.

    Of course, I keep pouring rye into a glass with an ice cube expecting to become rich and powerful, but time and again, it doesn’t happen . . .


  83. gw, I am so glad to finally find the owner of the federal land in the vicinity. It is BLM land, and raw, untouched. It is also covered with weeds that dry and blow into my yeard and others. Please come at the earliest possible date and clean up the weeds and burn them so they do not go to see and reseed the entire area again and again and again. If you cannot, let us know your address and we’ll have someone send you, the owner, the bill.

  84. … who cares, it’s post-4:20 and I just read the one where the Doc writes REI and tells them to stop selling hiking boots! Seriously this guy tells REI they need to stop with hiking boots
    So you hike barefoot? In Indian moccasins? Better yet, he tells Sierra Club they should stop promoting wilderness recreation. Just amazing stuff.

    Yeah maybe the thread has deteriorated but just getting to know one Michael J. Vandeman, PhD has been a hoot. I’ve read his book reviews, his letters to editors, politicians, bureaucrats, other environmentalists and there is just this “I know the ONE TRUE WAY” that is consistent through all. He has been given a clarity of truth and purpose that is astounding, truly amazing, certainly beyond mere mortals. If he were President, all Transportation, Environmental, Population and Economic problems would be solved with just a blink and the wiggle of his so-wise nose. I mean it really would be funny if there weren’t people who took him seriously

    But you know what’s not funny? I found a bunch of different posts about the deaths of mountain bike riders that seem gleeful in nature, sort of a “see I told you so” attitude, as if their fate was deserved from Mike V, PhD. That’s not amusing and really sick behavior.
    ……and with that we return to our regularly scheduled programming

  85. Todd…..please identify “weeds.” A course in Field Biology might help. Might also help in appreciation and respect for natural communities in general.

    CS…..of course I am only one of many taxpayers who are stakeholders in the well-being of public lands. And the vast majority of us are NOT mountain bikers, ATV enthusiasts, miners, loggers or others who seem to think they should have free reign in defacing our mutual property.

    Funny how if you vandalize a building, you’re a criminal. But if you vandalize nature, it’s just the American Way, huh?

  86. Note to “gw”: The so-called “public lands” are really owned by the federal government. Entry into a designated Wilderness is by permit only and can be revoked at any time. When one fills out a Wilderness Permit, he or she signs on a line, agreeing to obey the rules, that says “Visitor’s signature.” I always cross out “Visitor,” which probably has a legal definition somewhere, and write in “Citizen.” I can agree to obey the rules on federally designated Wilderness lands, but I will not agree to alter my citizenship status to that of “Visitor.” Your federal income tax dollars go to nothing more than servicing the interest on the national debt. The so-called “public” lands are probably owned by those we are indebted to, thanks to our wonderful politicians. I suppose we’ll see Chinese logging crews soon.

    Ted – Your above criteria should be applied to the former dairy ranches in the Philip Burton Wilderness in Point Reyes National Seashore. I’d go one step further and challenge the designation of that area as Wilderness, because it was not “roadless” to begin with and not “primeval” in any way. Supposedly some of the ranchers logged their properties before the feds took possession. My friends and I had been riding our sturdy old 10 speed bikes on those roads long before there were so-called “mountain bikes.” It used to be legal, even after it was designated as Wilderness. Park Rangers occasionally drive their trucks and ATVs on these former ranch roads, now referred to as “trails,” which is allowed, in case of emergency, under the 1964 Wilderness Act. It’s a place I like to refer to as a “Wildernessland.” In a real wilderness, if you make a mistake you might end up as scavenger food.

  87. Actually GW, the combined constituency of wheeled recreation and commercial users of public lands is a FAR larger group than the few, very few, Americans that will ever strap on a backpack and venture anywhere near a Wilderness.

    Most Americans care very little one way or the other

  88. American’s don’t actually have to use the wilderness to care about it’s integrity, and want to see their investment protected for generations to come.

  89. Arne P. Ryason

    GW – If a tree falls in the wilderness and nobody hears it, is our investment protected? The average person who cares about wilderness ought to visit it once in a while to make sure it is not being exploited. I do not trust the government to keep track of things so I visit and “inspect” occasionally. Here’s an inspection report from last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzO1xBiVtqc . Located in the Frank Church Wilderness.

  90. Arne…..that is an incredibly gorgeous place, and very well-done video. Thank you so much for sharing it! I think it’s the only post here that has actually made my blood pressure go DOWN.

  91. Arne P. Ryason

    Thanks, GW, I like to go to places like that to lower my blood pressure as well. I’ll be going on another “inspection” tour as soon as the streams and rivers are a little lower. Ah, summer in Idaho …

  92. You might want to find out which are native grasses and which are not. The non-native grasses, if invasive, could be a habitat problem that should be addressed. But given triage, the park service may not have the money or man-power to do much about it.

  93. I’m a new visitor to the site and I have been amazed by the anti bike virulence. I have for the most part been most comfortable having tree hugging, granola eating dirtbags as friends, and we all thought we were pretty dedicated green environmentalists. But never did it occur to us that trail riding made us destroyers of the universe. Sometimes we walk and enjoy small treasures only visible at the slower pace, other times we ride fast and enjoy the thrill. It was never that contemplation was superior to speed. They are different equally rewarding, equally valid experiences. Some times you need to dance and sometimes you need to sprint.
    Before I moved the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana from Colorado, I was baffled by how anyone could oppose adding more Wilderness. Then I moved here and gained an appreciation for the local viewpoint. When I see how much more Wilderness the NREPA would add locally I was amazed. Many of the trails I currently ride would be closed. Between the private land on the valley floor and the Wilderness added, there would be little room left locally for mountain biking. I don’t want to have to drive and increase my carbon footprint for the privilege of riding. I want to live and play locally.
    One of our concerns with increasing trail closures is the increased potential for user conflicts on the few remaining trails. At least still where I ride, trail use by everyone is low enough there are few encounters. That could change as we are forced into smaller and smaller areas
    As a pragmatist and a cyclist, I think Bill is on the right path. As currently implemented the Wilderness Act is a bludgeon as one of our only tools to protect ecosystems, create wildlife corridors, and ensure the quality of the watersheds. We need a buffer zone, call it Backcountry Areas or Primitive Areas around the core Wilderness that can provide the protections that we all desire and still support non motorized recreational use. Whether we hike, ride a horse, ski, bike, or go looking for enlightenment, it is all recreation.
    Just a few more comments. Local input is critical. Rules and regulations that fit busier Primitive Areas close to urban cities, may not be appropriate for lower density rural Backcountry Areas. I remember when I first moved here, one of the few mountain biking Bitterroot natives told me that the Sierra Club would be after bikes next and we had a lot arguments over beer about that. I would argue that MTBs are a low impact, earth friendly, human powered way to get close to nature. Who would ever want to ban them? we are a natural member of the quiet use coalition. He would say, “First they closed the mines, then banned the logging, then went after OHVs. Mountain Bikes will be next.” After reading the comments I’m not so sure that he was wrong.

  94. “First they closed the mines, then banned the logging, then went after OHVs. Mountain Bikes will be next.” After reading the comments I’m not so sure that he was wrong.

    plenty of history to demonstrate that is exactly what the members of the Order of the Scared Foot in the Holy Forest contingent will do. Make a deal with them on access and watch as they come back a few years later and sue you off the trails.

    Sierra Club is no friend to any wheelist.

  95. Those who want local interests to have more influence than national interests in use of public land might want to lobby their towns and counties for park land purchases. That would likely mean less conflict with national interests like the Sierra Club and “tree hugging, granola eating dirtbags” (as you call them) like me.

  96. I would like to clarify that “tree hugging granola eating dirtbags” is how we define ourselves. We have embraced the negative descriptions of us. I was not attempting to be insulting.

    Our county is currently 75% national forest, and of that National Forest, nearly half is already WILDERNESS. Of the remaining 50% that is not designated Wilderness the NREPA would make a significant portion wilderness. This is my home. I moved here because I want to be close to the land and I want it maintained in a healthy manner so that my children will have the chance to encounter bears and wolves less than 10 miles from our home. I want them to have the chance to hike up a canyon where the mountains block the lights of civilization and they can see the grandeur of the Milky Way as it was meant to see.

    Imagine living in a county that could be 75% designated wilderness and 20% private land. Leaving 5% for OHVs, logging, and mountain bikers. Imagine having the Wilderness extending right to the wildland-urban interface without having any buffer to do any sort of fire mitigation. Wilderness means no prescribed burns, no thinning, no responsible management of forest that are overgrown from fire suppression and irresponsible logging and due for a stand replacing burn. Some people believe that is it a sacrifice we should be willing to make, but why should we make the sacrifice if the science shows that we can have the same degree of protection to the ecosystem and watersheds and still allow mountain bikes on 12″ wide trails. Trails that don’t go to lakes or other must see vistas. Trails the we clear and maintain. Trails that horsemen and hikers have forgotten about and seldom use. Take your choice of term for the buffer: Primitive, Backcountry, Wildlands. But there needs to be a designation for near wilderness that can accomplish 99.9% of what a Wilderness designation can accomplish, and surround the critical core Wilderness

    We hardly need more land purchases, and the land available for purchase would be river bottom agricultural land. Land that we are striving to keep open as sustainable agricultural land through Land Trusts and easements.

    Once again this shows the need to understand the local conditions, and to work with the people that know the area, so that we can best benefit the environment and those who live and play here.

  97. Arne P. Ryason

    I have looked at our local NREPA map and, sure enough, Wilderness designation will apply on all public land right up to city limits. It would ban mountain biking, but probably not sheep grazing. Mountain biking is a big part of the summer economy here and Wilderness designation would kill a few businesses. Maybe we need NREPA to pass so mountain bike manufacturers would finally get off their butts and put some of those profits towards a lawsuit that would undo the 1984 interpretation of the Wilderness Act that led to bicycles being banned from areas so designated. Bike manufacturers spend far too much on racing teams. They should spend that money on lawyers, not bike racers. Also, bike racing is a lousy image to project if one is trying to advocate for Wilderness access. With every mountain bike race they shoot themselves in the foot. I seriously dislike the mountain bike racing scene.

  98. Excellent comments, Canonrad. What county do you live in, if you don’t mind saying?

    You mention “trails that horsemen and hikers have forgotten about and seldom use.” I hear that in the Ventana Wilderness, here in northern California, many trails are choked with poison oak, overgrown, dilapidated, and difficult to follow in places, and that as a result they have been essentially abandoned. I wonder if that’s true in a number of other Wildernesses.

  99. The Bush policy of “maintaining” public lands was to starve them for funds, so they would have excuse to turn to privatization. I can see how it fit hand-in-glove with the IMBA strategy of mountain bike clubs offering assistance with design, build and maintenance of trails on public lands. The camel gets it’s nose under the tent, so to speak.

  100. I’m in Ravalli County, MT. I would like to clarify the trails we ride are not in Wilderness, but are legal Forest trails. Due to deadfall, distance, grade or for whatever reason some of them are of limited interest to equestrians and hikers. We maintain them anonymously, not for the publicity but as a commitment to public lands.

  101. Wilderness Mountain Biker

    I find this discussion hilarious and the virulence of the anti-bike is funny. I have ridden Hundreds of miles of designated wilderness trails, and the idea that I am damaging the experience or trail is ridiculous. Anyone who has had to hike after a horse train has been through a trail knows this is basically just a couple of groups of people being exclusionary as a horse train contains huge amounts of “mechanized” items into the area and damage the trail and environment by their very nature. I am not anti-horse and recognize the work that many horse activists and groups have done for the trail system, I just want to bring a little reality to the situation. The very nature of where the trails are precludes any idea of actually policing any regulation limiting access to these difficult to reach places and I welcome the attempt as our resources are stretched thin and this is way down the priority list so this is a moot point for me. I look forward to enjoying the wilderness in any way I can get my big ass there.

  102. Wilderness Mountain Biker,

    That’s interesting. I can see from your perspective that this whole discussion is largely academic given that you’re riding the trails anyway. Have you ever encountered any rangers, and if so, what happened? And have you encountered anyone else who noticed that you’re on a bike in a Wilderness? If so, did they complain or were they indifferent or friendly? If they did complain, what did you say in response? Just curious.

  103. Ted Stroll: The idea that you are actually expecting an honest answer, FROM A MOUNTAIN BIKER LIKE YOU, is the funniest thing I have heard in years. Just look in the mirror! You and I both KNOW what the answer will be: “I’m doing no harm, and hikers/equestrians are crazy”. So what else is new?

  104. Here’s an honest answer:

    I used to ride my bicycle on the former dairy ranch roads in Point Reyes National Seashore since about 1972 (it was a sturdy, cheap ten-speed, before there were so-called “mountain bikes”). I think, at this time, the Phillip Burton Wilderness there had just been created, but there were no “no bikes” signs at the time. These ranch roads have since been re-named “trails.” After I got a fat tire “mountain bike” I continued to ride the “trails” there before AND AFTER the “no bikes” signs went up about 1984. Point Reyes does not conform to the phony notion of “wilderness.” I have absolutely NO respect for this B.S. Supposedly some of the ranchers logged their properties before turning them over to the feds. This area had been grazed by cows to the point that it does not in any way conform to the so-called “primeval” definition in the Wilderness Act, which also specifies ROAD-LESS areas!

    In Marin, ALL of us used to ride on closed trails since the late 70’s, early 80’s, because there were no “no bikes” signs on the trails, but we didn’t know it was, technically, illegal. This was the case in MMWD, Mt. Tam State Park, etc. We ALL kept riding those trails after the “no bikes” signs went up. I was cite once in MMWD lands and paid my fine, I think it was 30 – 40 bucks or something. Later, we just rode the trails at night, mostly really late by moonlight with minimal lights. We shrouded our “Night Sun” and “Tam Torch” lights to minimize side light spillage, always turning them off in the open when the moon was bright enough. It’s been about 15 – 16 years since I’ve done any of that.

    Also, I am disgusted by mountain bikers who were cited by rangers in Point Reyes a couple years ago, made a big deal about it, went to court, were convicted and DID NOT APPEAL! Of course the lower court is going to convict! You have to go to the next step! Yes, mountain bikers are LAZY sometimes, right, Mike?

    Since moving to Idaho I have never ridden a bicycle on a Wilderness trail, but once I accidentally rode my bike down an unsigned trail that intersected with a “closed to bikes” trail, also unsigned until you get to the entrance, on Sun Valley Company property. Oops. Actually, I hardly ride the thing at all any more, having rediscovered my roots as a hiker and backpacker who likes to walk off-trail a lot.

    I leave you with this quote from Dr. Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, The University of Calgary,
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada.:

    “…The “wilderness fallacy”. To round out the list of fallacies, the wilderness fallacy must be quickly dealt with. It is another North American introduction into global culture. It is based on the conventional wisdom that pre-Colombian America was a virgin wilderness with very few natives, which practiced a wise ecologically sustainable lifestyle – a patronizing picture of indigenous people as noble savages if there ever was one. The Archeological record teaches otherwise, namely, that the Americas – as were all continents inhabited by humans – were fully utilized by sophisticated cultures and regionally dense populations. When European diseases and genocide rapidly diminished native populations, and the heavy hand of red man came off the land and led to an explosion of “wilderness”. This wilderness was in turn subdued beginning about 250 years later by the even heavier hand of white man. Wilderness in the North American context is an artifact of European colonization. There is no such thing as a continent- wide pre-Colombian American wilderness. To automatically invoke “wilderness” values is much like invoking “ecosystems” values. In reality this requires some very Socratic questioning and debate, whether “wilderness” should be spread in “multi-use landscapes surrounding houses, farms, villages and cities”! …” from his paper, “When do Wolves Become Dangerous to Humans?”

  105. Tomorrow, on Sunday, our little locale will see the very commercial venture, 400 person BC (Mtn) Bike Race “rip and shred” the steeply sloped trails on rather wet temperate rainforest, having had some rain recently. This race is akin to “motocross” racing on “singletrack”.

    Whether one comes into the forest on a motorized recreational vehicle or a “mechanized” one (mountain bikes), you are coming into wilderness/natural parkland with a nature-deficit mindset.

    In another locale in BC, there is another mountain biking venue that brings in over 800 people to rip and shred the forests, wetlands and the trails. Then they “repair” the trails. This happens every year. How much “modification for wheels” can the forest take before the trees become compromised due to damage and disease and fall down?

    It is amazing how many trees happened to have fallen down over bike trails out in BC. “Rock armouring” of trails is the worst culprit, hacking at tree roots, etc. and removal of large rocks from the forest floor to lay in the “crib” cut out of the forest floor for the rocks to be laid (a depth of two feet or more). Gravel hiking paths even become heavily grooved (by bike tires) and worn down to expose large, jutting rocks.

    Mountain biking is just not sustainable where they “want” to ride…

    Wheeled locusts should be considered an “invasive species” inside our wild places and natural parkland, especially when they participate in such venues that bring in the freewheeling hordes, such as the 400 person BC (Mtn.) Bike Race and the 800 person “Test of Metal” Mtn Bike Race.

    This kind of wheeled wreckreation needs to be strictly contained to a place where environmental damage and “tinkering” is kept to a minimum: An old gravel quarry, for instance.

    IMBA’s alignment with the motorized yahoos makes perfect sense in the fact that electric mountain bikes (that have the power of motorized dirt bikes) are now making inroads into our wilderness (in BC). A silent and deadly combination.

    To whom does the wilderness belong? Be careful how you choose to answer this.

  106. Wilderness Mountain Biker

    Ted, I have never run into a ranger on the trails in over 10 years as there are a serious lack of these on the trails anyway, but have run into many Hikers and Equestrians and every interaction was positive and never an issue, most thought us crazy as the effort to get into these place actually involves carrying the bike as much as riding it. I want to reiterate I am in no way anti-equestrian or anti-hiker, I just object to the closing of our public lands base on arbitrary and illogical arguments. I am a member of many environmental groups and give generously. I feel that the motorized activities are the ones that are actually the root of the environmental damage and the lazy bunch who do not want to earn the wilderness do not belong there.

  107. Dr. Valerius Geist is obviously an idiot. NONE of you have the foggiest knowledge of conservation biology. Land is not designated “Wilderness” just because it is pristine. Its purpose is to protect existing ecosystems AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Mountain biking is totally incompatible with wildlife conservation: it creates ruts & erosion, kills small plants and animals on & nest to the trail, drives wildlife out of its habitat, drives other trail users out of the lands that belong to them, and greatly increases the distance that humans can travel, multiplying their impact on the wildlife accordingly. The fact that the land may have been messed up in the past is absolutely no excuse for messing it up some more!!! DUH!

    It is your responsibility to know the law, and obey it. You are obviously too ignorant to make good judgments on your own. The will of the majority is that Wilderness be protected as much as possible, including keeping mountain bikes out.

    If this is all over your head, ask your mommie to explain it to you. Sheesh.

  108. 1. WOW, the thread that would not die!

    2. LANEY: Silent and deadly combination, the new electric dirt bike.

    I have worked for motorcycle access to public lands for over 30 years. The anti-motor crowd has always used NOISE & POLLUTION as two of the big reasons why we should be denied access. So now we could answer that objection 100%, be totally without the internal combustion motor and we are now WORSE off that before.

    This once again proves my contention that there is no way the Apostolates of The Holy Order of the Foot in the sect of Sacred Forest Worship will ever stick by a deal and will always try to make public land use conform to their elitist definition on the ONE RIGHT WAY to commune with Nature. This is exactly why the IMBA is aligning with BRC and the Motorized brethren of the Wheel. That is where the common purpose and respect for diversity is achieved.

    3. RACING: I am a race and motorcycle event promoter, I’ll be running a on-road/off-road Dual-Sport event in Texas this Fall. The group just finished one in Colorado. The two counties and two cities involved pay to have us hold events there. WHY? Because we bring BIG MONEY into the community and provide valuable exposure to a community that wants to be a “destination”. It’s a sort of branding that says, “We want your business, we love your $$$”. I suspect that the income from a 400 or 800 racer event is substantial in those host communities.

    4. To whom does the wilderness belong? Be careful how you choose to answer this. TO ALL OF US Laney, the Wheeled and Non-Wheeled Citizens alike. The size of the two events that offend you is proof they have a constituency and that is itself a validation of their worth to citizens that co-own that public land..

    5. Point Reyes – In the late 70s we rode dirt bikes up there. I did a photo shoot on the BMW R80GS in 1980 or 81 there. There were old buildings and roads everywhere.

    Vandeman – You have your own agenda. Anyone who questions your vision of the GREAT TRUTH is an idiot. I suspect that puts Dr. Valerius Geist in some fine company. From all I have read here and elsewhere you are anti-car, anti-development, anti-anti if at all possible.

    The genesis of my involvement with these NEW WEST threads was an article that postulated MTBers should form an alliance with the Wilderness supporters to work on shared goals. Laney and MikeV prove that will be a fatal mistake for Wheeled Access to Public Lands. You will have access the gravel pit or land-fill of your choice.

  109. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Max Frisson, you only prove that humans are fatally selfish. Who owns the wilderness? The wildlife obviously do, because they were here 4 billion years before we ever showed up. If you think that humans own it, tell me how we got title away from the wildlife? (Hint: taking land by force doesn’t give you title.) The destruction of willdife habitat that you represent would eventually end in the extinction of many of the species that humans depend on for survival. ALREADY approximately 1/4 to 1/2 of species are threatened, due to human stupidity and selfishness just like yours. As David Brower used to say, there is no economy on a dead planet. So the money you allegedly bring to the community won’t save them. But PROTECTING the land would give them a fighting chance. You don’t appear to be open to information, so I’m addressing my comments to the more intelligent readers like Laney.

    By the way, it’s not about me. There are many people who are saying the same thing, such as E.O. Wilson. If you haven’t heard of him, ask your mommie.

  110. Wow, and here I thought I had escaped this thread. But once again I feel I must respond:

    Mike V. is no more of a radical than Aldo Leopold, considered one of the fathers of American ecology and conservation. Leopold deplored the appearance of the “mechanical” in landscapes of natural value. Are you guys even familiar with Aldo Leopold? And if not, how do you figure you compare as conservationists with the hikers out there? Because, believe me, a great many of them have.

    For that matter, how many mountain bikers can identify the natural communities in your own state? Could you identify a rare habitat or ecological feature, one that should be left pristine? Or, in ignorance, would you just ride right through it?

  111. Yes, Mike, it is about you and others like you who are self absorbed that they see no harm from their use of the mountains, but everyone else must be eliminated. Time may prove that all of your trails and human waste left behind has been the most destructive of all.
    Get over yourselves and learn to share.

  112. Todd, please see my post above.
    In terms of conservation of wilderness areas, it is not about you versus us, or you and us, or really any of us. It’s about responsible conservation of the land itself. If not, the wilderness designation is meaningless.

  113. Mike Vandeman’s agenda is shared by many. The U.N.’s “Agenda 21” calls for human population reduction and exclusion of all human activity, including any entry, into areas that will be designated as “critical habitat,” “migration corridors,” etc. It seems to be impossible, though, to find any critical reference to this plan not couched in Christian rhetoric.

    Mike will never experience a true wilderness, because he doesn’t drive, hates cars, but lives in a major metropolitan area. Someone needs to give him a ride to, for example, one of the many mountain ranges in Nevada, some of which are designated Wilderness areas, and leave him to walk alone for a week or two. There he will experience utter solitude in forests, meadows and 10,000 foot peaks. There are still places in this world where one can go an not see another human for miles around. Nevada is a wonderful example of this.

    The “wheeled locusts,” road and mountain bikers, are welcome by all here in the Sun Valley area of Idaho, as they bring a few tourist dollars. http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005126694 . The difference between this place and the S.F. Bay Area, for example, is we have maybe 10,000 permanent residents surrounded by many millions of acres of wild lands, while the Bay Area has millions of permanent residents surrounded by only a few acres of open space that everyone fights over. The user conflicts experienced there are unheard of here. Everyone gets along just fine, which is impossible from the perspective of folks like Mr. Vandeman. Our trail density is much lower. The user density is lower still. It is possible to go for a hike or bike ride just outside of town and see absolutely no one. The “conflicts” arise in some areas, not because of feet versus hooves versus wheels, rather it is too damn many people in one place.

    For more information about Conservation Biology, go here: http://www.conbio.org/

  114. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Todd: “Yes, Mike, it is about you and others like you who are self absorbed that they see no harm from their use of the mountains, but everyone else must be eliminated.”

    Wow two lies in one sentence! Anyone who knows me or has seen my website knows that I include myself & other hikers as harmful. The fewer people in wilderness the better it is for the wildlife. I rarely go there. That being said, adding a bike GREATLY increases someone’s impact. They do more harm to the wildlife, & travel several times as far as a hiker.

    I also have NEVER said that anyone else must be “eliminated” from the wilderness. I have always said that mountain bikers are welcome there, without their bikes. (Of course, they are just too lazy to hike.)

    Apparently mountain bikers can’t make their case without lying…. That’s the best evidence that they are dead wrong. People who have a good case don’t need to lie.

  115. Vandeman; The squirrels and bears don’t own a damned thing, Mike.
    Homo Sapiens are Top Dog on this Spaceship Earth until the extraterristrials the Raelians say are our ancestors return.

    As far as I am concerned all lower forms exist at man’s pleasure. They are ours to eat, skin, love or save. Title to territory has always been asserted though dominance. The Romans took Gaul, The Normans took England, the English took the New World.

    The Anthropocentric is the Atheist in the Church of the Sacred Wilderness. Like other atheists he ignores the superstitions and myths and seeks rational, science-based answers to the questions of life and conservation. He is inclusive rather than exclusionary in his view to how a community works.

  116. Wow, so much to respond to. It’s dizzying.

    I’ve had a complimentary subscription to Backpacker magazine lately. Reading it brings back memories, because I used to backpack a lot. For example, I once backpacked 125 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. (The PCT is another federal entity that’s off-limits to bikes for obsolete historical reasons.)

    The more I read Backpacker, the more convinced I am that mountain bikers have the lightest footprint on the land.

    The magazine is full of lists of gear, supplies, and equipment that people need to venture more than about five miles into a Wilderness area. In particular, if they stay overnight, as many do, they need to set up campsites and undoubtedly, as we used to do, light campfires to keep warm and ward off mosquitos.

    By contrast, mountain bikers simply ride through an area, quietly, nonerosively, and (almost always) without camping. The only evidence we were there is a narrow tire track, and it vanishes within days.

    Also by contrast but in the other direction, horse and pack trains (allowed in Wilderness, even as part of for-profit commercial ventures) have a massive impact compared to backpackers, mountain bikers, or even motorcyclists. Motorcyclists, for example, don’t set up campsites at which 10 or 15 heavy mammals are hitched up overnight, eating everything in sight, depositing dung, and trampling vegetation.

    I would remind everyone what the Nova Scotia (Canada) Wilderness law prohibits: “no person shall . . . camp, tent or occupy the land; [or] light or maintain a fire.” (The law does allow for exceptions, but that’s the basic rule.)

    How about if we reconstitute Wilderness so you can ride a bicycle in it but you can’t stay in it overnight? I bet that would make it more pristine than it is now.

  117. I think Arne Ryason is correct to say (see above): “To round out the list of fallacies, the wilderness fallacy must be quickly dealt with. It is another North American introduction into global culture. It is based on the conventional wisdom that pre-Colombian America was a virgin wilderness with very few natives, which practiced a wise ecologically sustainable lifestyle—a patronizing picture of indigenous people as noble savages if there ever was one. The archeological record teaches otherwise, namely, that the Americas—as were all continents inhabited by humans—were fully utilized by sophisticated cultures and regionally dense populations.”

    Along the same lines, a fine commentary appeared in the Ventura (Calif.) County Star a year ago. It was written by one Charles Cohn. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I believe the restrictions against bicycles in our Wilderness Act are due to an outdated view of what wilderness is, a view projected by the Wilderness Letter by Wallace Stegner, written just four years before the act was signed.

    “Stegner artfully argued for valuing wild lands simply for being wild, and preserving what remnants of vanished frontier still exist. He felt that the challenges presented by the frontier instilled an independent spirit in Americans and saw ‘the wilderness idea as something that has helped form our character.’ The preservation of wilderness areas in his ‘Geography of Hope,’ allows us a Thoreauvian rejuvenation in nature: ‘For an American, insofar as he is new and different at all, is a civilized man who has renewed himself in the wild.’

    “Where Stegner, and those like him, get off track is in believing that our country is ‘a world as new as if it had just risen from the sea.’ But what about the native Americans who were already there? Did they just rise up out of the sea also?

    In ‘The Trouble with Wilderness,’ William Cronon wrote that there is a problem with the idea of untrammeled wilderness. This wilderness idea implies that ‘The place where we are is the place where nature is not.’ This leads to ‘the dualism that sets humanity and nature at opposite poles.’

    Since Stegner’s view of nature cannot exist if mankind is a part of it, ‘the wilderness dualism tends to cast any use as ab-use, and thereby denies us a middle ground, which responsible use and nonuse might attain some kind of balanced, sustainable relationship.’

    Native American writer Louis Owens reflects on this same dualism, ‘this western pattern of thought that sees humanity and wilderness as mutually exclusive,’ in an essay titled ‘Burning the Shelter.’ Owens describes an epiphany when he realizes, ‘What I called “wilderness” was an absurdity, nothing more than a figment of the European imagination. An absolute fake.’ By seeing through the memories and history of the native Americans, he suddenly understood that ‘Before the European invasion, there was no wilderness in North America; there was only the fertile continent, where people lived a hard-learned balance with the natural world.’ Our future survival depends on seeing ourselves intimately connected to every aspect of the world we live in, as the indigenous people of America did.

    “If we continue believing that nature only exists in these ‘untrammeled’ spaces, we will keep missing the big picture that we each affect nature and nature affects us every day. Nature is affected by us every time we drive a car, or consume a product that was shipped halfway around the world, while we are affected by nature every day that we use products provided by nature, from the houses we live in, to mango hand lotion.

    “. . . .

    “I wholeheartedly support preserving wild lands for habitat value, recreation value and even as a psychological balm against the stress of a fast-paced society. However, keeping my bicycle separate from those lands emphasizes that society still has not come to terms with the idea that people are a part of nature. If we don’t get that connection, then, as Owens says, ‘a few square miles of something called wilderness will become the sign of failure everywhere.’ ”

    I believe Cohn’s article is one of the most perceptive things ever written about Wilderness. It explains why it is inevitably going to be controversial.

    Here’s the link to the entire essay:


  118. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Max Frisson, you can talk tough all you want, but nature bats last, and humans are ALREADY running out of food (e.g. notice how the fish available in the supermarket have changed over the last couple of decades?!), due to our arrogant, ignorant attitude toward nature: we expect to keep taking, without reservation, forever. You are just too ignorant for words. Yes, let’s use science! It is science that has allowed us to know that this is happening.

    Ted Stroll, you are just a liar. No one can mountain bike, with or without knobby tires, and not cause erosion. And it’s silly to compare backpackers with mountain bikers. We are talking about day hikers, who don’t use any of the equipment you are talking about. In most of the areas people mountain bike, there is no camping. The science all confirms that mountain biking has far greater impacts than hiking, partly because mountain bikers travel SEVERAL TIMES AS FAR as hikers. They also travel much FASTER than hikers, greatly accelerating erosion, the killing of plants and animals, and the intimidation of other trail users.

    As to “it [a bike track] vanishes within days”, you yourself know that’s BS. In the desert, bike tracks can last DECADES. The tracks I see last several months, unless someone bikes or hikes over them. You are just lying (nothing new, for a mountain biker; or lawyer…).

  119. MIKE, until my motorcycle racing starts on TV I’ll keep posting-

    Your contention, “Nature bats last” is just a total defeatist attitude, are you always this submissive? Man has beaten every challenge Nature has ever mounted. We still got all those wilderness preserves to deplete before we blast off to a new Planet to colonize and dominate. That’s what wrong with 21st Mankind, there’s no great frontier to subdue.

    “humans are ALREADY running out of food (e.g. notice how the fish available in the supermarket have changed over the last couple of decades?!)”
    Yeah, I noticed there way more variety and it’s cheaper. Americans pay less of their household income on food than Europeans do and less than their parents did, with more variety, more beef. You wanna discuss FOOD supply, hell I would rape nature for food any day. But to answer food problems grow more food and less people.

  120. But you know what really makes me wanna do doughnuts on your front lawn is your persistent posting of fatal mountain bike accidents and gloating about it.

    You seem to celebrate and take some perverse pleasure in these deaths. That is morbid and sick. I don’t see you trying that on ATV and Off Road MC sites, doubt the responses would be so civil as the MTB ones are.

  121. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Max Frisson: “Oh yeah Mike, quote E.O. Wilson, another well known nutter.” That says it all. For you to call a world-famous Harvard biologist a “nutter” tells everyone that YOU are the nutter. We psychologists call that “projection”.

    As to my “posting of fatal mountain bike accidents”, you are fabricating “gloating”. Actually, I’m trying to protect you nuts from killing yourselves. You, on the other hand, would prefer that they be swept under the rug, so that the deaths CONTINUE. You are the sick one. “I don’t see you trying that on ATV and Off Road MC sites, doubt the responses would be so civil as the MTB ones are.” Only because there are plenty of people already doing it. By the way, whct makes you think that mountain bikers are civil?! Very funny. And totally out of touch with reality.

    Talking to such an deliberately ignorant person as you is a waste of time. I’m only posting so the sane people will learn the reality of mountain biking impacts. That doesn’t include you.

  122. Actually you do gloat and what the hell is the point your postings about Missy Glove. Or about bank robbers riding MTBs? But then you’re anti-drugs too, aren’t you? Anti-anything.

    I have NEVER seen any one posting accidental deaths on DP and ATV sites in any manner similar to your stuff

    Any one who’s want to look up Ed Wilson’s writings on Environmental Spiritualism and Scientific Humanism is free to judge his level of wackiness on their own. The 60 and 70s work is science. His later work is far more often questioned by peers. His stuff on the Epic of Evolution is broadly criticized by both scientists and philosophers alike! A Harvard degree does not immunize one from nutter status. Hell you have a PhD and 96.7% of respondents in a recent poll voted you Nutter #1.

  123. Independent validation of Ed’s Nutter Status or Mike it isn’t just me…
    from Wiki:
    … Wilson’s sociobiological ideas have offended some liberals and conservatives, who both favored the idea that human behavior was culturally based. Sociobiology re-ignited the nature-versus-nurture debate, and Wilson’s scientific perspective on human nature led to public debate. He was accused of racism, misogyny, and eugenics. In one incident, members of the International Committee Against Racism poured a pitcher of water on Wilson’s head and chanted “Wilson, you’re all wet” at a conference in November 1977. Wilson later spoke of the incident as a source of pride: “I believe…I was the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea.” An an egomaniac as well!!

    But only Michael J. Vandeman, PhD know the TRUTH, right?

    We need you to remind the rational among us of the lurking menace of the Cult of the Sacred Forest.

  124. It was on PBS “Nova” a month or two ago…..E. O. Wilson’s ideas on sociobiology, once widely criticized as politically incorrect, have gained favor throughout the science community. Of course he’s right. He was right all along.

  125. Max Frisson, I know it’s hard for you to stick to the subject. We aren’t talking about sociobiology, but wildlife conservation, where E.O. Wilson’s work is universally respected. You simply picked one of his ideas that you don’t like, and used it to dismiss his entire work. That’s like dismissing Shakespeare because you found one typo. The bottom line is that you know NOTHING about conservation biology, and hence can only change the subject to something irrelevant, such as my posts about mountain biker deaths. Maybe if MORE people had the guts to tell the truth about mountain biking and its impacts, as I do, there would be far fewer such deaths.

  126. No Mike, you do not just just speak of wildlife conservation, you are very much a devote of Wilson’s wacko environmental spiritualism. That is how you arrive at your radical wilderness views and ideas like the “wildlife own the wilderness” So many of the ANTI-ACCESS posters here could think of Wilson as their Pope.

    I countered your accusation that my “nutter” reference was my own unsupported opinion with independent supporting statement and I’m off target. Me and Harvard’s Stephen Jay Gould. Not off theme.

    You have posted DOZENS of death and injury stories on MTB boards. I can not see where once you added any safety references or helpful info on preventing accidents. You simply revel in the demise of another wheeled devil in your divine forest.

    On dismissing Shakespeare…….. My ancestor, this is a true historical fact, had Shakespeare prosecuted for poaching and drove him from Stratford to London. The character Justice Shallow, from Henry IV and Merry Wives of Windsor, is widely recognized as having been based on William’s interactions with my family.
    And now you have a clue to who I really am.

    Then there is the point that not everyone wants to live in safe protective padded shell. We have the right to take risks. I personally have always enjoy a bit of deadly risk. I saw somewhere that you’ve been involved with Pike’s Peak. I’ve raced both a car and a motorcycle up there years ago. That’s just a few weeks away! Truly some scary stuff. I have never lived my life with the goal of seeing how old I could be but rather how much I could enjoy the journey. I’m 57 still ride dirt bikes and sportbike motorcycles all the time. I ride horses several times a year. Sold my last rally car in 2007. It doesn’t matter that you want to reduce the deaths but thanks so much caring.

    I think it’s time some one put some effort into really researching you and your agenda.

  127. E. O. Wilson as POPE???
    Do you guys have ANY knowledge of biology, or even science in general? Do you have any knowledge of natural history….the geology and biology of the lands you ride on? Can you identify a natural community? Can you identify the plants and animals that live there?

    If not, how do you know how mountain biking affects what you ride over? How can you pretend to respect the land if you haven’t even bothered to learn about it?

    I’ll bet you know more about how your bike is put together than the land you ride on. So consider this…..would you lend your precious bike to someone who didn’t know or care anything about it, who is liable to wreck it in his/her ignorance?

    Well, that’s how some of us feel about you and the land.

  128. As for the wacky accusation of E. O. Wilson as a “spiritualist”:

    In a Guardian article titled “Darwin’s Natural Heir”, the Ian McEwan has this to say about Wilson, “….He is a superb celebrator of science in all its manifestations, as well as being a scourge of bogus, post-modernist, relativist pseudo-science and so-called New Age thinking.”

    Really, you owe it to yourself to learn the truth about this brave, brilliant genius. You can begin with:


    But then maybe you guys don’t believe Darwin and evolution, either….

  129. E. O. Wilson spoke here a couple years ago. Interesting guy. during the Q & A session at the end of his talk he sort of had this aloof “I’ve been to Harvard, you haven’t” attitude. Very similar to my father, same age as Wilson, same graduate school, except my dad got his Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

    Perhaps we should all be like the Skyclad Jain monks. No clothing lest we crush a small microbe in its folds and a small broom to sweep away little creatures before us as we walk or sit, lest we step or sit on them.

    I wish I had a camera the day, decades ago it seems, when I was walking on the Yolanda Trail near San Anselmo, California, and came upon a beautiful lizard, dead, with the perfect imprint of a horse shoe on it and the trail. It’s blue belly was belly up.

    We kill something, probably, every time we go for a walk. I would guess a bicycle increases this probability as it is constantly on the ground. I would like to see statistics or studies on the number of dead things found on mountain bike trails versus trails used primarily for walking and horseback riding. Has a graduate student studied this for his/her thesis? All trails damage the environment, regardless of the mode of travel, affecting the plants and animals for ten to fifteen feet on either side of the trail according to a Hartley, Weaver and Dale study I have in my files. I’m not going to stop walking or bike riding because of this, though.

  130. E. O. Wilson is roundly considered extremely humble and self-effacing for a world-famous Harvard scientist. If you sensed attitude, maybe he was asked a particularly stupid or insulting question by the audience. Reading this forum, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    You are making a ridiculous argument. Humans can’t do anything without harming a molecule, so it justifies running roughshod over anything I please? That is not a reasonable argument.

  131. To some, “running roughshod” is any human use of the wilderness. Reading this forum, other writings, etc. I know that many hold this attitude. I guess I have an interesting sense of humor. Maybe that doesn’t come across very well. I try to be self-critical at times and a lot of sarcasm sneaks in there occasionally.

    I didn’t ask Wilson any questions, as I got the gist of his talk and have read some of his books, but some did ask questions. Having been raised by a Harvard Ph.D., the “feeling” I got from his presence and answers to some of the audience’s questions was very similar to that of my father. Hard to describe. It was a small audience. I shook his hand and thanked him for coming to our little town. The one difference between Wilson and my dad is that my father was an atheist. Wilson’s Christian upbringing has had an influence on his outlook on science. This is not a bad thing, it just happens to be the way he is and I don’t fault him for it.

  132. I seems to me that given the multitude of environmental threats that the earth faces right now that the incremental increase in impact of an MTB vs a day hiker (still less than a horse, and similar to a backpacker) should be the least of our worries. All of us who love the outdoors need to find common cause and work together.

    This is especially true as the conclusions of the columns were to find a way to work together to protect more land and ecosystems. Reversing the current rule banning MTBs in established wilderness areas was not felt to be reasonable.

    It is clear that a one size fits all rule is not adequate. MTB impacts vary greatly in different regions whether it is the wet Pacific Coast of BC, heavily populated California, or sparsely populated Montana. Access and regulations need to assess the impact locally.

  133. Yes, in E. O. Wilson’s autobiography “Naturalist”, he does describe the Christian influence of his upbringing. However, the Guardian article refers to him as an “atheist.” Personally, I don’t know what his religion is or is not, but I respect that whatever his spiritual belief system, it would likely comply with rational objectivity, as would befit his scientific perspective.

    I’m feel certain he will go down in history as the greatest field biologist of the century, and as one who does not agree with him on everything but respects him tremendously, it offends me to see him flippantly referred to as a “nutter” by someone who clearly knows nothing about him except maybe some hyperbolic and deceptive far right-wing anti-environmentalist tract.

  134. I’m sorry, Canonrad, but I’m afraid these are irreconcilable differences.

    I read these posts full of ignorance and carelessness about the land, and I could never partner with such mentality. You of such mentality already have everything, everywhere. You have streets, roads, buildings, factories, homes, every sort of mechanized, motorized, technologically over-developed, over-built, over-use of the country. You can ride bikes anywhere there are cars and most public lands. You already have everything.

    There must be someplace else. There must be a “wilderness.”

    There must be someplace different, saved, preserved, a place of escape, a place of appreciation and respect for nature, quiet simplicity, an opportunity to experience awe, wonder and gratitude for the extraordinary gift of this amazing planet, so people can return to the speed, carelessness, waste and destructiveness of everyday life and still keep their souls intact.

    When you love something, you want to learn about it. I’ll bet most of you mountain bikers could take your bike apart and put it back together in your sleep, you love that bike so. But how many of you know ANYTHING about the land on which you ride? How many of you understand the science of ecosystems, the interdependence of the rocks and the soil and the plants and the animals that compose that land? Do you even know the natural communities of the land on which your ride? To you the land seems to be just a blank template for the same reckless agitation you can find anywhere in any number of sports and human activities.

    My views aren’t about spirituality. Personally, I am an agnostic. I appreciate the sciences of biology and geology that relate to the land. The land is our empirical knowledge of the universe. How you treat the land is how you could be trusted with the universe…..to waste and bespoil it carelessly, or to learn about it intimately and treasure it. This relates to life itself.

  135. GW,
    I agree with much that you have said. I agree there must be a place called “wilderness” to escape from the “rat race” and get better in touch with nature. I agree that the more you learn about the world around you the more rich the experience.

    The other day I was hiking with a friend (like most MTBers we also hike, bike, ski and enjoy the outdoors in a variety of different ways) and I learned about Camas. I learned how the Native Americans used to roast the bulb it for 2 days. How it was the main sweetening agent before access to sugar. How it can cause vomiting and diarrhea to the uninitiated. Near my house there is a Camas Lake and Peak. Learning this added depth to my appreciation for my locale. When biking we are always on the lookout for Thimbleberries, raspberries and huckleberries. In my experience this is how MTBers are. Biking is only one way we love to experience nature.

    Where I currently live, the county is 75% National Forest, and half of that are Wilderness Areas. Some wilderness advocates would convert all roadless areas in the area to Wilderness Areas” and close around 75% of the trails we currently ride on. Despite our use of these trails over the last 20 years, wolves have returned and overall the health of the forest has improved. Locally those of use who ride feel a need to protect the non wilderness designated areas to ensure that the surrounding ecosystem remains healthy for our children. We support the current Wilderness Areas remaining bike free, but we do feel that some of current roadless non wilderness areas where people have history of riding can be protected for the future with designations other that wilderness and have a win win situation or everyone.

    I do believe that more unites us that divides us. I have no idea where you live and why you have developed such a bias against bikes. I also know that when I was younger I had less of an appreciation for the complexities and wonders of the world. I wasn’t always interested in plants, lichens, and mosses. I do know that skiing at resorts and mountain biking the trails go me outside and exposed me the natural world. So I have hope that the younger generation at the terrain parks and downhill mountain bikers will also grow to appreciate the natural world as a place more than just as a backdrop for adrenaline rushes.

    The key is first getting them outside in the forest and away from iPods and Gameboys, and if takes a little excitement to get them hooked I’m all for it. Thrills and spills, mud on your face, and sand embedded in your nether regions are as much a part of the wilderness experience as the slower, quieter introspective approach you advocate, and we both share.

  136. Wow, I just read a newspaper article on the same topic and the comment section was even nastier than this thread.

    It seems the hikers can’t stand the vehicle users and are mixed about equestrians.
    The mountain bikers are desperately trying to link themselves with the hikers lest they be cast in with the despised ATV/dirt bike set.
    The equestrians are also trying to link themselves to hikers and really really hate the mountain bikers.
    The ATV/dirt bikers hate everybody and everybody hates them.

    One thing is clear, mixed-use trails make everybody unhappy. So the problem is carving out land so everybody gets something, and as is, nobody seems content with what they’ve got.

    I don’t know if this is a criterion, but it would seem reasonable to assign trails according to the ecological value of particular areas of land as compared to level of activity destructiveness.

    But only the hikers seem to talk about what is best for the land itself. The other users only talk about what is good for themselves. Maybe that’s why they all want to align themselves with the hikers. They figure it makes them look better and they’ll get more trails.

  137. One suggestion would be to make the user fees reflect the number of users allowed. For instance land that only hikers could use would have the highest user fee, on down to where land that could be used by everyone would have the lawest fee since it would be shared by everyone.
    Anything designated wilderness should have no trails at all, or at least no human made formal trails.
    I have noticed that every “enviro” talks about what is best for the land, or best for the ecosystem, and it always happens to coincide with forcing their desires on other people.

  138. Todd, it isn’t just hikers that don’t want to share trails. Equestrians don’t want to share trails with vehicles, including mountain bikes, and NOBODY wants to share trails with ATV/dirt bike users. I think user fees, if appropriate at all, should be set according to damage to land.

    You say “enviros” such as myself just want to force their “desires” on everybody else. But really, my opinion has little to do with a personal stake in these issues. My concern is more for the condition of the land itself, that is, natural communities composed of rock, soil, plants, animals, the evolution of life in a natural interdependency that evolved in balance over millions of years, with variations according to geology and climate in different locations. This is not what I “desire” any more than I desire for the earth to revolve around the sun. Call it science, call it nature, call it the environment, call it God’s creation, whatever. It transcends me, you, the human species. It just is what is.

    There are those who seem to have little concept of land as anything more than exploitation: development, resource extraction, recreation, etc. Who cares about the impact? It’s time we acknowledged that that kind of thinking has gotten us into a mess of trouble and must stop.

    That is not to say that every inch of land is rare and precious. I do think every sort of popular outdoor recreation could be accommodated somewhere. Maybe abandoned exurb developments and shopping centers could become dirt bike havens? I think recreation use should be delegated according to impact on the land, with destructive uses apportioned fewest and least environmentally valuable locations.

  139. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    gw, there are a couple of problems with accommodating all forms of recreation: (1) As we learn more, we realize that some activities are just too harmful to be allowed, and they become obsolete, by worldwide agreement — e.g. whaling, dynamite fishing, bottom trawling, clear-cutting, using pesticides, using CFCs, burning up all of the remaining fossil fuels, etc. (2) Just because some land has been messed up, that doesn’t make it okay to mess it up some more. (If someone trashes your yard, does that make it okay for others to do the same?) Why not restore it as habitat? I think that the huge number of endangered species that exist around the world prove that we have already destroyed too much habitat. It’s time to restore, as best we can, what can be restored. We don’t have the right to wipe out other species. That’s what the Endangered Species Act is all about. And it represents the will of the majority.

  140. Canonrad: “I[t] seems to me that given the multitude of environmental threats that the earth faces right now that the incremental increase in impact of an MTB vs a day hiker (still less than a horse, and similar to a backpacker) should be the least of our worries.”

    That’s one of the more popular specious arguments for mountain biking. In other words, it’s not as bad as an atomic bomb, so that makes it okay. Or I guess you think that rape is okay, because it’s not as bad as murder. BS. It’s an ADDITIONAL IMPACT, and therefore undesirable. I have yet to hear even ONE good argument for allowing bikes on trails. “It’s fun for mountain bikers”, of course, is not a good reason, considering the harm it does to wildlife and other people.

  141. Todd: “I have noticed that every ‘enviro’ talks about what is best for the land, or best for the ecosystem, and it always happens to coincide with forcing their desires on other people.”

    “Forcing” mountain bikers to protect the land is beneficial, and quite different from mountain bikers FORCING everyone else to put up with the danger & unpleasantness of bikes on the trail.

    In what way don’t mountain bikers & other ORV users “force their desires on other people”? If you think they don’t use force, try to stand in their way! You would be risking your life, which is what they themselves are doing. Mountain bikers & motorheads are ALL about force. It’s their middle name.

  142. So tell me guys, how do you get to where you hike if you don’t believe in using fossil fuel extracted from the ground? Even if you have solar or wind power for your own home, how do you jsutify all of the news sites and chat line like this that are dependent on electricity that is nearly all from coal fired plants?
    Remember all Americans that drive, heat their homes, use electric lights etc own that public land that you do not want drilling or mining on. You seem to think they can do without while they have to pay for keeping the land pristine for your exclusive use?

  143. Todd: “So tell me guys, how do you get to where you hike if you don’t believe in using fossil fuel extracted from the ground?” I walk. But I wonder why you think it’s okay for mountain bikers to drive their bikes everywhere, but it’s not okay for hikers & equestrians to drive? As usual, you are just trying to divert attention away from the obvious harm that mountain biking does.

    “You seem to think they can do without while they have to pay for keeping the land pristine for your exclusive use?” WHAT “exclusive use”? All trails are open to mountain bikers, as long as they don’t bring their bike with them. CAN’T YOU GUYS EVER TELL THE TRUTH????

  144. Arne P. Ryason

    I think we are missing Mike Vandeman’s main point. That is that any presence of humans in the wild is detrimental to the health of the wilderness. Not only should we not ride mountain bikes, in some cases there should be no human entry at all. Look up the following map: a “Simulated Reserve and Corridor System to Protect Biodiversity, As mandated by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Wildlands Project, UN and US Man and Biosphere Programs, …” etc. (This blog would not let me paste a link so you’ll have to look it up yourselves – www (dot) thebyteshow (dot) com (slash) ChrisGerner (dot) html ) All the red areas in the map, the Sierra Nevada, large parts of the Rockies, etc. will be completely off-limits to human entry. Surrounding yellow areas will be severely regulated buffer zones with limited human entry. People will only be allowed in cites and narrow corridors between them.

    Agenda 21 is proof that Mike Vandeman’s quest for a human-free wilderness is not just one person’s crazy idea. Sooner or later, perhaps even the hikers will be told that, for example, an endangered species has been documented in the local open space, and in order to restore it, all human entry, including hiking, will be prohibited. Instead of being managed for recreation, it will be managed for habitat restoration. Trails will be erased. Perhaps a buffer zone is needed, so private property will be condemned and the owners will be given a “reasonable’ payment for their land. You won’t be able to enter for a thousand years while the species and its environment reach a human free equilibrium.

    Look up the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. That Act’s designated Wilderness matches the above referenced map very closely. Under NREPA, in my area, all public land would be declared wilderness right up to city limits. As Wilderness entry restrictions reduce business revenues, people will leave for economic reasons, land will become worth less and gradually nature will reclaim these ex-tourist towns. They’ll look like the ghost towns of past mining booms.

    We should not be selfish in our recreational pursuits to the detriment of the environment. This is the point Mike Vandeman makes over and over again.

    It isn’t just about mountain biking. That is a minor issue when the big picture is taken into account.

  145. Canonrad “I’m a new visitor to the site and I have been amazed by the anti bike virulence”

    Why can’t mountain bikers EVER tell the truth??? Far from being anti-bike, I own several bikes, and have ridden bikes longer than most of you have been alive. But I oppose the USE of bikes to harm wildlife and people. Mountain bikers care about neither. All they care about is getting to “shred” (THEIR word) ever more wildlife habitat for cheap thrills.

    Ted Stroll, people don’t just hate lawyers for their obscure language, but for LYING. A mountain biking lawyer is redundant. You still refuse to admit that it’s easier to bike than walk, which is why mountain bikers are too LAZY to hike. It may be harder to bike uphill than walk, but no trip is only going uphill. The extra energy used going uphill is more than recouped on the downhill leg.

    Also, when mountain bikers say they are interested in nature, and are just hikers on wheels, that is a LIE. People who are interested in nature WALK, because that is the only way one can pay attention to it. Mountain bikers are too busy trying to control their bikes, to pay any attention to nature.