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Some wilderness advocates don't consider the conflict between hikers and mountain bikers serious, nor do they believe it prevents worthy roadless lands from becoming Wilderness, but I do. If you want to know why, read my past commentaries on the issue. I'm devoting this column (and next week's) to how and why hikers and wildernuts need to take the lead in resolving the conflict.

Hikers, Wilderness Groups Should Re-think Mountain Biking

Editor’s note: First in a two-part series on resolving the conflict between mountain bikers and hikers over protecting roadless lands.

Some wilderness advocates don’t consider the conflict between hikers and mountain bikers serious, nor do they believe it prevents worthy roadless lands from becoming Wilderness, but I do.

If you want to know why, read my past commentaries on the issue. I’m devoting this column (and next week’s) to how and why hikers and wildernuts need to take the lead in resolving the conflict.

If you haven’t been in the trenches of efforts to preserve Wilderness, you might not see the impasse. Bicycling groups, led by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), commonly say they aren’t opposed to Wilderness, but they are, in fact, opposed to any proposed Wilderness that includes single-track trails commonly used for mountain biking, which is most of them.

Wilderness and hiking groups such as the American Hiking Society, Sierra Club and Wilderness Society commonly say they aren’t opposed to mountain biking, but they keep on proposing Wilderness that doesn’t allow mountain biking–and they abhor the thought of sharing Wilderness trails with bicycles. Most of that objection is based on personal dislike for sharing trails with mountain bikers, not environmental or legal reasons. Instead, hikers should welcome the opportunity to join with cyclists to strive for protection for roadless lands they can easily and peacefully enjoy, together.

In the comment section of this commentary, you’ll probably see people say, “Wrong, Bill, we’re really are working together.” And yes, we have had collaborative successes (Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, et al) where an agreement has been reached so both groups could support legislation designating downsized Wilderness that avoided closing down popular mountain biking routes. I don’t want to belittle these sincere efforts, but in most cases, there’s no agreement and no Wilderness.

So what to do? In my opinion, our best option is for wilderness and hiking groups to initiate an effort to encourage the Forest Service (FS) and other federal agencies to re-write the administrative rules regulating the use of Wilderness to allow mountain biking.

As those familiar with the Wilderness debate know, the word “bicycle” is not in the Wilderness Act of 1964, nor does it disallow mountain biking. In fact, the first regulations the FS wrote in the late 1960s didn’t prohibit mountain biking, but then later, in the early 1980s, when mountain biking started becoming popular, the FS specifically revised the regulations to ban bicycles in Wilderness. So, for around fifteen years after the Wilderness Act became the law of the land, bicycles were actually allowed in Wilderness–until the FS, supported by wilderness and hiking groups, not Congress, and before the IMBA-fueled bicycle lobby started rolling, made an administrative decision to disallow bicycling.

The easiest way to undo this overstepping of the administrative rule-making process would be for the FS, with the support by wilderness and hiking groups, not Congress, to revise the regulations again to allow bicycles. Sadly, most wildernuts consider this heresy.

If mountain bikers and hikers agreed to re-write the regs, the FS would be hard-pressed to refuse. Although possibly making a slight left turn now, the FS has been traditionally anti-Wilderness and delighted to see the impasse between hikers and mountain bikers, two constituencies who should be working together to designate Wilderness, as were interest groups always opposed to Wilderness such as miners and motorheads. The last thing anti-Wilderness constituencies want to see is hikers and mountain bikers pulling in the same direction.

If the FS and wilderness groups continue to scoff at the idea of revising the regs to allow bicycles in Wilderness, it appears as if the only way we can resolve the conflict that has delayed or defeated so many Wilderness proposals is to come up with a new organic act that embodies the principles of what I call Wilderness Lite.

(I don’t, incidentally, expect it to be called ‘Wilderness Lite.” That’s only my term for Wilderness that allows mountain biking. More next week on this issue.)

Wilderness and hiking groups should support a new organic act codifying a Wilderness Lite alternative to Wilderness, but I suspect, they will continue to scoff at that option, too, which means the bicycle lobby should initiate this legislation. Would wilderness groups oppose such legislation because it creates a real and attractive alternative to Wilderness? I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If they do, they probably have the political muscle to kill the idea, and then, we’re right back where we’ve been for decades.

We have a third option, of course, amending the Wilderness Act to allow mountain biking and therefore force the FS to re-write the regulations, but to me, that seems dangerous. It gives anti-Wilderness politicians a chance to mess up one of the best things Congress ever did. So, let’s not go there. Why should we? We have two much easier, safer options.

And it’s about time wilderness and hiking groups endorsed one of them, so we can finally aggressively move forward in protecting our roadless lands.

Again, for those who haven’t read my earlier commentaries, here’s my disclaimer. I’m a hiker. I never ride my mountain bike on single-track trails and have no desire to do so, in or out of Wilderness. So, why have I essentially become an advocate for mountain biking in Wilderness?

Good question, as they say, and with an easy answer. The conflict over mountain biking hampers our efforts to protect roadless land, and we have too much holding us back already. People who support non-motorized recreation must work together or go down in defeat together.

I’d like to live in a world where mountain bikers would yield to a higher priority, saving Wilderness, and realize that even if all deserving roadless land became Wilderness, they’d still have plenty of places to ride their bicycles, but I don’t. So, the only way we can resolve this conflict and move forward is for wilderness and hiking groups to make the next move. They have two choices: (1) continue losing and compromising away roadless land in our current contentious political climate or (2) make peace with mountain bikers by either supporting new administrative regulations for Wilderness or endorsing a new organic act creating a Wilderness Lite option.

Next week: What should that option be?

For a list of related articles, click here.

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  1. Well put Bill! I really like the angle you use to approach the topic. Collaboration is paramount and is something we are working hard on. Too many “groups” do not look at the big picture, and the ultimate goal.

    Pete Eshelman
    Director of Outdoor Branding
    Roanoke Regional Partnership
    Roanoke, VA

  2. Have there ever been any surveys, either formal or informal, to show how many, if any, mountain bikers would use wilderness trails?

    My experience is that many trails are brutal enough on foot, see scree slopes, and would eat a mountain bike and biker for lunch.

    It would take a long time to inventory, but what if only certain routes were listed as “mountain bike” friendly? One could take into consideration terrain and user demand.

  3. real wilderness advocate

    Bill, you also live in a world where real wilderness advocates won’t, ever, yield to mountain bikes in wilderness. Go back and factor that into your logic.

  4. Wolverine Dreams

    Thanks for opening this topic. I am a mtn biker and wilderness advocate, and frankly am on the fence about opening wilderness to mtn bikes, but recognize the wilderness community’s postion on this has essentially driven the mountain bike advocates into the motorized rec camp, so we have made a tactical error. I would like to see wilderness advocates and mountain bike groups first push for mountain bike specific trails in the front country. Mtn bikers like roadless single track primarily because that what there is ride. If there were great trails geared specifically for bikes, and we worked with the agencies to build and maintain them, I think we would find more common ground. In my experience, most mountain bikers are not destination oriented, but rather activity oriented. If I want to get to a great meadow or lake, I’ll walk. No need to ride a bike there.

  5. real wilderness advocate

    I’d work with Wolverine Dreams on that.

  6. Bicycles (and horses) have a different impact on trails than walkers. If those groups use wilderness trails there should be a funding mechanism to fix the erosion caused by their use. I don’t know if there is a fix for the horse droppings.

  7. From personal experience, I am against allowing mountain bikes on trails in the wilderness. Why? Because working for an outfitter for almost ten years in the Bob Marshall, I experienced first-hand how spooked horses can get just by hikers and llamas. I have no problem with hikers and as for llamas-while I am not a big fan, I understand why they are used. So I can easily see how a person on a mountain bike could scare the heck out of a horse. Add to that a line of pack mules and you have a recipe for disaster. This is just my personal opinion. I realize there are differing views on this matter. Now take the trails in to consideration, especially under wet conditions a bike tire will create deep ruts unless the rider gets off and carries the bike to another spot. I understand those who say horses are hard on the trails as well and to degree they might be right.

    I just see bicycles as an intrusion into an area I hold dear. I fear it could pave the way for other forms of transportation as we seek to broaden the range of what is acceptable mode of travel into certain wilderness areas. I also recognize the thrill of being able to mountain bike into remote areas and test your skill and fitness level over rugged terrain. I guess I am looking more at the big picture and the future implication of this. I do realize there are those who are anti-outfitter and feel they are ruining the wilderness as well. There are a myriad of viewpoints on this issue. Again, this is simply mine no offense. I certainly do not think I have the right answer just an opinion.

  8. I do want to add a debt of gratitude to those who work tirelessly to maintain the trails in the backcountry. I support the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and hope to someday volunteer on a trail crew when I am able. I believe in giving back to then environment and seeing to its eternal preservation.

  9. Bikes travel faster than anything else in the forest. It’s the speed that kills the rhythm, solitude, and spirit of wilderness. Speed limits won’t work. Bikers concentrate on biking, while wilderness doesn’t care about their performance, physique, or gear ratios. There’s much, much more in wilderness than recreational pleasure. Hopefully, someday both hikers and bikers come to appreciate the full range of wilderness values. It’s a little like offering the Pope a Vatican-lite option for bikes in St. Peter’s Cathedral. Big picture, little picture — picture your(silly)self here.

  10. Zane, Many trails in the wildness would not be there without the help of horses. In the Frank Church, outfitters have been responsible for much of the trail maintenance and in some cases trail building for the FS.

    I think a Wilderness Lite option would be best. It would get all groups on the trail and still protect those lands forever.

  11. Steve – that is what I miss most about going back into the “Bob.” For close to 10 years, I worked as a camp cook on packtrips and hunting trips. I started out as a guest when I was nine and fell in love with the Bob Marshall Wilderness then and there. I sort of grew up back there, if you will. For me, it meant peace, contentment and a chance to just get back to the basics of what is important in life. I loved the solitude I was afforded when everyone else went back to civilization between trips. I reveled in the scenery, the beauty and the purity of it all. I ran with the elk, I slept ‘neath the stars up at the “wall” and I drank water that gushed out of a rock, so fresh and cold it turned my brain to ice (or so it felt). I fished the South Fork and ate of its bounty. I did all of this and more. Now I think upon those days fondly and pray that opportunity is always there for others who appreciate the simpler things in life and all that nature has to offer. Someday I hope to take my husband and daughter back into the Bob once she is old enough to enjoy it as well.

  12. I’ll support broadening the wilderness coalition. I’m not a mtn biker. I grew up with a couple pack horses camping in Oregon wilderness areas. I’ve backpacked 800 miles of the PCT. I’ve rafted rivers in wilderness areas including the Rogue, Selway, Middle Fork of the Salmon. I’ve skied wilderness area’s since 1972. These are all wondrous ways to be out there. To me the key is no motors. Different users will have different impacts and require specific regulations. Permits to run white water rivers are carefully limited because boaters intensively use very narrow corridors along wilderness rivers. As far as I know back country skiing is wide open because several feet of snow between us and the ground keeps our impact the most minimal of anyone. Bikes won’t be right everywhere, at all times. We can learn to get along with bikers much the way skiers and snowshoers are learning to get along.

  13. Bill – Wilderness is meant for LEGS, not wheels! Geez, when I see tire tracks from poaching mtn-bikers in the Rattlesnake Wilderness it really ruins the pureness of my experience. I am an avid mtn-biker and ex-racer who regards a hiking trip into the Wilderness as something totally different (from a mtn-biking outing), a quasi-spirtual (hiking) experience where you should never see anything “mechanical”. MTB riders can still get their fixes on rides to/from the Wilderness boundaries – as I currently do on my foot forays in the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Bill your’re straying from the original idea of wilderness as it was conceieved. Lets just work harder and keep the original idea in place…

  14. Yeah, Bill forgets the real purpose of Wilderness. (I can’t believe he would like to go back and allow bikes in wilderness, what’s next, covered wagons, quiet electric motors, beefed up segways?)

    He also appears to overestimate (or in this article more like ignores) that the political power and number of mountain bikers on our forests is extremely limited.

  15. Good points Kelly. Everyone has different impacts to the trails. When trails are well designed, the impacts are minmized. Certainly bikes should not be allowed on trails where horse use is frequent. Bike use is along corridors (trails), and may have to be limited by permits if wilderness was amended.

    Realistically, a Wilderness Lite option would be more practical. Being a bike rider, I don’t necessarily want to go into the existing Wilderness, but would like to retain the important parts of where I currently ride within roadless areas. The Wilderness act is quite guarded by many who maintain an unmatched zeal for keeping it as is. It is probably untouchable. Wilderness lite would offer a distinction from Wilderness that is desireable. Here in Montana, if I want to ride in solitude and really enjoy nature, I don’t go to Wilderness anyway.

    Kelly, I like your message about getting along. Well put.

  16. I love wilderness and I like mountain biking but straight up, if mountain bikers line up with off road folks, they’ll lose. The onus is not on wilderness users to compromise with mountain bikers, it’s on mountain bikers to compromise with wilderness.

  17. The only reason wilderness people would want mountain bikers is to create a political alliance of convenience. Then what happens after designation is the purists would work to administratively eliminate the MTBers, who would have isolated themselves from the “impure” constituencies of motorized rec and economic uses. And once gone, you don’t get to come back.
    Typical me and mine only, stick it to everybody else, thinking.

  18. I am all for getting along and don’t mean in any way to disparage anyone. I know there are good and bad in all areas of enthusiasts. There are those of us – bikers, hikers, horseback riders, rafters, hunters, non-hunters, outfitters, etc… who care deeply and sincerely about the land and how it is used, there are also those who will take from the environment and use it as they will without regard.

  19. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Yes, Bill has forgotten the purpose of Wilderness. The primary purpose is to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. The existence and health of wildlife is exactly what makes wilderness and Wilderness attractive to humans: we are getting in touch with our “roots” in the natural world. Bill either doesn’t know that, or (more likely) chooses to ignore it.

    I also wonder why Bill would tell the MAJORITY (hikers and equestrians) that it needs to bend to accommodate the MINORITY (mountain bikers)? We are a democracy, and the majority has spoken. Bill, if you want more Wilderness, which you claim, why don’t you lean on your mountain biking buddies. They are ALL capable of walking. You can’t mountain bike, without being able to walk. Otherwise, a flat tire would strand you.

    Bill, I would like you to answer my questions.

  20. I have an idea – make horses illegal and mountain bikes legal in Wilderness areas. There is no way a mountain bike could be even close to as harsh as a horse is on a trail. In particular, a mountain bike doesn’t leave excrement on the trail which breeds horse flies, which aren’t very pleasant for hikers/backpackers.

  21. “Skinner” writes “Typical me and mine only, stick it to everybody else, thinking” –
    Think it through Dude, for 50 years our Wilderness system has been a lauded and successful model of conservation that has been celebrated around the world. It makes hikers, hunters, fishermen, climbers, horse-riders, and about 95% of all Montanans very happy. To state that wilderness advocates are “stciking it to everybody else” is short-sided and selfish (on part of your “angry motorized users” quasi group).

  22. I’m with “Inky” & Clancy…Gman, many of the trails I’ve taken with my horses are over 100 years old, yet if horses are as “harsh” as you claim…why did they last this long? The “V” created by the bikes taking the same path, followed by water-caused erosion, has made many of these trails dangerous for horses. For those whose equine experience has been a merry-go-round, horse’s hoofs are flat, they walk flat and they keep the trail flat because their weight is equally distributed, same for the riders as well as packed gear. As for the HS…bunch of BS, my animals were “potty trained” only to “let’r rip” when biker’s were near. I really don’t mind sharing OUR trails with everyone…just hate to see one group given exclusive rights over others. Happy Trails!

  23. While horsepackers and wild game are the reason we have trails in many wilderness areas in the first place, it is unreasonable to say that horses do not trash trails. If one has ever hiked to the base of the Chinese Wall in the Bob, they can attest to five and seven lanes of knee-deep ruts. I’m thinking hikers and elk didn’t do this. Many campsites in the Bob have been destroyed by hi-lines and strings of 10-20 mules.

    I walk in wilderness, so horsepeople, please enlighten me. Is it unrealistic to ask horsepackers to pack out their manure? How about a poop bag that can be scattered in the trees? If you pack out yours, I’ll even pack out mine. How about it?

  24. John, we were very careful with our campsites when I worked in the Bob. We “left no trace” to the best of our ability.

    As for packing out horse manure, sorry, but yeah right. You act as if you are swimming in horse manure when you hike. I would like to see you personally pack out the poop from a pack string of mules not to mention the horses.

    I have NEVER been on a trail in the Bob that was knee-deep in ruts. Granted I’ve never been at the base of the wall but rather on top. I spent all or most of my time along the South Fork of the Flathead. SO I cannot attest to the area you are talking about. Do you realize the outfitters actually do a lot towards maintaining the trails and helping out the forest service?

    This IS an issue we need to all work together on for the benefit of the wilderness areas. We are not all going to agree all the time but one thing we CAN agree on is that we all DO care about the environment and how it is maintained.

    Any sort of traffic on a trail is going to impact it negatively to some extent – a lot of that depends on the weather too. But I do think the forest service and in our case the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation volunteer crews do a darn good job at maintaining those trails.

    This is a good debate – it is good to discuss this and get a myriad of opinions and ideas. We need to address the differing points of view.

  25. I’m on the fence on this one, but it seems there should be room to compromise.

    There are some strange (to me) ideas in this thread. Packing out horse manure?! Horses magically not causing damage to trails or erosion? The spookiness of horses being a measure of who should be allowed to use a trail?

    From what hiking, riding, trail maintenance, building, and eradication I’ve done, it seems odd to see horsey arguments about how gentle their steeds are. And what they do to campsites!

    But living on the planet is not without impacts. The interesting places to see all got interesting through erosion, after all.

  26. After working as a winterkeeper in Yellowstone, I began calling snowmobilers “bubbleheads;” mountain bikers are bubbleheads on 2 wheels. Wilderness is a church, not a playground.

    Last summer in Anchorage, Alaska, a teen girl on a mountain bike got nailed by a grizzly–at night, during a 24 hour mountain bike race, on a brush-choked trail beside a stream filled with spawning salmon. Duh!!!! Instead of saying, “that was really stupid,” the mountain biker/bubblehead crowd convinced local politicians to hire a hit man to kill bears that “attack” dunderhead mountain bikers and trail runners.

  27. Speed and ease. That’s the problem with Mountain bikes, I don’t give a hoot about impacts on the trails.

  28. Just another trail builder

    This debate should be split between access on the East side v/s access on the West side of the mountains.

    West side single track trails see much more water and involve soils which have more organic material. As a result bikes cause a great deal more harm than hikers, walkers, joggers and bird watchers. Money and energy for proper maintenance are limited and as a result limiting the kinds of users preserves the resource.

    East side lands have better soils and less focused pressure. As a result, these areas are more suited to bike use. Even on the East side though, trail location and design must limit where users go to a greater extent when bikes are involved. Routing trails well away from water and riparian areas may make them more suitable for bikes but the experience for the hiker is degraded by these management choices.

    A separate issue involves the make up of the pool of mountain Bike users. This pool of users is made up of 90% or so of folks who seek an experience very much like the hiker and of folks who respect anyone they encounter along the trail. The person going up hill has the right a way, slow speed differential, minding dust and so on. The problem and conflicts come from that other 10%. These folks go for the bombing run, all out, run for your life cuz here I come, kind of experience, and they ruin the deal for everyone else.

  29. Something is being missed in this entire conversation. Thereis a recognized purpose for the existence of wilderness that is articulated in the Wilderness Act. The purpose of wilderness is not for us – hikers, bikers, riders, or anyone else. There is a value in maintaining areas with little to no human impact. It is a privilage to go into a wilderness area, and it is a responsibility to leave as little impact as possible, and to take the expeince home with you in your soul. The whole idea of opening up wilderness areas to more activity of any kind is contrary to the purpose of the Act. There are plenty of places to go get in an awsome bike ride, day on a horse, or a hike that will not result in the erosion of true wilderness. All of you youngsters need to go read William O. Douglas’ “A Wilderness Bill of Rights.” I support the existance of limited access wilderness, and I’m not about to whine about not being allowed to go there. I am happy jiust to know that it exists.

  30. Eric, no offense but have you read all the responses because I believe I clearly stated – LEAVE NO TRACE to the best of our ability. I think MANY of us on this forum appreciate what you are saying and basically have been expressing that very opinion. I don’t believe anyone is “whining” about not being able to go into the back country at all. We are just having a discussion regarding modes of travel. There are some of us who believe in limited access as well. Please don’t take on the whole condescension act. We are not three year olds who need a lesson.

  31. InkyTwig – I certainly didnt’ mean to seem condescending. So I apologize if you took it that way. The point I am trying to make is that a conversation about modes of travel is missing the point about wilderness. It is so much more than simply “leave no trace.” It is about the ethic of wilderness itself. I agree that the posted comments are not “whines.” But I do beleive this entire conversation DOES reflect a general need for a lesson in the purpose and ethic of wilderness. So, I again apologize for any misinterpretation of my tone – but I strongly beleive that that the article we are discussing is seriously off-track and represents a real misunderstanding of wilderness and of the historical, social, and political contexts that the Wilderness Act was created in.

  32. Point taken! 🙂 I agree with you. I am equally upset about the other article on here regarding cellphone towers in wilderness areas. I would rather see “less” intrusion in the backcountry and more protection.

    I grew up with the belief that the woods is a sanctuary. I walked quietly and spoke in hushed tones – out of reverence. That’s just me. That’s how I was raised. I am not saying everyone should do that but that is how I look at it.

    I haven’t been back in the Bob for a while now but my first time back there was when I was nine and it changed my life forever. I grew up back there and spent many falls living up there. Unfortunately it IS impossible to not leave somewhat of a trace despite our best efforts.

    My baseline here is that I do NOT believe bikes should be allowed back there. I am not against MB’s, I just think there are plenty areas to ride and play that do not include the Bob or other wilderness zones. (as you stated)

    I apologize for sounding terse in my previous post. I get a little defensive because if I thought that I could NEVER go back into the Bob one day when I am able, I would be incredibly sad. I miss it back there. I know certain areas up there as if it were part of my soul. But I would be even more saddened if something were to ever destroy the beauty and purity that area holds and would much rather ensure its eternal safekeeping.

  33. As an avid mountain biker and frequent Wilderness backpacker, I have no desire to ride in existing Wilderness areas and I don’t support lessening the current protection of the Wilderness Act to allow bikes. Too much time and energy has already been spent beating this to death. There is so much opposition to the concept of bicycles in Wilderness that it would be an exercise in futility to change that, not to mention, it just doesn’t feel right out of principal and the dogma that has evolved since 1964.

    This discussion needs to be, as I see it, is what to do with the existing roadless areas that are Wilderness quality where we have ridden bicycles for decades? These lands deserve to be permanently protected in a manner that allows continued bicycle access to the trails that are historically and economically important to the area. This is not to say I want to ride every trail everywhere but there is a balance that has yet to be struck in the greater conservation / access dialog in the 21st century. These areas can absolutely contain new, socially responsible Wilderness areas when combined with any number of conservation tools available to the land managers that include Congressional companion designations to Wilderness, boundary adjustments, non-Wilderness cherry stems and corridors that allow bicycle access.

    The Wilderness organizations are quick to point out that these tools either don’t work or aren’t supported by their members. Well, in Montana where there hasn’t new Wilderness in 25 years, what is there to lose by trying something different than the same old rhetoric? Heck, there are all kinds of roads cherry stemmed into Wilderness – but not for bicycles? Come on!

    A blend of designations such as a National Protection Area combined with Wilderness is a viable solution for permanently protecting roadless areas and allowing bicycling where appropriate while giving substantial Wilderness acreage.

    There are bad apple examples in every user group. Education, peer pressure and the ability to share are the best assets we have to all become more responsible and respectful visitors to our wild places.
    We are all challenged to be our best selves for each other and the sanctity of the land.

    I look forward to Bill’s follow up article.

  34. Bob Allen asks, what should we do with the existing “roadless areas that are wilderness quality where we have ridden bicycles for decades.”

    Easy. Ban bicycles to protect wildlerness qualities. Bob Allen pleas that bicycle use of these areas is “historical.” That makes as much sense as arguing for historical racism, or historical sexism.

  35. Thanks for all the comments. I guess I should respond to a few points and questions.

    Every word of this and past commentaries on this subject is about building political alliances to protect more roadless land. To me, that’s the priority, getting more wilderness, not the purity of wilderness (but then nobody thought I as a purist, right?), not whether horses cause more damage than bicycles, which they do, not whether the Wilderness Act did or didn’t include bicycles, not whether or not I would prefer to hike without seeing a mountain bike–I would, of course. In fact, I’d prefer to hike without seeing other hikers, too. I don’t consider my personal preferences significant compared to the challenge of protecting roadless land.

    1’m not so sure hikers and people who ride horses represent a majority of people interested in backcountry recreation, but I’m sure bicycling as an outdoor activity is way more popular than hiking or riding horses, bigger than both combined in fact. But statistics can be a bottomless pit of disagreement. People gathering up these numbers don’t isolate bicyclists who might be interested in riding single-track, but instead, lump all forms of bicycling into one category. Ditto for hiking and “walking.” If you combined them, it’s huge, but we aren’t talking about mall walkers, no more than we are kids riding BMX bikes. The point is, we need both groups pulling in the same direction. It doesn’t matter which is the majority.

    Incidentally, I am not overestimating the political power of the bicycling lobby, but obviously, a lot of people underestimate it. Political power is measured in the number of people who will sit down and make a dozen calls or write fifty emails to further their cause (i.e. gun nuts), and I believe the bicycling lobby has more of these activists than the hiking lobby.


  36. Its just that you want to broadbrush ALL roadless lands as Wilderness.

    It’s just the fact of the want it all attitude, leaving no room for other users unless they are like you.

    Taking the real point of the wilderness act it just seems alot of these roadless lands aren’t wilderness quality.

    The roadless areas few acres are recommended wilderness most aren’t.

    And some of these chamber players around here have you ever done anything that actually produces endorphins? Do you actually realize that some people love were they are and enjoy the mode of transportation they choose.

    There is plenty of Wilderness acres already and by reading here it seems it will never be enough until its all roadless acres. Seems a bit selfish and self absorbed to me.

    Have you utilized the existing wilderness that is already protected?
    Miles and miles of unexplored under utilized trails here in Idaho. Except for the fact that its real Wilderness , far from the paved roads and easy access you desire.

    Wilderness that is Wilderness.

  37. Bill set the negative tone, as usual, by calling wilderness lovers “wildernuts”. Bill CLAIMS to want to form a coalition, but that kind of language and attitude is exactly what PREVENTS coalition building. And bicyclists are NOT a majority, by a long shot. Every statistic I have ever seen has hikers as the vast majority. The only reason that mountain bikers are promoting “coalition building” is precisely because they KNOW that they are a minority. The majority doesn’t need to promote coalition building. And if mountain bikers really wanted to compromise, they would agree to keep bikes out of all Wilderness, and not nitpick Wilderness to death by trying to “cherry stem” mountain biking trails into the heart of Wilderness. The analogy with the Sistine Chapel is perfect. Mountain bikes have no place there, either. We aren’t talking about people, folks. We are talking about BICYCLES. BICYCLES have no place in wilderness. They are MACHINERY.

    Eric Young is right on! The sole purpose of wilderness is to provide habitat and protection for wildlife. Recreation is secondary, and is only attractive when the primary purpose of wilderness hasn’t been subverted. The protection of wildlife requires minimizing the presence or humans. That requires banning bicycles and other vehicles, which make human access easier. Restricting TECHNOLOGIES is far easier and more humane than restricting people. Mountain bikers are free to enjoy Wilderness as much as they like, as long as they do so on foot, like everyone else.

  38. Great column. Thanks, Bill. There is no way that bikes do more damage than horses in any terrain… no way. I’ve seen many things, but I’ve never seen a mountain biker crap in a stream. Horses do that every day. Horses also spread seeds of non-wilderness species in their poop. YOu want pristine wilderness, fine, rewrite the act and keep everyone out, including hikers. Just lock it up and throw away the key. If you’re not willing to do that, then it’s time to share. No one user group has a monopoly on what is right or proper, and just because things were one way in the past does not mean that it is just for things to be that way in the future.

  39. I agree, machinery has no place in Wilderness.

    Metal frame backpacks are out. Utility knives. Stoves. GPS. Water purification pumps. Cameras. Those tents with the fiberglass poles and stuff. Zippers.

    Synthetic materials don’t belong there either. I want to commune with nature, not hear the rustling of nylon or Gore-tex.

  40. Mike Vandeman, I’m with you on your first paragraph, but you are 180 degrees off on your second graph.

    “The sole purpose of wilderness is to provide habitat and protection for wildlife.” No way, read the Act, read the debate leading up to the Act, it was and is about providing refuge for people to engage in a world free from the encroachment of machines and intrusive technology. Wildlife benefits are ancillary.

    Nonetheless, I agree with your conclusion, but the reasoning matters.

    Bill Schneider wants to erode that purpose for the sake of political convenience. F- that.

  41. It’s all sort of irrelevant to me because both hikers and bikers are large significant constituencies that should be working together to protect roadless land, but overall in this country, more people participate in bicycling than hiking and backpacking, but to be specific, more people participate in hiking and backpacking than mountain biking only.

    Here’s the OIA report. Go to page 38.


  42. Allowing mountain bikes in Wilderness would lead us down the same slippery slope of appeasement and accomodation that the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM took in regards to motor vehicles.
    Before world war 2 only horses and hikers were on backcountry trails. After WW2 the army started selling surplus jeeps. The forest service and the BLM said ok and created the category of jeep trails and 4×4 roads. That started the first round of destruction of backcountry trails. Then in the 1960s and 1970s the first swarms of cheap Japanese 2 stroke motorcycles were unleashed on forest trails. Public lands managers either looked the other way or started designating hiking trails as motorized trails. Next was the 3 wheeler then the 4 wheeler for those with not enough balance and skills to ride a motorcycle. Again the FS and the BLM said ok and let 40 inch wide vehicles tear up 12 inch wide hiking trails. When ATV riders carved out their own trails the FS looked the other way or worse yet designated these new routes as system trails. Even now the forest service is considering a new trail designation for the new breed of huge 2 person side by side ATVs. The ones where 2 fat guys and their beer can sit together in comfort.
    I think that the forest service and Wilderness supporters should not follow this same appeasement and accomodation in regards to mountain bikes in Wilderness. Start allowing bikes in Wilderness and the door will be open to other wheeled vehicles including those with motors. Wilderness trails are for people and animals. Wilderness excludes mountain bikes but not the people who ride them. I ride a mountain bike but I am happy to leave it at home when I travel in Wilderness.

  43. I have to comment….

    We have an area called Whiteclouds near where I currently live. A proposal was made to make this a wilderness area, kicking out bikers that have been enjoying the area for as long as there have been mountain bikes. They have preserved and protected the area as much as any user group and when faced with this new proposal, fought against it. They, naturally, did not want to lose the access they have historically enjoyed. This fight is exactly what the auther is talking about. New wilderness area proposals are being fought as they exclude a user group that has no real reason to not be there. This could be avoided with simple compromise and selfless discussion.
    The anti bike comments in here are, to me, selfish. It is a fact that bikes cause less environmental impact than horses. A proven fact. This means that bikers have less of an impact on the wilderness area than user groups already allowed. So tell me, how can you rationalize them being disallowed? Is it an impact to the land you are worried about or the impact to YOUR experience of the land? How is your arguement anything but selfish when you say bikes should not be allowed?

  44. Well put. Most back country trails are empty. Having mountain bikes there should not be a problem. This debate is all about hikers/equestrians not wanting to share their taxpayer funded haven. Bikes impact trails less than horses (far less), so it’s about time we let bikes back on.

    I don’t hike (bores me to death), but I don’t mind sharing trails either.

  45. Great debate…all sides need to be heard.

    Mechanized transportation in one form or another—whether motorized or not—is already a lawful activity on the vast majority of our public lands. The one exception is Wilderness.

    Wilderness is the one land use designation where accessibility requires the user to engage in a primitive means of travel. This alone makes Wilderness unique among all other designations of public lands and is a major reason why proponents are willing to fight the fight for additional areas and defend that which has already been designated.

    To encourage the USFS and other federal agencies to re-write the administrative rules regulating the use of Wilderness to now allow mountain biking (as Bill suggests) compromises one of the virtues that many proponents value most about Wilderness in the first place.

    Bill, keep up the good work, even though I’m in total disagreement with your apparent willingness to accept the watering-down of America’s Wilderness Act.

  46. The Great (for some) Wilderness Experience

    The trails already exist. The issue at hand is a matter of retaining access to trails as wilderness is redefined. A separate issue is that of general trail usage with underlying philosophies about trail usage that, prima facie, effect the shaping of this wilderness designation. In many cases trails are the exclusive province of hikers and equestrians and their particular brand of experience. Possession & 9/10s-wise they have defined the wilderness experience in their terms and used that to exclude bicyclists who have a different experience. Essentially it is the “we were here first” argument” and is used to preserve their own particular experience as if it were the grail. The rub is that hikers and equestrians don’t own the trails or the wilderness experience, we all do and so we need to share. Sharing means that sometimes we have to accommodate things we’d rather not.

  47. Bikes erode Wilderness character Cody; Wilderness character is worthy of protection for its own merit. That’s why the Wilderness Act was passed excluding mechanical transport. Wilderness advocates and defenders are seeking to protect that character. You can still enjoy Wilderness, you just can’t do it on a bike. If your are so keen on sharing, why not share the interstate, or even a scenic highway on your bike? The answer is obvious, it isn’t the same experience. … and that’s my point.

    (not to say there is not any room for compromise, but it depends on what we are trying to protect.)

  48. “Bikes erode Wilderness character Cody” posted by ‘what is wild’. I am not sure I follow this. What is wilderness character? I know you have a definition of this and is is probably shared by many. But how does one actually define ‘wilderness character’. To have a law, you have to have a definition so you know when one has stepped outside the law. How does a bike have any effect on this defined character? Is that simply an interpretation from one person’s point of view or is it fact? I think there is a lot of presumptions about bikes, both how they are ridden and why. Bikes are a tool, non motorized and quiet, just like hiking boots are. Saying they have wheels is like saying your boots have a half shank, or vibram soles. And does having a GPS or even a walking stick detract from the ‘wilderness character’? Where does it start and where does it end?

    Your point about sharing the interstate and scenic highways is missed by me. Depending on the state, bikes are allowed on interstates. Not pleasant for the biker, sure, but not illegal. Scenic highways are fantastic places for bikes. What better way to enjoy a lakeside road or mountain pass than pedaling it. Smell the smells, feel the air temperature change, hear the animals. All your senses are engaged as if you were walking it. And much better than driving that same route.

  49. That’s the thing: opinions on “Wilderness character” differ, and as Schneider wrote in the original article, Congress did not say whether or not nonmotorized mechanical transport did or did not comport with the character.

    I took the opportunity to re-read the 1964 Act (at It does mention “growing mechanization” as one of the things designated Wilderness is intended to counter, but that hardly settles the issue.

    The Forest Service made an arbitrary, bureaucratic decision that you may or may not like, but just because you like their decision doesn’t make it any less arbitrary.

    The problem is that environmental purists can and do debate levels of purity while the forces of growing mechanization are not so tied up with nuance.

    Let’s say I’m not quite up to carrying everything on my back, and I don’t have a horse, mule, llama or ostrich to help me out. Can I use a travois? How about a single-wheel trailer that I pull, and that will surely do less modification on the trail than dragging poles? If I’m an amputee, is my prosthetic limb OK with all of you still whole people? How about a double-amputee? Who served in Iraq?

  50. Cody, if you like scenic highways so much, why do you want to go into Wilderness Areas and areas that have wilderness characteristics? “Because it provides a different experience,” is the answer Cody, don’t be coy.

    As to your question about wilderness characteristics, “speed and ease” as hiker put it, that’s the issue. The Act sets Wilderness as a place apart from mechanization. Your bike is mechanized, … thus.

    As to your insistence that the law need definitions, well two points: One, not just the Forest Service, but every major land agency has defined wilderness character as lacking mechanized transport. (note, that word transport. also, mechanized things that do work on their environment are generally prohibited, like chainsaws or even geared winches. Of course, reasonable exceptions for disabled folks like prosthetic legs and such are made, also made are reasonable exceptions for management, but that’s not inconsistent, most laws have exceptions) And two, on a much more general and theoretical point, I’m not sure laws require definitions, rather they require interpretations.

  51. In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as “wilderness areas”, and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as “wilderness areas” except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.”



    (c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, 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.


    Why doesn’t this settle it Tom, because it runs counter to what you want?

  52. Wow, this thread is amazing.
    Dave Smith nails the mentality here when he says wilderness is a church. That illuminates an important aspect of all this: the cultishness of wildernism.
    Mike Vandeman’s constant attacks on bikes is also illustrative.
    Unless you are a true believer, fully compliant in the constraints laid down by the high preist(ess)hood, you don’t get to enter the temple, defile it with your presence or activity.
    The problem with cults is they tend to be irrational and intolerant. The fact that much of the landscape evolved with human intervention never enters the discussion. The fact that land does have economic uses that can be, and are, conducted in ways that actually improve performance for wildlife? Noooooo, it’s also beneficial to humanity and that’s a SIN under cult rules.
    I mean, now the RAT thing is under assault:
    onnacomplain.” So where’s the work gonna come from. The BM Wilderness foundation is always, always crying for volunteers, and I’m sure the problem is pervasive near the metro areas in all the pocket wildernesses. And what about that trail braiding on the Wall? Whose fault is that?
    That raises the final point…why the heck would we add more wilderness when the fact is, that which exists is not being taken care of properly? Answer me that, kids.
    If you can…

  53. Bill, your essay displays such generosity of spirit, common sense, and farsightedness. I hope the tenor of many of the reply comments doesn’t discourage you from continuing to explain how wildland protection would benefit if people would stop waging the bitter Kulturkampf that, as the majority of comments show, continues apace without much thought of compromise or truce. The comments show that the dispute isn’t about the environment; it’s a clash between competing belief systems.

    I’m convinced that we mountain bikers need to do the following, for our own benefit and the good of protecting roadless areas from further development and more encroachment by loud motorized recreational machines:

    1. Because it’s proved to be impossible to form alliances with Wilderness groups and orthodox environmental lobbies on fair access, and it’s unlikely that the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management will voluntarily drop their no-bikes-in-Wilderness rules, mountain bikers will have to get a federal court to rule that the Wilderness Act of 1964 doesn’t forbid human-powered travel even if it’s mechanically assisted. I think it’s doable. (Any qualified lawyers out there willing to take on the task?) The law and sound policy will back us up. And new potential allies are emerging. The Oregonian recently reported that the Forest Service is planning to ban snow-kiters from Wilderness in Oregon. In addition, the minute the federal agencies set their sights on rock-climbers who engage in mechanical transport in Wilderness by using pullies for their ropes we’ll have yet another ally.

    2. Once we’re allowed in Wilderness, as we will be someday, we need to acknowledge our own impact on the resource and minimize it for other groups’ benefit. The Wilderness Act of 1964 calls for Wilderness to provide two experiences: “a primitive and unconfined type of recreation” and “outstanding opportunities for solitude.” (16 USC § 1131(c).) Mountain biking is associated more with the first than the second, although I’d argue it provides both. (Scoffers who argue that mountain biking isn’t primitive but use GPS receivers, GoreTex, and nylon can keep their minds closed and skip down to the next comment if they wish. Those who hike with the equipment and clothing John Muir used may be excused for not regarding mountain biking as primitive.) As another gentleman pointed out in these comments, most remote narrow trails are empty. We mountain bikers know this because we don’t see other people on them. But in popular areas like the Eagle Cap Wilderness in eastern Oregon or the Desolation Wilderness in California we must devise methods to ensure we don’t unduly trammel others’ legitimate quest for solitude. We owe this to other groups because we can go farther than they can in less time.

    There’s a new website that attempts to grapple with the same issues you’ve addressed here:

  54. Skinner, I wish you’d go play russian roulette.

    But fine I’ll enter “The fact that much of the landscape evolved with human intervention” into the discussion.

    I am sure we have very serious disagreements on what types of intervention and what it means for the land, but in general I agree, designated and potential Wilderness is riddled with signs of human use and modification (trails being only the most obvious ). That’s fine though, none of that intervention in anyway conflicts with The Act and purpose as laid out above.

    Unless I am keeping you from that game of roulette, I suggest this for further reading…

    [from the Act]

    (c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

  55. And when bikers and hikers all kiss and make up, will anyone in Congress grab the torch and run with it? Bill’s proposition presumes that some congressman from Montana or Idaho will actually listen to this non-commercial alliance of wilderness advocates. Can anyone name that congressman? At this point democracy in the Northern Rockies seems like a remote possibility. That’s why H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Act has many congressional sponsors, but none from the northern corporate colonies of the Rocky Mountain West.

  56. I am not trying to be “coy” in any way. Maybe I misinterpreted your comment ‘what is wild’ on scenic highways and interstates. Very possible as it is a comment forum and not a real discussion.

    My point is, what is the purpose of wilderness areas if not to preserve that which is wild. A bike does less harm to the wild than already allowed equine travel. I know your point about the bike being mechanical but that wording was thrown in there after the fact, in an arbitrary way. All it does is single out the biking group in a non rational way. If you were going to be rational about preserving wilderness areas, you would not let people in at all. After that, you would look at what has the least harm effect. Bikes would come in right there with foot traffic. I think we all understand that part of the arguement. So, barring anybody’s feelings about bikes, how can you really justify that user group being banned? I am still under the belief that it is purely selfish motivation. Waiting for a comment that “enlightens” me.

    And you absolutely have to have laws be black and white. Open to interpretation means what? The law enforcer can decide if what you are doing is within the law? What if speed limits were open to interpretation? You have to know what the limits are if you are ever going to have a hope of staying below them. The very definition of a law is that it has to be clear cut, right and wrong. There can be no interpretation or it cannot be enforceable.

  57. What Is Wild, your question about the “mechanical transport” prohibition in the Wilderness Act of 1964 is answered in this previous essay by Bill Schneider:

    Few argue anymore that the Wilderness Act bans mountain biking, because its legislative history shows that such is not the case. We wouldn’t be having this debate if the whole issue were foreclosed by federal law.

  58. Ted Stroll, I don’t have a question “about the “mechanical transport” prohibition in the Wilderness Act of 1964.”

    You have an opinion. I disagree with it. The language in the Act favors my interpretation:

    “there shall be no temporary road, 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.”

    Your argument relies largely on inconsistencies. I addressed inconsistencies above. Regardless, inconsistencies alone don’t prove your case. And if you’d like to take your case to court I suggest you do. I am confident you will lose, which is probably why you haven’t taken your case to court.

  59. That’s interesting. Somehow I read right over “no other form of mechanical transport” without getting it.

    That does seem to pretty plainly rule out bicycles. And wheelchairs.

  60. “How does the mountain bike community feel Wilderness groups could best proceed?”

    For me, Bill Schneider has the right approach in the essay he presents on this page.

  61. Dave Skinner–I confess it’s been a few years since I’ve attended church–well, a few decades–but I never thought of chruch goers as members of a cult. Even Baptists. And churches are not places where people play monopoly, or chat about mundane topics on their f!$#!! cell phones, or smoke cigars and gamble, or dress up in their sister’s underwear and ride mountain bikes.

    I’m sure Congress didn’t write laws about how to behave in Church, and I don’t recall the Catholics, Baptists and anyone else having to post rules at the door.

    How dense can mountain bikers be? Don’t ride your bikes in Church–or wilderness areas.

  62. I can appreciate Bill’s article as an attempt to resolve a long standing debate, and the related discussions provide great examples as to the diversity of opinion surrounding this issue. However, as the Wilderness debate moves forward it is important to recognize that the Forest Service is precluding our Roadless lands from Wilderness consideration by designating trails for motorized recreation.

    While Wilderness discussions continue, mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders and all other quiet recreationists are losing the opportunity to protect Roadless Areas for non-motorized uses. In fact, this is the goal of some off-road vehicle activists who see the Wilderness issue as a chance to split the quiet recreation community by using the same “lock-us-out” rhetoric that they parrot to rile up their base.

    Several forests are set to begin or are in the middle of a process called Travel Management Planning where they will designate roads and trails for off-road vehicles. In fact the Bitterroot NF will soon release their Draft EIS, and all of us who wish to enjoy the natural landscape free from the noise, dust and damage caused by motorized use need to speak with a unified voice to protect our Roadless lands. Otherwise we may find that the Wilderness debate for these places will be a moot (mute) issue.

  63. What is wild?
    Really, what IS wild land? A pocket wilderness stomped to dust by REI frequent-shopper-card, utterly-dependent-upon-high-tech-everything poseurs out for their weekend fantasy? Give me a break. No hunk of paper signed by a bunch of airheaded suits in Congress can ever make a wild place. It has to be that way to start with.
    Furthermore, Congress and Zahnie, even that trust-fund socialist himself, the great son of a rich lawyer Bob Marshall, never intended that the Wilderness Act become an endless cyclotron of more and more twisted definitions of “roadless” lands, to the point where the roadless initiative actually had language about “unroading” (try NREPA) as a way of making land “roadless” and therefore suitable for designation…like “Wild Sky?” Quite the lesson in political incrementalism, that.
    That was NEVER the intent of the Wilderness Act, and I truly wish we could get Aldo and Bob out of the ground and ask them what they really wanted.
    And now that I’ve gone on long enough to hide the rest of the comment from the leaderboard, “what is wild…”
    You clueless, spineless weasel. If you wish me dead, perhaps that’s because you know I could stomp you, and your arguments, into the ground? Not even my great buddies Larry and Matt K stoop so low.

  64. Stomp my arguments into the ground? What? How? Where?

    By bringing up some half baked rant that rambles all over the map not really addressing anything in particular?

    … Yes, Congress can’t make wild places, but they can attempt to protect them for the values they deem as wild. Hell Congress can even promote their restoration to contain the qualities deemed as wild. Anyway, read the Act, you bore me.

    … As far as stomping me, personally?, boy wouldn’t I love to give you the chance.

  65. Waht is Wild, Dave….

    I appreciate your interest and comments, but please cool it on the personal dominance dance. It’s okay to disagree, but lots of other people are reading your comments.


  66. When it comes to wilderness, mountain bikers are part of the anti-wilderness crowd, along with snowmobilers, ATV riders, and other bubbleheads. That’s the plain, simple truth.

    Mountain bikers and other bubbleheads campaign against wilderness designation. End of story.

    Let mountain bikers share the road with snowmobiles and ATVs on the 9.8 billion miles of U.S. taxpayer funded Forest Service roads, along with 1.6 billion miles of “user-created” (illegal) roads and trails on our public lands. Keep wilderness areas wilderness. Keep mechanical toys out of the wilderness No mountain bikes, ATVs, or snowmobiles.

  67. Wow! This discussion is getting really heated and off-track! Why can’t we discuss this topic rationally and civilly? We are going to have differing opinions because each of us has their preferred way of enjoying the outdoors. There is no real right or wrong here. We ALL love the outdoors. That is clear. It’s the “how” we enjoy it that is where we diverge.

    I don’t appreciate those who call some of us selfish for wanting to protect the wilderness. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you. You don’t know any of us personally to make that call. We could go ’round and ’round and still not agree on this matter.

    The best I can say is that as long as wise, thoughtful decisions are made that also pay heed to the future and most of all, are made with respect and deference to the wilderness above all, then all should be okay. I might not personally like the idea of bikers on the wilderness trails but I respect their desire and I by no means mean to suggest otherwise.

    Let’s just try to be respectful all the way around. NOTHING is accomplished when we turn our ears and eyes off to one another. ..nothing. I’m glad Bill wrote this article because it tuned me in to an issue I had not really addressed before. So thanks, Bill. 🙂

  68. I never called anybody selfish for wanting to protect wilderness areas. I said it was selfish to ban bicycles from said wilderness areas, as there is no rational reason to do so. The only reason I have been able to glean from these comments is because those who are against bikes are so for personal reasons. It ruins THEIR winderness experience. It has nothing to do with keeping it wilderness or preservations, and nobody has convinced me otherwise.

    Bikes were added after the fact to the ban. Bill addressed this in his article stating that it was some 16 years after the first wilderness act was written that bikes were added to the ban list. This is what I was referring to.

    The reason bikers are against creating more wilderness areas is because it locks us out of those lands on our preferred mode for enjoying it. Simple enough reason and the only one that gets us lumped in with the moto guys and gals. If we were seen as the non motorized, low impact users we are and were included, the situation would make a complete 180 turn.

  69. Cody,

    Bill is wrong. Sorry he got your hopes up, but he is.

    Here’s why Bill and Ted Stroll have no chance in a court of law, and thus no chance anywhere unless mtn bikers magically become far more politically potent.


    — “If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.”
    Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842 -43 (1984), rehearing denied, 468 U.S. 1227

    — “If an agency’s “interpretation is … in conflict with the plain language of the statute, deference is [not] due.”
    National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston and Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 417 (1992).

    — “Where the language of the statute is clear, resort to the agency’s interpretation is improper.”
    Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 116 S. Ct. 2240, 2263 (1996).


    Does this language sound ambiguous?

    From the Act:
    “to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States”

    From the Act:
    “there shall be no temporary road, 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.”


    Nope. Case closed.


    Last time, I’d like to talk about how we can work together, but the starting point is that there will be some new wilderness and bikes won’t be allowed in them. Everything else, is on the table.

  70. @Ted Stroll: thanks for the link. The piece on is clearly relevant and well-argued.

    Hard to follow all the directions this thread is bouncing, but let me clarify two things: the post I made saying “I agree, machinery has no place in Wilderness.” was intended as irony, since we do, obviously, accept a variety of simple and compound machines as just fine, thank you.

    Skis (and the like) are obviously OK. Oarlocks are OK. Bicycles are apparently debatable.

    The second thing is that I have NOT expressed a PERSONAL preference for allowing, or not allowing bicycles in wilderness. As I said at the beginning, I’m on the fence, both about what is “right” and what is “law.”

    At the moment, from the information I’ve read today, I tend to infer that bicycles would be allowed if the question were adjudicated, but then courts do all manner of strange things.

  71. bicycles would NOT be allowed if the question were adjudicated, I so confident I might take the case to court myself just to settle it.

    Welcome back though Tom, since you’re back let me mention something I forgot to mention earlier.

    you said:
    “That does seem to pretty plainly rule out bicycles. And wheelchairs.”

    There is a good and just special exception made for wheelchairs in wilderness. Allowing for their use by the physically disabled, even motorized wheelchairs (I assume probably all manner of prosthetics too). … unfortunately, for obvious reasons (travel is still very challenging), you don’t see many disabled in Wilderness. Hopefully one day assisted travel technology for the physically disabled will improve to the point where visitation to the Wilderness by the physically disabled will be much more common.

  72. We stipulate you have strong personal certainty, what is wild?, but you have yet to present a legal argument that can stand next to Mr. Stroll’s.

    I suggest the reading of it:

  73. @Tom von Alten: You’re refreshingly open-minded. I agree with you that courts are unpredictable and so, even though I believe we’re legally right, anything could happen. The law has become incredibly complex and the argumentation that can be marshalled for or against almost any legal proposition makes outcomes uncertain. Open-and-shut cases are few.

    I’d rather not go that route anyway. Litigation has winners and losers and the resulting bad feelings are likely to create administrative problems in cases like this. (Consider “affirmative action,” for example; court rulings often leave much unsettled because the policy is bitterly opposed by many.) I’d rather not only convince the agencies that their regulations are legally erroneous but also get them to see reason, i.e., that liberalized bicycle access rules will be better for society on balance.

    If bikes are allowed in Wilderness, little is going to change except that creation of new Wilderness will become more feasible. Of course, if Bill Schneider is correct that the Forest Service doesn’t like Wilderness, that would be a cynical reason to keep the no-bikes rule in place and write the occasional citation.

    All of this seems to ignore Bill Schneider’s argument for Wilderness Lite, and I don’t mean to do that. I favor it. It would likely take a lot of the steam out of mountain bikers’ demands for access to existing Wilderness areas if similar new areas received the alternative designation and mountain biking could continue in them.

    Still, I’m convinced that because it makes sense to allow mountain biking in Wilderness areas, subject to reasonable regulation, the day will come when it will be allowed. We have an African-American president, Fidel Castro is no longer running Cuba, the Soviet Union no longer exists, we got rid of the 55-mph speed limit, the Supreme Court has recognized that the Second Amendment confers an individual right, there’s same-sex marriage in something like four states now, and stem cell research may soon allow us to grow replacements for lost teeth out of our own cells. The previously unthinkable regularly comes into being, and sooner than many would predict beforehand.

    How would Wilderness be different if bikes were allowed in it? Many trails would remain too difficult to appeal to mountain bikers; on others, hikers might see an occasional tire track and occasionally encounter a cyclist. Cyclists would enjoy Wilderness and support it politically. Only the most intrepid mountain bikers would ride in most Wilderness areas, simply because they are rugged and large and demand a high degree of physical fitness and bicycle-riding proficiency. So any mental images of Wilderness trails being overrun with screaming cyclists constitute needless worrying.

  74. Under current law, wheels are not allowed, no carts. I’m not sure about the wheelchair legality but then again, that is such a remote and minor use that it would have a non-impact on wilderness character.
    And I have to note with interest that Gary Sprung’s name is on the site Stoll points at. Capitalized “Nature” and all that.
    So all you guys want is “bicycle wilderness” and make the argument you are equally ethically pure with the purists. Terrific for you, and rotten for those of us who don’t capitalize Nature as our God. And even more rotten for those of us would might want to produce the products you all use every day from public lands? Who might think that logging some trees for either biomass or wood products is way smarter than burning down the habitat?
    It just amazes me to hear people say that wilderness heavy, or wilderness “lite” isn’t a selfish thing. I say it is. Here we have people who have most of their human needs satisfied by a material society, so well satisfied that they run right up Maslow’s hierarchy to the self-actualization level…accomplished by communing with “Nature” in an exclusive environment codified in human law that bars most other humans from THEIR need for self-actualization through either their work OR their chosen mode of play. Or—most egregious, the denial of certain resources that, when well utilized, better the human condition AND benefit the biotic community where applicable.
    Me me me me you go, while I’m thinking what about “us.” It’s like Yvon Chouinard and HIS outfit…all those fancy metals and chemicals in all that lighweight, spendy gear and climbing pro…but by golly, don’t let HIM or his customers ever have to think about, much less see, the consequences of all that high-tech, modern stuff they use to meet with “Nature.” Grrrrr.

  75. @Dave Skinner: Dave, the opinions expressed on Gary’s website are those of him or other authors, not necessarily me. (I say this although Gary is a friend.)

    I agree with some of the points you’re making in your “Grrrr” post. I have a libertarian and (to the extent things can be quantified) economically based approach to resolving controversies. As I alluded to above, I’m deeply aware of the problem that Wilderness has become a protoreligious object of veneration, which clouds rational thinking. If this debate were taking place in Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, or Australia, the tone would be different, and so would the laws we’re discussing, because those places aren’t as afflicted with the not-so-faint reverberations of the Puritan tradition as we are in the U.S.

    To give an example of my thinking that you might agree with (or perhaps not), I favor oil drilling off the U.S. coastline. We are selfish and hypocritical when we drive oversized vehicles a quarter-mile to a store to buy a pack of gum but won’t allow local drilling for the oil we’re consuming. In effect we prefer that people in, e.g., Angola, Iraq, and São Tomé e Príncipe suffer worse environmental consequences under their laws than we would suffer under our stricter ones, just to support our fix and our sloth. (Actually, all of this can be justified economically, but it doesn’t let us off the hook; we’re still hypocritical and selfish.)

    Before I go, let me say I did a typically great mountain bike ride today, exerting myself on a one-hour, 2,300-foot climb and returning to sea level. I feel great. To those to whom that sounds foreign, I say try it, you’ll like it! You’ll get endorphins galore that last for hours. Dave Skinner is right: play is valuable and even necessary for many people. It is for me. Mountain biking provides play; people laugh out loud while doing it, which I rarely hear a hiker do, although I of course respect those who prefer to hike.

    P.S.: I know most people will skip the following text because it’s long, but here’s what Raymond Kurzweil wrote about environmentalist fundamentalism:

    “The world is struggling with an especially pernicious form of religious fundamentalism in the form of radical Islamic terrorism. Although it may appear that these terrorists have no program other than destruction, they do have an agenda that goes beyond literal interpretations of ancient scriptures: essentially, to turn the clock back on such modern ideas as democracy, women’s rights, and education.

    “But religious extremism is not the only form of fundamentalism that represents a reactionary force. At the beginning of this chapter I quoted Patrick Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace, on his disillusionment with the movement he helped found. The issue that undermined Moore’s support of Greenpeace was its total opposition to Golden Rice, a strain of rice genetically modified to contain high levels of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Asia lack sufficient vitamin A, with half a million children going blind each year from the deficiency, and millions more contracting other related diseases. About seven ounces a day of Golden Rice would provide 100 percent of a child’s vitamin A requirement. Extensive studies have shown that this grain, as well as many other genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is safe. For example, in 2001 the European Commission released eighty-one studies that concluded that GMOs have ‘not shown any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods.’

    “It is not my position that all GMOs are inherently safe; obviously safety testing of each product is needed. But the anti-GMO movement takes the position that every GMO is by its very nature hazardous, a view that has no scientific basis.

    “The availability of Golden Rice has been delayed by at least five years through the pressure of Greenpeace and other anti-GMO activists. Moore, noting that this delay will cause millions of additional children to go blind, quotes the grain’s opponents as threatening ‘to rip the G.M. rice out of the fields if farmers dare to plant it.’ Similarly, African nations have been pressured to refuse GMO food aid and genetically modified seeds, thereby worsening conditions of famine. Ultimately the demonstrated ability of technologies such as GMO to solve overwhelming problems will prevail, but the temporary delays caused by irrational opposition will nonetheless result in unnecessary suffering.

    “Certain segments of the environmental movement have become fundamentalist Luddites—’fundamentalist’ because of their misguided attempt to preserve things as they are (or were); ‘Luddite’ because of the reflexive stance against technological solutions to outstanding problems. Ironically it is GMO plants—many of which are designed to resist insects and other forms of blight and thereby require greatly reduced levels of chemicals, if any—that offer the best hope for reversing environmental assault from chemicals such as pesticides.

    “Actually my characterization of these groups as ‘fundamentalist Luddites’ is redundant, because Ludditism is inherently fundamentalist. It reflects the idea that humanity will be better off without change, without progress. This brings us back to the idea of relinquishment, as the enthusiasm for relinquishing technology on a broad scale is coming from the same intellectual sources and activist groups that make up the Luddite segment of the environmental movement. ”

    (Raymond Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near (2005), pp. 414-415.)

  76. In USFS Region 6, following the 1964 Wilderness Act, the CCC built 3 sided log shelters with the built in bunks and the stone fire pit with the iron grate were all burned, the stones scattered and the fire grates packed out. That is what freaking zealots do with the rule of law. Suddenly, spending the night at the Sunshine Shelter before climbing the Three Sisters was an ever widening use of the countryside, and the use of a much greater area became evident in just a few years. There was no wheel in those shelters. Just notched logs with a shake roof. And history. Those shelters were placed about every 10 miles down the spine of the Cascades on what was then called the Skyline Trail and now is called the Pacific Crest Trail. No matter, a primitive structure that relieved you of packing in a tent was burned without public inputs or notice. I have little to no faith in big W wilderness ever being less than a place where any “hand of man” evidence had to be destroyed. Today, I would think there would be a convoluted dance of lawyers while the Wilderness Act and the Antiquities Act regulations were squared off against each other. But there COULD be a point to be made that bicycles were used alongside pack strings and riding horses long before the internal combustion engine powered any kind of transportation. Historical use, perhaps.

    I was reading the local weekly newspaper, and in my county there is a developed mountain bike area in the State run Gerlinger Experimental Forest out near where the Blackrock logging camp and town once was. To use the area, you have to pass through a private land organization camp, and may do so by easement. However, there is a speed limit, a noise limit, and expectation of good deportment while passing through (it is a church camp), plus a described parking area for cars, and the expectation that no garbage or drunken brawls take place. And that is appearing to be too much to ask of the people who mountain bike this very well developed and challenging mountain bike area. I have no delusions that mountain bikes in Wilderness would attract only the law abiding, careful around hikers crowd, and the maniacs and adrenaline junkies would stay home. And there is no ski patrol to pull a lift ticket or sheriff deputy to hang a ticket on the unlawful and boorish. That, then, makes it pretty easy to just say “no” to mountain bikes on wilderness trails. That leaves them lots of opportunity in roadless areas or those less protected than Wilderness National Park lands in Glacier and Yellowstone.

  77. I think Cody touched the core of this issue. Most of the original wilderness areas really weren’t of interest to mtn bikers due to the spectacular wildness. However, as more and more areas are proposed and designated as wilderness this takes away non-wilderness uses (mtn bikers). How would hikers like it if a use they had enjoyed for many years was taken away?
    Most of the wilderness areas were derived from USFS or BLM lands. The USFS and BLM lands were originally intended as multi-use, rather than limited use; and conservation rather than preservation.
    I’ve enjoyed and worked in wilderness areas for many years in several states by horsepacking, backpacking, hiking, skiing. Add to these interests mtn biking. I’ve also worked on USFS trail crews. A properly constructed and maintained trail should have very short wet sections, if any.
    This issue has been of interest to me since my introduction to wilderness in the ’70s.
    The trend I’m seeing is the wilderness advocate groups want to designate areas as wilderness to lock it away from any use. Not whether it has the unique wilderness qualities. I scratch my head when areas that truly deserve wilderness designation are passed up b/c they want to lock up the use of another area b/c the non-correct groups are using it.
    The author is right we all need to agree reasonable uses.

  78. It is sad about those shelters bearbait, and, if your version of the story is substantially true, then it was illegal. The structures easily could have and should have remained in use. In fact the Wilderness Act provided exceptions for the maintenance and continued use of structures existing prior to Wilderness designation.

    As far as certainty around the legal question though Tom von Alten, I’ve read Stroll’s scrawl. You mistake his impressive research with an impressive argument. Brevity is the hallmark of good argument.

    see this link if you find it helpful:

    Dave, I am sure about the legality of wheelchairs, the exception was passed by Congress in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

    (Incidentally for this discussion, but not incidentally for the consideration of the Judaical Branch in interpreting law, the fact that wheelchairs had to receive a specific exception from the United States Congress in 1990 is yet another enormous barrier to the idea that mtn bikes could be granted access to designated Wilderness without direction from Congress.)

  79. “The reason bikers are against creating more wilderness areas is because it locks us out of those lands”. “How would hikers like it if a use they had enjoyed for many years was taken away?”

    This is not a discussion. A discussion is where people listen to each other. The hikers are obviously listening, but the mountain bikers are not. No matter how many times we say it, they still pretend they haven’t heard: NO ONE has ever recommended banning mountain bikers from Wilderness, only BIKES. When some land is designated as Wilderness, it is NOT taken away from mountain bikers. They still have exactly the same access to the Wilderness as everyone else.

    This also answers the objections about “selfishness”. Hikers aren’t selfish, because they support Wilderness that is open to EVERYONE. Mountain bikers are the selfish ones, because they know that allowing bikes on trails will drive away hikers and equestrians. It is dangerous and no fun to hike around fast-moving pieces of MACHINERY. Wherever bikes have been permitted, the number of other trail users has dropped dramatically. It is extremely selfish of mountain bikers to force everyone to put up with bikes in Wilderness.

    The reason that people don’t understand the purpose of wilderness is that they don’t understand biology. HUMANS think that the purpose of wilderness is what they intended, but that has nothing to do with the purpose of wilderness, because wilderness existed for 4+ billion years before humans ever appeared. Wilderness is wildlife habitat, period. Humans can apply whatever “purpose” they want to, but humans don’t own the Earth. HOW COULD THEY? We got here 4 billion years after the other species. The wildlife own nature. Humans are a very late newcomer who THINKS it owns the Earth, but can’t possibly. HOW WOULD WE GET TITLE?! IF we got title, it would have to be from the wildlife, who would never give it up. DUH!

    Humans can write all the laws they want, but they only affect people. The wildlife (including horses, which evolved in North America) have a right to do whatever they want to, including “mess up” “our” trails.

  80. Dave S and Ted S,

    Doubt I agree with either of you on a few things, but I sure would enjoy sharing a few beers. It’s important that we don’t forget: we all probably share more in common than not.

    Unfortunately, this thread – as with pretty much every thread on the interwebs – has devolved into ridiculousness. There doesn’t appear to be one mountain bike camp nor one hiker camp. In fact, it would appear that nearly everyone has, at least to some degree, a different opinion. I reckon that’s what makes the melting pot of America better than most places.

    And so but also, Bob Allen seems to making a statement that everyone is ignoring . . . here is someone, who apparently is a pretty involved mountain biker going-ons (google!), making a somewhat rational point. To wit: wilderness is off-limits to mountains bikes, and should continue to be such. But, much of the land that is currently open to mountain bikes need not be codified as “Wilderness” and as such made off-limits to bikes, and still not be protected as “wilderness” – or even better yet, wild-ness. (Please, oh please, note the “W” v. “w”.) There are alternatives. And, it seems (to a simple fella like myself) that the alternatives need not piss every last person off. Maybe just Mike V.

    The passion is great. Perhaps more logic and less dogma would be better.


  81. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Corvus, you and almost everyone else is missing the most important point. The primary issue is not “pissing people off”, but harming people and wildlife. The wildlife have already lost far too much of their habitat. This is the primary reason why so many species are endangered or even extinct. That is unacceptable — not just to me and other lovers of nature, but to the wildlife themselves. Humans don’t have the right to wipe out other species.

    Hikers, equestrians, and horses risk being injured or even killed by encounters with mountain bikes. That is also obviously unacceptable.

    Big “W” Wilderness is the only way we have to protect people and wildlife, and even Wilderness is not enough. Many areas actually need to be off-limits to ALL humans. There are a few areas (e.g. the northwest Hawaiian Islands) that are off-limits to everyone but scientists. However, scientists are human. Wildlife have a hard time distinguishing between scientists and other humans….

    Areas such as the Golden Gate Recreation Area that allow mountain biking simply don’t sufficiently protect their indigenous wildlife. There are NO lands that are inherently worthless as habitat, and deserve to be sacrificed like that. The mountain bikers’ logic is “It’s already been messed up, so that makes it okay to mess it up some more.” Nonsense! If it’s messed up, RESTORE it!

  82. IF bikers want progress and compromise, THEN they need to stop colluding, collaborating and conspiring with motorized users/groups.

  83. Two Tired of this Debate

    Colluding, collaborating and conspiring? Wow! Do tell. Or is this just more stereotyped fear mongering?

  84. Wheelie of Death

    If Wilderness advocates want new Wilderness, THEN they need to stop thowing bicycles under the motorized bus! Remember – no new Wilderness in Montana for the last TWENTY FIVE years…

  85. Dave Skinner, I noticed that on another thread you described yourself wryly as an “evil motorhead.” Now I see your point about selfishness more clearly. I gather you think it’s selfish for mountain bikers to want to get ourselves incorporated into the groups that have access to Wilderness Lite, after which we will work to keep motorized users out.

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    I don’t like the standoffishness of many mountain bikers toward off-road motorcyclists. I would like to work with the Blue Ribbon Coalition on areas where we can ally ourselves. Most mountain bike activists refuse to do that. Also, I admire motorcyclists’ skill when I see them riding trails. Generally, I don’t mind sharing trails with them. They’re usually polite and try to minimize their impact. To call them “wreckreationists” is unfair.

    On the other hand, motorcyclists can be heard coming literally for miles. And they do rip up trails despite their best efforts to be careful. Reno Divide-Flag Creek-Bear Creek-Deadman’s Gulch south of Crested Butte, Colo., is an example. Because of heavy motorcycle use, these singletrack trails that meander through beautiful alpine fields need constant repair. Of course, motorcyclists may be helping to do that work, for all I know.

    What do you suggest to work out these difficulties?

    Corvus Strang, I did Google Bob Allen per your suggestion and see what you mean. Bolivian mountain biking, e.g.! Bob made the point that it’s a waste of time to argue about Wilderness because mountain biking is not and won’t be allowed in it; instead, we should concentrate on Wilderness Lite for new areas. I said earlier that it would take a lot of the wind out of our sails re existing Wilderness rules if Wilderness Lite came into being for new areas. But the Wilderness purists won’t have Wilderness Lite. They continue to fight for more Wilderness, which means kicking us off great trails we ride now. Such an effort is underway in the California Legislature. The purists have caused to be introduced a bill, AB 1513, that would convert some of our favorite riding areas from state parks to state Wilderness and kick us out. The purists won’t talk about compromise. So for now at least we have to join them on the battlefield they’ve created. No one likes this, but the other side won’t bend. It’s on a crusade.

    I’ll repeat: this isn’t about the environment; it’s a Kulturkampf between competing belief systems, the one based loosely on puritanism and the other based loosely on the value of play and exhilaration.

  86. A discussion is when all interested groups will actually discuss the issue rather than say “No” and not try to work an agreement that works for all.
    We’re talking about banning the “use” not the people. I you want an example of banning people look at the 50 square miles of public land east of Seattle that has banned all public access.

    BTW. I see Mike Vandeman has found his way onto this thread. In order to not get cross wise with the comment policy, I’m done with this discussion.

  87. “Hikers, equestrians, and horses risk being injured or even killed by encounters with mountain bikes”

    When has this ever been a problem? I have yet to hear of a horse or person being killed on a trail due to a mountain biker. I sure have seen many a skiddish horse while i am biking and also hiking/running down trails that has nearly kicked a person or pushed them off the trail.

    We seem to be fine with a train of pack horses hauling in heavy canvas tents, metal cook stoves and pans and anything else you want to have for a wilderness experience but not like it when this metal is made into a different form.

    I know a way we can reduce conflicts. Get off the trail!!! There’s millions of acres of wilderness and you are worried about an encounter on a trail. I guarantee you will see no biker blazing off into the woods without a trail. But if you want your purist wilderness experience, just step off the beaten path and find your own way. Go route find and explore.

  88. Bill,

    Don’t know if you’re still following through all the detritus, but…

    This is disappointing. Not your solution — as I think I made clear the last time you broached this subject, less than a month ago wasn’t it?

    But that you continue to repeat the misinformation about what was the intent of Congress when it passed the Wilderness Act.

    True, the law does not mention bicycles. Neither does it mention snowmobiles. Nor helicopters. Congress outlawed CLASSES of things. What do you think “mechanical transport” is?

    I know the FS originally decided “mechanical transport” meant “powered by a non-living source.” The problem with that definition is “powered by a non-living source” is a required part of the definition of “motor vehicle” and “motorized equipment.” One of your posters said the FS interpreted the law correctly back then. He is wrong — they made an error (though the way they correctred it is certainly sloppy.) By legal construction, “mechanical transport” must be different from “motor vehicle,” “aircraft,” and “motorized equipment.” So — how would you define “mechanical transport” in a way that was different from those other terms and would not include bicycles?

    And, as I posted last time, if the four agencies erred in their interpretation, Congress has had ample opportunity to clairfy, as they did with the Congressional Grazing Guidelines back in 1980 when the FS was getting “purist” in the administration of grazing permits in wilderness. That Congress has not done so, while excepting areas in wilderness legislation for the use of bicycles (as the recent Rocky Mtn NP Wilderness bill did) is telling.

    So. Let’s debate how to go forward. How to best protect land and what experiences need to be protected. (Though I think we need to keep in mind that conflict is often asymmetrical — it’s not just a question of sharing.)

    But, please — both you and some of your posters — PLEASE stop misrepresenting the legal constraints found within the Wilderness Act of 1964.

  89. Ted,
    I grabbed an MTB before it was cool, then had two stolen when they BECAME cool. I’d been a road-bike pedaller for a long time before that, to stay tough for skiing, but I found it sorta boring, and when I got whacked by a hunk of bark from a log truck that was IT for being caught from behind.
    I agree completely that mountain bikes are an order of magnitude different and definitely an endorphinomatic…as much as you want…and doing it in a scenic environment is a bonus. Good use of land as far as I’m concerned.
    Tomas, you raise a point when you say this is eliminating uses. I would counterpoint by saying you eliminate people as well when you eliminate the use they find most worthy. Don’t tell me that I can still hike someplace I used to be able to drive, ride or fly to, or walk. I frankly find hiking stultifyingly dull unless we’re talking vertical. MTB’s are “interesting” in that they are technical to ride well, anyone who has tried them understands that.
    Do I think they are appropriate in wilderness? No. I think the original intent of the Wilderness Act remains valid, as twisted as the concept has become. Wilderness has devolved into a political means of eliminating uses, and the people associated with those uses. It’s a form of political and/or cultural “cleansing,” period. If you can politically change the uses allowed on the land base in an area, you’ve changed the culture in fundamental ways. I guess that’s why planning and zoning, as well as public lands issues, are so controversial.

  90. Dave Skinner, how can banning BIKES be “a form of political and/or cultural ‘cleansing'”, when the choice of whether to visit Wilderness is entirely up to you? Absolutely nothing except your own lack of imagination prevents you from hiking. You know what they say, someone who claims to be bored is actually BORING. But nothing requires you to visit Wilderness, if you think it’s boring. By all means, stay away! Give the wildlife a break!

  91. MTBiker: “I have yet to hear of a horse or person being killed on a trail due to a mountain biker.” Have you ever bothered to ask? I have heard of several cases where a horse was startled on a narrow trail and fell off a cliff or down a steep embankment, and couldn’t be saved. I also heard of a hiker being hit by a mountan biker and turned ino a quadriplegic. But we don’t need to wait for someone to be killed. Mountain biking is obviously incompatible with hiking. It’s just common sense.

  92. Wheelie of Death

    Obviously hikers should were helmets.

    Just kidding!

  93. Welcome to the Machine…

    We can talk abstractly about Wilderness Lite but we must understand how the Wilderness Machine works and the political realities of shifting those gears. The Wilderness advocacy organizations are run by folks that are passionate about the land for sure, but perhaps more importantly, they usually have plush jobs in the hinterland with a nice office, an impressive title, a retirement plan and health insurance. Their mission statement is Wilderness! and anything less is failure. Equally passionate people from around the country that love the ideal of Wilderness and see anything less as sacrilege fund these organizations. They will go the grave holding this Wilderness ‘ethic’ as paramount. No amount of spin or public relations will change their minds or mission that there is a substitute for the big ‘W.’ The goal of new Wilderness feeds the Machine and justifies its existence. This Machine will not go away and we must accept that any existing or new Wilderness will not allow bikes. To attempt to change the momentum or direction of the Machine is pointless.

    The term Wilderness Lite certainly must grate in the ears of the Wilderness advocates and no doubt it has served the agitating purpose that Bill intended it to be. That said, Bill, I think you have made your point. As we go forward in earnest searching for a viable solution that will bring all parties to the table for a respectful dialog about our remaining roadless areas, it’s time to retire the Wilderness Lite label and give it a real name with specific attributes.

    How we personally relate to our wild, public lands can certainly be described as spiritual but we must remember that Wilderness is not a First Amendment right of religion, it is a land protection tool. Congress has given us a toolbox of protection mechanisms in addition to Wilderness. A blend of these tools including Wilderness is our only hope to end the gridlock we all have suffered for too long.

    Again, Wilderness combined with companion designations, boundary adjustments, non-Wilderness cherry stems and corridors is the light at the end of this dark, contentious tunnel. We can point to the Absaroka-Beartooths in Montana and the Superstition and Four Peaks Wilderness areas in Arizona and many others where motorized road cherry stems penetrate miles deep into designated Wilderness. Is this an acceptable solution everywhere? No. But these are examples where the aforementioned options have been granted to establish new Wilderness. But we get shot down for wanting the same concession for bicycles? Truth is that in many scenarios a Wilderness Area combined with a National Protection Area can permanently protect more land from new roads, logging, mining and motorized travel than just Wilderness alone.

    The motorized component can’t be ignored and wished away either. We are talking about PUBLIC land. Any time a user group is excluded and disenfranchised from a public process because they are different from us, society loses the inherent accountability and responsibility from that group that comes from being included. It’s a complex issue. Education, peer pressure and the ability to share are the best assets we have to all become more responsible and respectful visitors to our wild places. We are all challenged to be our best selves for each other and the sanctity of the land. Enough said.

    Bring cyclists into the fold and we can help grease the wheels of the Machine. Exclude us and we are forced to the sideline to throw wrenches.

    Bill, I look forward to next week’s part 2.

    By the way, which one’s pink?

  94. Hikers in helmets. So that was a giggle. I was off looking at yurts with a friend last week, and it occurred to me that modern recreation participants have a lot of attention they need to pay to clothing and gear. It is hard work to look that goofy. The helmet, then the sunglasses with the rear view mirror. Several layers of spandex and day glo colors, some ammo belts of tools and what have you, and then it is pants with the hemorrhoid pocket protector, and strap on water bottles, and the bike dude booties and fingerless gloves, and the camel back, and all that before you sit on the John Kerry $10,000 common man’s bicycle. One of those coming down the trail out of control should scare the pee wadding out of most anyone. I mean, if they fall there is a whole lot of special stuff that is going to get owies. And at an advanced age, I cannot still understand why a “man’s” bicycle has that cross bar from the seat to the front of the frame. ouch…as a young boy, I learned that bar can hurt you. Make tears come to your eyes. No wonder the modern guys have those strap in shoes and pedals. Pedal slip made a soprano out of me…

    My hiking days were with that modern thing called a Trapper Nelson pack board and bag, with a couple of #10 tin cans to cook Kiskies Trail Meals in. Civilian C rations. and we had the military surplus ones, as well. And a war surplus sleeping bag that was colder to sleep in than the out of doors. We won WWII because nobody slept, and were fighting mad all the time due to sleep deprivation. A wool blanket and frost bag will do that to you. Our boots said “Converse” on them. Two pairs of cotton socks was supposed to prevent blisters. Not. I had a canvas hat I still have. It was oiled to keep the rain off. And so was my canvas coat that was my late uncle’s. Stiffer than a wedding p—k, that coat. But we went out for two week hikes on the Skyline Trail and from Mt. Adams to the Goat Rocks. We should have died of exposure, I suppose. But today you could die of looking goofy. And acting accordingly. People do every summer. So why shouldn’t there be lawsuits and trail patrol to issue tickets for speeding. Some summer hire Piss Fir Willy with a radar gun and a ticket book. They do that at ski areas. Participant collisions are not supposed to be part of the experience. So involve lawyers. It is the American way.

    Boots on human feet make trails muddy when it rains or snow banks are melting. Horses make mud, too, and sometimes poop on the trail. Mountain bikes break down the water bars more so than horses or people, and that is how you get the tiny, deep groove: erosion and failed water bars, all run through by bike tires. Cleaving the trail with bike tracks makes for an uncomfortable walking space for hikers. They must walk to either side, and that widens the trail. Also, horses then have to crowd one side of the other. It is a real issue. So the comments about roadless areas, not now in wilderness, should stay roadless areas, if only to make a place for mountain bikes, seems sensible and a viable option. Not the “lite” wilderness, but the “no” wilderness option. Wilderness is, we know, so final and so restrictive. A one way street to charcoal. And then all the burned trees start falling down and the Piss Fir Willies don’t have the money to hire the trails cleared…or the manpower themselves, Cod Forbid!!, to do it themselves. No blistered hands today at the Outfit. tch tch…….the new USFS is PROFESSIONAL, and write professional papers, opinions, guides, and reports. Sometimes, one or two of them leave the office and visit the woods. but not often. And they all return with their skin intact.

    Bikes in roadless areas, and keep more roadless areas by not making them into Wilderness. Easy, cheap, and more accessible to more people. It is, you know, The Commons. Not the Exclusive. Commons is Inclusive. We should be more that way.

  95. Wheelie of Death

    That’s pretty clever and funny MJV, Ph.D. You should definitely wear a helmet.

  96. Dear Wheelie of Death, what an appropriate name! 🙂 Thanks for your honesty!

    Thanks, but why can’t you mountain bikers be consistent? Most seem to think that I don’t have anything up there worth protecting. 🙂

  97. It is kind of funny. But it is also shows your ignorance of the biking impact and community as a whole. Not to mentiontion it being confrontational. Hardly productive and very uninformed there mr. phd.

    Again, cyclists are going to oppose new wilderness designations that boot them off of land they have historically enjoyed. They do not harm the land as much as traffic already allowed and as far as user conflict, that issue is being FAR overexaggerated. There is no logical reason to exclude them.

    I live in a cidy of 200,000 people with trails literally 5 minutes from downtown. On any given day, you have hundreds of trail users in a very small area (couple hundred acres). Everybody from dog walkers to runners and cyclists. Even kids playing in the dirt. Conflicts happen but they are VERY rare and getting more so because of continued efforts to EDUCATE. Posts like this above one from Mike Vandeman only serve to incite emotional responses, probably because it was one to begin with. If there is a problem, it is because of the people being uneducated, not because of the tool they are using to enjoy the trails. Everybody who is posting needs to educate themselves of the facts and then come to table with a point. Spouting off untruths and name calling, although amusing to some degree, is only damaging any real discussion.

  98. Dave Skinner, my background is similar. I’m a former road racer who used to love road riding but after discovering mountain biking came to regard it as not so interesting anymore. Hiking falls even farther down the list of interesting activities unless (again I agree) it’s basically vertical, like on a couple of scary trails in Zion Nat’l Park.

    I know it must strike many people as bizarre that we mountain bikers are so dedicated on these access issues. It’s because this sport is uniquely fabulous and impassions those of who are really into it. The ability to see spectacular scenery and intimate hidden corners of nature, under one’s own power, via a sport that confers a high degree of physical fitness, coordination, and balance, is unique to mountain biking as far as I know. Hikers will never understand this, nor equestrians. Probably skilled rock-climbers understand it quite well. If there were an effort to drive them out of Wilderness I’m sure there’d be a similar reaction.

  99. Ted,
    I get your final para. MTB is multidimensional multitasking, and some people aren’t capable of understanding why such a thing is attractive and enjoyable.
    Gosh, maybe I shouldn’t mention how much fun two wheels with a MOTOR might be.
    Don’t forget downhill skiing and surfing, or the ultimate — low-level aerobatics.
    But there’s the crux on why people get a bit upset when they get booted off. Most of us work so we can afford our play.
    Mike V, you really are a hunk of work. What was your dissertation on again? Food taste preferences? Give us a synopsis. I want to know if type A’s like spicy and type B’s like bland and boring.

  100. Bob Allen, your “machine” talk is over the top and stands in the direct opposition to what you propose. I could point to more instances of Wilderness groups being happy with less than Wilderness than I could point to Wilderness designations with cherry-stemmed protections (and that is a whole lot of examples).

  101. Is BSing an uphill race or a downhill race? Which make or manufacture of bulldozer is currently the fastest? Are rubber tracks better than steel? Do you have racing grousers? Are rippers used as brakes on steep slopes? Can you drop the blade going downhill? Is it like those bike races on the velodrome, where you slowly pace each other, and then sprint to the finish? Do you have time trials? NASCAR like pit stops? It just sounds so exciting. But, alas, a rich man’s sport. You can get a million bucks tied up in a D-8L…I hope there are classes of scramblers. You know, so us HOHAs, as we age, we can get into antique scrambling. You know. An old Cletrack or Best, or maybe an old Cornbinder painted all red, or an AC in Orange. Yellow paint needs competition. And then you could have the series scrambling, with all the cats the came size….sort of like NASCAR with the pickup trucks…then Komatsu, Dresser, Fiat, Cat, all could have factory scramblers..sounds like a hoot.

    just kidding. but the point is well taken. There has to be a definitive line. If not, then the hue and cry from the zealots about having to have vastly expand Wilderness has traction, because erosion of protection by specific users with political clout will demean and diminish the whole of Wilderness. It is or it ain’t. Mountain bikes permitted means it ain’t.

    There is a plan in Oregon and Washington to remove commercial gillnetters from fishing for salmon on the lower Columbia River. That industry has been there since the 1860s, and has overfished, and suffered from dams and habitat loss. So the plan is get rid of gillnets so that more fish can be caught by sports fishermen, even though there is a limited entry (read closed) for gillnetters, that has about 100 still fishing. The resource loss does not diminish. All that happens is an unlimited number of sports can fish and the more they do, the shorter the season, and then it will be a one day derby in the near future. The fish still get killed. It is just who gets the honor. Bikes in Wilderness is no different. It just becomes who gets to impact the land the most, as populations grow on a finite space called Earth. Who gets to kill the last fish. Nothing about conservation in that deal. Zealots going for the throat. Nothing about custom and culture, jobs with historical importance. Zealots going for the throat. Nothing about the wonder of nature while energizing and controlling a mountain bike. Do it somewhere else. Do it in roadless areas, and leave the Wilderness for the wilderness zealots.

    Roadless areas are quite fine for mountain bikes to use, and there are a lot of them. Just have the WFU fire fighters (I like that–WooFoo Fighters) leave their fire lines water barred but open, and then those can be trails. As the burned trees fall, there is no end to the challenge for mountain bikers, and challenge is what it is all about, no? How to conquer the trail.

  102. What is wild?, with proposals like NREPA and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership Strategy seriously being considered where not one inch of concession has been given to the quiet, muscle powered cyclists, I don’t see the Wilderness folks being happy with less Wilderness. Rather it looks like full speed ahead with Wilderness-at-any-cost and do it quickly and deceptively so no one catches on. Please point to these happy Wilderness people are that are content with less Wilderness. Any why are they happy? I don’t see it!?

  103. Ted Stroll: “this sport is uniquely fabulous and impassions those of who are really into it”. You are right, the majority of people, who aren’t adrenaline junkies, don’t understand this, and see no value in it whatsoever. I rode a mountain bike once, on a fire road pockmarked by cow- and bike tracks, as well as areas turned to powder by mountain biking. It was no fun at all, just constantly being jerked around and having to spend all of my time focusing on not crashing, instead of enjoying the scenery.

    If you really love that, then you mountain bikers should buy some land and do it there, on private property. You can even ban hikers, equestrians, and other people you don’t like (I hear that this has already been done). But the MAJORITY (and the wildlife, who can’t speak for themselves) doesn’t want you destroying our public lands. And we have the right to protect them. If you find the natural world boring to visit on foot, but exciting to “see” on a bike, you have a major internal inconsistency. A more likely explanation is that your “love of nature” is just a LIE, calculated to try to make yourselves seem more benign. I would recommend psychotherapy.

  104. Wheelie of Death

    I think helmets for horses too would be prudent.

  105. The problem is I’ve been permanently brainwashed. I have never revealed this before, but now I’m forced to admit it: I was abducted by extraterrestrial mountain bikers and reprogrammed à la The Manchurian Candidate. I doubt psychotherapy will help at this point; I’m too far gone. Stop me before I ride again! (This afternoon if I can turn off the computer.)

    Maybe the H1N1 flu will render all of our quibbles irrelevant!

  106. Right behind the mountain bike will come ATVs.

  107. Nah, they’re always passing us.

  108. Wilderness is simply not about us. It’s not about the rights of bikers, or hikers, or equestrians, or humans in general. it is about the right of wilderness to be free of YOU andf ME and the rest of us. There is clrearly a need for more public recreational lands. Let’s do that. But let’s recognize the right of wilderness to be free from the public that is us. It is so sad to me that nobody remembers one of the most important Supreme Court Justices of all time. His legacy is being lost and we will all be diminished for it. I’ll say it one more time and then leave you all to your own perspectives – go pick up a copy of “A Wilderness Bill of Rights.” Oh, and “Go East Young Man” isn’t bad either.

  109. Wheelie of Death

    By all means let’s protect the wildlife, get them helmets too!

  110. Bearbait, thanks your for blown out stereotype of a mountain biker. Shall i make a list similar to yours about horse riders? You could even make a similar one about hikers. What point does listing off the equipment you or anyone else wears or brings have?

    and how does a mountain bike break down a water bar more than a horse? You like to make up facts to prove your own point. why don’t you add that bikes pack down a trail(depending on soil type) and horses churn up anything that has been packed. That sure leads to more erosion. You think also think that hikers prefer to walk on deep horse prints over a mountain bike track? Once again, your petty ‘facts’ are nothing but armchair finger pointing at a group that you obviously have a bias against.

  111. Wheelie de Morte,

    Darn it, you beat me to it. I was going to suggest helmets for all living creatures. Would they need to be ANSI or Snell certified? It might be tricky getting one on a grizzly, but clearly necessary what with Mr. V’s (sorry – Dr. V’s!) assertion that mountain bikers kill everything with which they come in contact. The pandemic is not pig flu; it’s lunatic, thrill-seeking mountain bikers. Someone call the HSA and get screeners at the airports. I think it’s clearly a national security issue – deranged mountain bikers are out to kill common folks walking in the wilds. Didn’t George Bush ride a mountain bike? He was obviously abducted by aliens, and a lunatic. I’m starting to see a pattern . . .

    You’re either with us, or your with the mountain bikers.

    I really like riding my mountain bike. There’s a water board in my future, I know it.


  112. Ted S,

    Thanks for the link; it would have been very very unlikely that I would’ve stumbled on an article in AmCon. I too laughed out loud, despite the fact that it painted me in such a way.

    You have an OED? The huge unabridged one that comes with a magnifying glass? I’m jealous; I have to trek to MSU to get my fix.


  113. Wilderness was consecrated by Congress, and in doing so, a set of rules were conjured to line out what could and could not happen in Wilderness. As a result, I distinctly remember early on, the death of an Outward Bound client in the Three Sisters Wilderness, and the denial the Oregon National Guard was issued in their mission to recover the body and fly it out. Nope. No helicopter rescues or removals from Wilderness Areas.

    I have driven a tanker to the very edge of several wilderness areas, once on a newly constructed road just for that purpose, which was for my tanker to fill a water punkin out of which a Mark III triple stage gasoline pump was sending water two miles into a Wilderness to extinguish fire. If I remember correctly, we were sending water to another punkin and they were drafting out of that to the fire lines by gravity. We pushed water to a high spot and from there it was distributed. But NO engines in Wilderness. Another time, it was determined that it would take too long to make a fire trail through some tough country inside a Wilderness, so they used primer cord and power to blow a fire line. Explosives are legal in a Wilderness. Go figure. Power saws are forbidden, but blasting is not.

    But nowhere does it allow wheeled vehicles no matter the power source. I don’t think solar panels or a pelton wheel or anything similar like a wind turbine could be used in a Wilderness, so why then, should a bicycle? Or roller skates? In roadless areas, or on closed to vehicular traffic roads I can see that use as reasonable and permitted. But on Wilderness trails, no way. There is a division of church and state, and there is a division of areas where machinery can be used and machinery cannot be used. A bicycle is a machine. Human power moves a leverage system and puts power to a chain that pulls a wheel. Not going to happen in Wilderness. So if you don’t think my opinion passes muster, then look for court cases or sue. That is possibly the only way to gain a sure answer. Take it through the court system. And the sooner the better, because all of Montana proposed Wilderness hangs in the balance.

  114. You are right, but you miss the greater point: Humans don’t own the Earth! We can make all the laws we want, but if we wipe out other species, we won’t survive. Designating land as Wilderness is only ONE way that we have been attempting to reverse that downhill trend. That doesn’t imply that other lands aren’t equally important for the wildlife. Decisions should be made on the basis of science, and in this case, the relevant science is conservation biology.

    People who think that mountain biking is an acceptable use of nature are people who think that wildlife aren’t important. Where do they think that our food comes from? How do pollutants get cleaned out of the air and water? Where do most medicines originate? Why are natural areas so attractive to people? Mountain biking perpetuates the attitude that only humans and their pleasures matter. And not even ALL humans. Mountain bikers put their needs above those of everyone else.

  115. People who think that mountain biking is an acceptable use of nature are people who think that wildlife aren’t important.

    People who make sweeping statements about what’s in other people’s minds as if they’re statements of fact are delusional.

    I’ve stuck with this thread a lot longer than is my normal predilection, as some worthwhile opinions continue to sneak in, but the general willingness to make caricatures and strawmen out of opposing points of view is disappointing. Easy to see why we have unbounded contention and little useful action (let alone progress).

  116. “Mountain biking perpetuates the attitude that only humans and their pleasures matter.”

    Mike, mountain biking is not capable of perpetuating an attitude. It is not a life form. It is an activity. Perhaps some mountain bikers perpetuate that attitude, but then I suspect some percentage of every population might perpetuate that attitude, even some people who choose to ambulate in the wild.

    Stop using poor logic, particularly your straw man and oversimplification arguments.

    You don’t want people riding mountain bikes on trails. We get it. Unfortunately for you, and fortunately for pretty much everyone else, you are not the final decision maker on these matters. And I suspect your particular brand of anti-anythingmountainbikerelated hysteria only further weakens whatever sympathies the general population might have for your arguments.


  117. Well said Corvus. I really want to kudos that last paragraph especially, beautifully “spoken”.

  118. i’d trade cattle out of wilderness for bikes any day.

  119. Several posts argue the relative sizes sub-sets of the outdoor community. A 2008 study is referenced a couple of times. In that Outdoor recreation is covered EXCEPT powersports. Powersports is also a GATEWAY Outdoor activity. Since when is motorcycling, ATV riding, jetsking and snowmobiling not done outdoors. No you worry about MTB vs Backpackers. Both are insignificant tiny groups. Both in decline for number of participants.
    There are more motorized dirt biker riders than back country campers by MILLIONS.
    Too much land has already been closed to motorized recreation. Two grabs this year alone. I don’t mind there being some true wilderness, but I think it has gotten carried away.

    FYI: I am warning you – MTBs y’all need to line up with the powersports folks to keep lands open to all recreation. [Wreakreation, I LOVE THAT ONE] – The Hikers will use your numbers to to help them close dirt bikes/ATVs out and when thats done, you will be next. I know, years ago I worked with people to keep dirt bikes off hiking trails, the hikers were to support our offroaders use of fire roads. Guess where the second set of area closures were.

    Never trust the sanctimonious.

  120. “You don’t want people riding mountain bikes on trails. We get it. ”

    No, you DON’T get it. You continue to ignore the REASONS, and attack the messenger. Of course, mountain bikers ignore the reasons because they can’t refute any of the arguments against mountain biking. I still haven’t heard even ONE good reason to allow bikes in natural areas, although I have been asking this question for 15 years. That’s, ofr course, because there ARE no good reasons. But mountain bikers will never admit that, because they would then have to give up their selfish, destructive sport and (gasp!) WALK.

  121. Oh my gosh Mike, explaining this to you is like talking to a wall. You have absolutely no facts to back up your reasons. They are simply opinions and they are proven WRONG. That is your problem, not everybody else’s for “ignoring” your continued falsehoods. Maybe if you weren’t so clearly spouting personal opinions, you would hold more sway over everybody reading these comments. Thank goodness you don’t. Now you stop ignoring the facts of the situation and get yourself educated on the reality of bikes, bikers, impact, etc. before throwing your voice around. You are only making a fool of yourself.

    I am reminded of a quote from good ol’ honest Abe Lincoln. “its better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Maybe a good motto to adopt.

  122. Two Tired of this Debate

    People who think that mountain biking is an acceptable use of nature are people who think that wildlife aren’t important – WTF? It’s beneath me to comment further.

    The species that DOES need to be wiped out is the sanctimonious hikers and equestrians, or for that matter any user or advocacy group, that think that their chosen method of travel is a higher form of recreation and there for has ordained them to dictate from their bully pulpit. What a bunch of certified-weed-free-horse-poop that is.

    We are talking about the future of access to PUBLIC lands and how they are to be managed and protected including the wild creatures that can it home. If ALL the user groups aren’t at the table to be held accountable and responsible to come up with a solution, how can any one expect outcome other than the gridlock we now have? Atleast one generation of Americans have spent their entire lives wrestling with these issues. Personally, I’d rather be out enjoying the trails and the PUBLIC lands that surround them instead of TALKING about them. My head has enough lumps from that wall.

    Everyone needs to take a step or two toward the center. It won’t kill any of us…

  123. Ted Stroll (off-topic to Corvus)

    Corvus, re the Oxford English Dictionary: you can probably get it online for free. Ordinarily people have to pay for the OED online edition. But a number of library systems have subscribed to it and make it available for their clients. Montana State University might be one of those systems. I suggest asking your reference librarian. It’s possible that he/she will be able to get you free access to it.

  124. As this discussion proves, what a fool Bill Schneider is for thinking giving mountain bikes access to Wilderness would move land protection forward.

    You create more problem than you solve Bill.

    Maybe it’s time to try something else?

    (Or at least it appears to be time if you actually care about advancing land protection, but I don’t know, maybe despite your words you actually care more about bikes than wilderness. One has got to wonder.)

  125. Motor Max –

    Thanks for the heads up.

    The motorized community certainly has the numbers of users to throw weight around but I suggest that you get your house in order before doing so. This dialog is about how do we SHARE our PUBLIC lands and how and where we are ‘entitled’ to recreate. I certainly can empathize with the plight of the motorized folks with all the closures they have suffered but for the most part your own members are your worst enemy.

    Probably the most pivotal item in this (slightly now sidetracked) discussion is how to manage ATV use. Singletrack is the holy grail of mountain biking and it only takes one illegal poach on an ATV to change that experience. Once ‘discovered’ it only takes a few more passes to churn a trail that has existed for decades into something that can’t be ridden or hiked. And that really pisses me off.

    The Wilderness proponents often use the reason for banning bikes from trails is because once you allow bicycles ATVs are guaranteed to follow. Personally, I’m sick of defending a person’s right to ride a bicycle on a trail because of the threat of ATV abuse. Riding ATVs on singletrack is illegal and we cannot manage our forests by the threat of illegal activities. This is an enforcement issue, not a policy issue. So what to do?

    This is not to say that every ATV rider is guilty of inappropriate riding habits, but the ATV abuse is giving everyone on wheels a black eye. I know there is a split within the motorized community over those who ride motorcycles in the backcountry and those who ride ATVs. The singletrack-motorized opportunities are threatened by a number of issues but the number one reason is that they are associated with the destruction caused by ATVs. I understand that the motorized lobby wants it to appear as one big happy family out of convenience and political necessity, but you have to look at the perception of your sport by the general public.

    Many places I ride my bicycle are multiple use and when I encounter motorcycles in the backcountry I find the riders to be respectful, friendly and courteous. Often I see these same riders in the spring with chain saws on their backs to clear my favorite trails of down fall. My helmet off to you guys – thanks. And with a twist of irony I have to thank the motorcyclists who ride on some of the trails down by Big Sky where the commercial horse packers absolutely trash the trails and the motorcycles are the only thing (short of the FS having the BALLS to hold these permits holders accountable for their damage) that is heavy enough to smooth out the trails to make them enjoyable and safe by foot and bicycle.

    That said you can’t expect that your motorcross bike set up for the track is what you should be riding into the backcountry where you are SHARING that experience. If you are LISTENING, you will HEAR that one of the biggest complaints against you is that you can be HEARD coming a mile away. Why not work with the FS to set a maximum decibel level? Trail impact issues – promote less aggressive tires and riding techniques?

    If the motorized wants a place at the table they need to come with something besides just saying NO. If you want mountain bikers and the general public to respect you position give us something responsible, pro-active and educational to work with. ATVs on singletrack will screw the pooch every time. So will loud bikes in the woods.

    Citizens for Balanced Use is offering anonymous $250.00 rewards in the Pipestone area near Butte for anyone caught riding offroad or having ATVs on singletrack. Awesome! This should be a top down, nationwide policy by the motor sports industry for every trail in every forest. Hearing the president of Yamaha or Honda laying down the law to the dealers about what is acceptable behavior and seeing marketing materials promoting some responsible riding instead of just dirt roosting or go anywhere versatility, would be a step in the right direction too. Education and peer pressure will go a long ways. So will hefty fines issued by the law enforcement community.

    The ability is there is resurrect your own impacts and image. Until you folks aggressively police your ranks, promote new quieter technologies and less impactful riding techniques the moniker of wreckationists probably doesn’t miss the mark.

    The ball is your court, what are you going to do?

  126. Around college town Corvallis, Oregon, are a left over vegetative type on steep south slopes called “balds.” Maybe some scattered oak trees, but no conifers and mostly grasses and forbs. Once burned by Indians seasonally to encourage Cats Ear and strawberries, it has lain fallow for a century or more. It is critical habitat for Fender’s blue butterfly, and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, and the plants that sustain the caterpillars of those specific butterflies. Precious, preserved, undeveloped habitat. Unfortunately, most lie on private lands hard against the Oregon State University experimental forest, which is hugely used by recreational hikers and mountain bikers…

    So in their narcissistic self indulgence, you know exactly where the mountain bikers look for speed—–right down the fall line. Consequently, visible for miles, these balds all have an ass crack right down the center of them cleaved in the soil by mountain bike tracks from trespassers on private property. Try to put up a fence and signs, and the fence is torn down and the signs ripped up. Try to put small logs and sticking to stop use of the ever widening tire trench, and the sticks are removed or another parallel trail is broken. Ask them not to use the habitat and they tell you to go f–k yourself, angrily, possessively. It is their god damned right to ride there and you can’t do anything about. Build them a trail that is not eroding your land, put rock on it, and they still use the fall line trail. It is about endorphins, speed, and screw anyone who does not let them do as they damn well please.

    All from real life experience, with real life hero people on bikes. Engineers from Hewlett-Packard, OSU faculty, students, local Doctors. Makes not difference. If you are not taking care of your cardiac health like they are, you are a lesser person, and your landowner rights are to be abridged to further their health and welfare, all for free. It is their right. Their entitlement.

    And that is exactly how they sound, the mountain bikers, on this whole story. Why, oh why, would I think the mindset and sense of entitlement, superiority, will not be there with Wilderness issues? No amount of understanding will keep them from critical habitat for Fender’s blue, Kincaid’s lupine. I do see that now the county in being forced into a habitat protection plan that will surely end up being a cost to the landowner, and mountain bikers will whine at the loss, but will not put a dime into habitat preservation. They have zero credibility with me. I have been with the landowner, heard the cussing, seen the damage to fences, waterbars, signs. I have spent my life in forest products, but I would not give an inch to a mountain biker in any negotiation. They will not obey even the most simple requests from a private landowner on whom they are trespassing. Why would they obey any rules on THEIR land, the public lands?

  127. Around college town Corvallis, Oregon, are a left over vegetative type on steep south slopes called “balds.” Maybe some scattered oak trees, but no conifers and mostly grasses and forbs. Once burned by Indians seasonally to encourage Cats Ear and strawberries, it has lain fallow for a century or more. It is critical habitat for Fender’s blue butterfly, and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, and the plants that sustain the caterpillars of those specific butterflies. Precious, preserved, undeveloped habitat. Unfortunately, most lie on private lands hard against the Oregon State University experimental forest, which is hugely used by recreational hikers and mountain bikers…

    So in their narcissistic self indulgence, you know exactly where the mountain bikers look for speed—–right down the fall line. Consequently, visible for miles, these balds all have an ass crack right down the center of them cleaved in the soil by mountain bike tracks from trespassers on private property. Try to put up a fence and signs, and the fence is torn down and the signs ripped up. Try to put small logs and sticking to stop use of the ever widening tire trench, and the sticks are removed or another parallel trail is broken. Ask them not to use the habitat and they tell you to go f–k yourself, angrily, possessively. It is their god damned right to ride there and you can’t do anything about. Build them a trail that is not eroding your land, put rock on it, and they still use the fall line trail. It is about endorphins, speed, and screw anyone who does not let them do as they damn well please.

    All from real life experience, with real life hero people on bikes. Engineers from Hewlett-Packard, OSU faculty, students, local Doctors. Makes not difference. If you are not taking care of your cardiac health like they are, you are a lesser person, and your landowner rights are to be abridged to further their health and welfare, all for free. It is their right. Their entitlement.

    And that is exactly how they sound, the mountain bikers, on this whole story. Why, oh why, would I think the mindset and sense of entitlement, superiority, will not be there with Wilderness issues? No amount of understanding will keep them from critical habitat for Fender’s blue, Kincaid’s lupine. I do see that now the county in being forced into a habitat protection plan that will surely end up being a cost to the landowner, and mountain bikers will whine at the loss, but will not put a dime into habitat preservation. They have zero credibility with me. I have been with the landowner, heard the cussing, seen the damage to fences, waterbars, signs. I have spent my life in forest products, but I would not give an inch to a mountain biker in any negotiation. They will not obey even the most simple requests from a private landowner on whom they are trespassing. Why would they obey any rules on THEIR land, the public lands?

  128. “I would not give an inch to a mountain biker in any negotiation.”

    Ladies and gentleman, here is our problem. No amount of education, discussion, or debate wil happen as long as there is this mindset out there.

    “They will not obey even the most simple requests from a private landowner on whom they are trespassing. Why would they obey any rules on THEIR land, the public lands?”

    I equate these views with racism and have no respect for anybody who can’t see beyond their own prejudice. Every biker is their own person, making their own decisions based on their own values. But you probably won’t ever see that.

    There are people who break the rules. Period, always will be. It is unfortuneate but we need police, we need military, we need law enforcement. But to say that because one biker does it, they all are incapable of serving anything but themselves sounds a lot like you have pre-judged every person you will ever see on a bicycle. I hope you have never been a juror, or preside over any sort of real judgements that affect anothers life.

    Its your choice. See people for who they are and the values they hold, or be close minded and judgemental based on your preconceived notions.

  129. After my last motorized post, and reading Bearbaits preceding piece, it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that we as mountain bikers have our own issues with poaching, illegally built trails and just plain rude behavior. We as the greater mountain bike community are challenged to manage these issues in a manner that is responsible to the resource and the other users. Again peer pressure and education of what is acceptable and what is at stake is vital for our community to be responsible and accountable members in this dialog, in society and out on the trails. With every pedal stroke we take out on the trail we represent every cyclists who has come before us and every one that will follow. Do us all a favor by being the best example you can be out there. Become involved locally and be part of the solution not the problem.

  130. I usually don’t jump into the comment section like this, but I was so thrilled to get Max Frisson’s comment that I couldn’t stop myself.

    Thanks, Max. You made my point better than I did. You probably didn’t intend to do this, but you emphasized how important it is for hikers and mountain bikers to get on the same page to fight against the well-organized, well-funded (mostly by industry) powersports lobby. Even if has to be, to paraphrase Bob Allen, “the non-motorized community of convenience” everybody interested in protecting roadless land must join in a unified front to keep ATVs from turning single-track trails into “troads.” (I refuse to call something that can accommodate a four-wheeled vehicle a “trail.”)

    Wilderness proponents know that once ATVs create roads in roadless areas, often with the blessing or blind eye of the land-managing agency, that land will never be Wilderness. Every year that we delay permanent protection means less roadless that might qualify as Wilderness, which is why this issue is so vital, so please give it the priority it deserves and join mountain bikers to find a way to prevent it. And mountain bikers, if you want to share the roads with ATVs instead of share the trails with hikers, do your part to keep this impasse going.


  131. Bill, you’ve completely made it up in your own head that (1) mountian bikes have any political power (they don’t) and (2) that by compromising with mountain bikes they would in turn work for protective land protections (they won’t; or rather, I don’t see any evidence that they would, certianly paring up with motorized groups does not give me faith that there is a land ethic to be found there).

  132. Bill, Bob Allen

    Thank you for recognizing the point about motorized use; the same I made several comments ago.

    All quiet recreationists, wilderness advocates and those of us who care about the ecological integrity of our public lands need to stand together in order to protect our Roadless lands from becoming motorized sacrifice zones like the Pipestone or the Pryor Mt. areas.

    For each Roadless land that becomes a motorized mecca, the Wilderness discussion is off the table.

    Also, lets not forget roads. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge has some 5,700 miles of roads, many of which are no longer needed. Some of these roads could be decommissioned and turned into trails, thereby creating more opportunities for quiet users.

    The point is, we do not have to argue over the remaining intact Roadless areas, only a fraction of which are considered for Wilderness (outside NREPA). Rather, we can CREATE new opportunities by restoring, i.e. re-wilding places that offer the experience we all seek, or are just happy to know exist.

    For those Roadless lands now open to off-road vehicles, we have the opportunity to protect these places during Travel Planning, and it would be great to have all mountain bikers as proponents for this goal, as I know many are.

  133. Mike,

    Seriously, we get it. Everyone on here, reading your posts, has taken away a serious nugget of truth. Trust me.

    I suspect you don’t even really care about nature, wilderness, hiking or anything of the sort. I think you just like to make irrational posts on the internet to get a rise out of people.

    Kindly stop.

    Riding bikes on trails is not the boogeyman here.


  134. Cody: You get ONE chance to make a FIRST impression. Even mountain bikers.

    It was not one biker, but several, all different, on different days.

    If I was treated like the landowner was treated, by a person of color, I would be a racist, having earned the title honestly. However, race has nothing to do with the trespass. Arrogance, elitism, entitlement certainly did. People of color are not allowed to trespass, and neither are any others. There is nothing to do with trying to preserve ESA critical habitat that would equate denial of trespass with racism. Pull the race card on someone else, buddy. Equating my not agreeing with you with racism is an indication of your having a piss poor education.

    If you read through the comments, it seems there is a common thread about mountain bikes not being a part of a Wilderness experience…maybe in the mind of the mountain biker, but certainly not for those riding shank’s mare. The proponents of Wilderness made sure DoodleBugs were not allowed. Or Trail Goats. Or Honda 90s. And especially Jeeps. Now that technology and space age materials can be used to construct a mountain bike that will stand up to the use and abuse, that tires are better, and gearing is available, still does not allow a place in Wilderness for transportation based on gears, axels, bearings, chain driven, by strong people. I could make an exception for the paraplegic who uses hand peddles to power a very low geared, slow, tracked vehicle that he “climbed” Mt. Rainier with. He probably is an exception allowed for in the ADA legislation.

    If you don’t want to be denied riding in a roadless area proposed for Wilderness, oppose the designation. Oppose the Wilderness. Speak against the creation of land use that will deny you access and use. That is a pretty simple answer to mountain bikers. Wilderness is not for you. Was never supposed to be, nor will it ever be. So the simple answer is to NOT be in favor of additional Wilderness that will put you off trails you don’t want to be put off of. Duh.

  135. Wheelie of Death

    Dude, I think I have gathered from the tone of this thread that the bicyclists don’t want to be in Wilderness but are offering to help you get some. It will require some of that sharing thing – but that shouldn’t be so scary. Duh.

  136. bearbait,

    I think we are in agreement here – Wheelie of Death, Bob Allen, etc.

    Many of us mountain bikers disagree with Bill’s article. We don’t want mountain bikes in Wilderness. Our reasons may be different – some think it would be an impossible political fight, and therefore a waste of time – some think it is just not appropriate.

    But, we (the royal we?) don’t want land that is currently open to mountain biking to become designated Wilderness under the 1964 Act, and therefore off limits to mountain biking. This doesn’t mean we oppose any new land being designated as such under the Act, but we don’t want to be left out in the cold. Mountain biking is a good, healthy outdoor activity – like backcountry skiing, like rock climbing, like trail running, like hiking.

    There are other land designations available that enable protection of native flora and fauna, maintain a wilderness experience for all, and allow mountain biking. Despite vehement (sometimes less than rational) argumentation, this is possible – and is absolutely necessary.

    I’m not sure all groups are as far from one another as it appears to be.

    There will always be fringe elements to any group – elements that are unwilling (unable!) to budge in their positions. That does not mean that compromise cannot be found. And, as has been said previously in this thread and many others – everyone needs to move a little bit. Dogma and mental rigidity are signs of ignorance.

    I think I’m done on this thread. Looking forward to Bill’s next article so we can all tear into it one more time.


  137. “I equate these views with racism and have no respect for anybody who can’t see beyond their own prejudice. Every biker is their own person, making their own decisions based on their own values.”

    If it were really just a few “bad apples”, it wouldn’t be so bad, but there are literally hundreds of these stories from different parts of the world. It’s not prejudice to generalize, when you are overwhelmed with evidence. That’s science.

    In my experience, scoflaws are the MAJORITY among mountain bikers. In fact, IMBA itself posted an article on its own website describing a scientific study in which 83% of the mountain bikers broke the law. Of course, they removed it, once they realized that the TRUTH made mountain biking look bad. But I kept a copy:

  138. Nice, Cody so equated himself with the victim of racism, and Ted Stroll equated the fight for bikes in wilderness to an African-American becoming president.

    What a joke.

    One of the best things about Wilderness is it is a place where we have decided to put limits on our immense abilities to experience and harness the natural world.

    You guys, man, you guys are just so very weak.

  139. “By Cody, 4-27-09

    Oh my gosh Mike, explaining this to you is like talking to a wall. You have absolutely no facts to back up your reasons. They are simply opinions and they are proven WRONG. That is your problem, not everybody else’s for “ignoring” your continued falsehoods. Maybe if you weren’t so clearly spouting personal opinions, you would hold more sway over everybody reading these comments. Thank goodness you don’t. Now you stop ignoring the facts of the situation and get yourself educated on the reality of bikes, bikers, impact, etc. before throwing your voice around. You are only making a fool of yourself.

    I am reminded of a quote from good ol’ honest Abe Lincoln. “its better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Maybe a good motto to adopt.”

    A complete lack of SPECIFICS is a sure sign of someone who is BLUFFING. My posts ane my website are full of specifics, science, and documentation. Mountain bikers won’t ever talk about any specific “facts”, because then, as they know, they could easily be refuted. But it’s just easier to call someone names, isn’t it, Cody “fool”, Bill “wildernuts” Schneider, etc.? They you won’t have to do any real thinking or communicating. It doesn’t reflect well on New West that they allow such “yellow journalism”.

  140. Two Tired of this Debate

    A big yawn to you both. See ya next week!

  141. CS, Bob, others…

    You’ve pointed out one point that I probably should clarify. I agree that existing Wilderness should be off the table for mountan bikes, but if we are going to get the non-motorized community pulllng the same direction for future Wilderness, we have to re-write the administrative regulations to allow bicycles, and I don’t think there is a way to revise regs just for new designations. Could be wrong about that, so somebody tell me if I am, but I suspect an revision would affect existing areas. If mounain bikers feel strongly about keeping existing Wilderness off the table, then re-writing the regs might not be a viable option, which means we need a new congressionally mandated alternative.


  142. Bill,

    I am all for your idea. I do not need to ride in current wilderness areas and I think the vast majority of cyclists would agree with me. We are concerned about losing existing riding areas to new proposals. My arguements have been that bikes are not damaging to trails and there is no need to demonize them when thinking of preserving the wild. A bike is just a tool, the user is responsible for the proper use of that tool and when used correctly, provides vast amounts of enjoyment and potential to explore. I have gotten fired up over that point and maybe distracted from my original issue. That is that the threat of trail loss is what is causing cyclists to fight the proposals for new wilderness and we will continue to do so. We are not harming the trails we ride and we feel it would unfairly exclude us from places we love.

  143. Bill,

    My off-the-cuff reaction is that it wouldn’t be possible to rewrite the regulations to allow bikes in new Wilderness only. Regulations have to be authorized by a statute, and everyone agrees that the authorization for the no-bikes agency rules comes from the “mechanical transport” prohibition in the Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. § 1133(c)). It’s one size fits all in that statute: either the Act forbids bike-riding or it doesn’t, so the agencies couldn’t write a regulation to pick and choose.

    But you don’t need to change the Wilderness Act of 1964 to address the issue you raise. Each new Wilderness area is created by a separate statute. (See 16 U.S.C. § 1132 note.) A number of these statutes allow for nonconforming uses, some of them wildly nonconforming. They include roads, grazing, dams, low-level military overflights, mining, jet boats, helicopter operations, service roads, structures, commercial operations, and so on. You wouldn’t believe what’s allowed in particular Wilderness areas by statute. Military bombardment is authorized for a future Wilderness area in Puerto Rico! (A compendium of these uses may soon appear on the website.)

    So all that has to happen is for Congress, when it creates new Wilderness areas, to say in the statute for each new such area that bicycling is allowed. It can add a proviso (an unnecessary proviso but helpful to direct agency staff) that this is so notwithstanding any contrary agency regulation. In my opinion, Congress already did this for the Rattlesnake Wilderness in Montana. (See 16 U.S.C. § 460ll.) (Has anyone asked a ranger if it’s OK to ride there? Maybe the staff isn’t aware of the governing statute. It takes precedence over Forest Service regulations.)

    I hope that’s helpful.

  144. I wasn’t going to jump into this fight but after last weekends run in with mountain bikers, I feel compelled to add my two cents. I was hiking with my family in a Montana state park on a desigated hiking trail. The trail brochure made it clear that the priority use for the trail was hiking and a couple of sentences even urged mountain bikers to recognize and respect the fact that their continued use of the trail was dependent upon avoiding conflicts. To make a long story short, we were forced to scurry off the trail several times by groups of mountain bikers. They weren’t necessarily rude. But they were coming down fast on narrow trails with blind curves — conflict with people quietly walking at much slower speeds was inevitable. As my son said, “Dad, this just isn’t any fun.” Clearly this is a trail where biking and hiking is incompatible. But good luck FWP trying to ban mountain bikes. Like knapweed, once a recreational use gets established, its nearly impossible to remove. Later in the weekend we hiked around Pipestone Pass. There ATV use has been well established and is perhaps even appropriate. Why can’t mountain bikers be happy with areas where their impact on both hikers and wildlife will be minimal? To paraphrase Ed Abbey, “we all have a right to be here, but not everyone, everywhere, all at the same time.” Bill, I think that your position on mountain bikers may inadvertantly reduce the number of future Montana hikers and ultimately future Wilderness advocates.

  145. Allan, I’m sorry that happened. I wince when I hear stories like this. Some of the most popular trails (as I gather this one is) may eventually require a divided use arrangement to give everyone a decent experience. Other parks or forests with a history of similar incidents have decided to allow mountain biking on alternate days, so that hikers know if they go on, e.g., an even-numbered day they shouldn’t encounter any cyclists.

    Many other trails get little human use and a divided-use arrangement won’t be necessary. This seems to be particularly true for Wilderness trails. In the Ventana Wilderness of Northern California, I hear that trails are overgrown, choked with poison oak, and dilapidated. They’ve gotten that way because so few people were interested in hiking them. I hear similar stories about other Wilderness areas.

  146. A trail sharing program is needed on popular trails near each city. Actually each district ranger in Montana should take a moment to identify busy trails that may require a time segregated schedule to allow people to have exclusive travel access on certain days. It’s just a modern fact of society, that people will use trails in waves of use. One problem in Bozeman is that people who hike are reluctant to go to the Wilderness trails nearby, and keep overusing certain popular trails near town. Bikers don’t have that option. Some bike riders do spread out across the forest, and are seldom seen. Others are reluctant, similar to the hikers, and are afraid to seek out more distant trails. Front country trail use is quite different from backcountry use.

    On parts of the Continental Divide Trail along the Idaho Montana border, the newly excavated trail is growing in at an alarming rate. The Continental Divide Trail Alliance and it’s volunteers work very hard each year to complete small segments of this tremendous trail. Yet, due to lack of use, it keeps growing over. Last summer I stood in a section of it and couldn’t see the trail at all. I was up to my thighs in weeds. This section was newly built 5 years ago. The signpost had fallen over. People were missing the turn at a nearby junction, and traveling miles in the wrong direction loking for the CDT. Now bicyclists have been prohibited here. The trail potential work force for this place has been reduced by half. We should be working together, clearing trail, spraying weeds, but divisiveness by policies and organizations won’t allow it.

  147. Good point there, Greg,
    Not the first, but on the CDT. Why fund construction of something no one uses?
    Right here we had the Alpine 7 trail closed to dirt bikes and I guess MTB’s because there wasn’t much wheeled use or even much foot traffic, but the justification was POTENTIAL conflict. Bet it weeds over soon. And I really don’t care any more, now that it’s denied to me.
    Back to your first point, perhaps the thing to do is post signs with one simple rule:
    “If You Gripe About Someone Else’s Use Of This SHARED Trail System, Or Get Involved or Cause A Conflict, Then BOTH Of You Are Grounded For At Least One Full Calendar Year. No Exceptions.”

  148. The Oregon ‘collaboration’ was NOT a success, if you are a mountainbiker. We lost access to 57% of the trails we rode AND maintained for over 20 years. Who’s going to work to keep them cleared now? Not the hikers, they were always outnumbered at the countless trail work parties I attended in the Mt Hood area.

    We lost access to over 110 MILES of singletrack trails. There were about 210 we could ride, but no more. We’ll just go somewhere else, like the Tillamook Forest, and spend our time and money there.

    There was a good story in the paper yesterday about water rights, and a few quotes in there explain exactly what happened to mountainbikers in the Mt Hood Wilderness fiasco:

    “People who are well funded have the ability to use the system as it exists to obtain the outcome they’re looking for,” said Rick Colgan, a Hermiston business executive who opposed Oasis.

    “This isn’t about science or biology. This is about politics,” said Bob Hale, a Hermiston farm executive who helped direct Oregon Oasis.

    ‘nuf said………..

  149. Allan: “Dad, this just isn’t any fun.”

    That says it all! Wildlife and other trail users can’t stand being around mountain biking. For good reason! Instead of being able to enjoy nature and each other, they are forced to constantly be alert and ready to jump off the trail to avoid being hit by speeding, out-of-control mountain bikers. (We know that they are out of control, from the huge number of accidents they cause.)

    By the way, just because an area isn’t currently designated as Wilderness, that doesn’t imply that it is fair game for mountain biking or other destructive activities. It is still covered by the Endangered Species Act. And wildlife don’t know anything about Wildlife boundaries. They have the right to live wherever they want to, just as they did for the past 4 billion years before humans came along and wrecked the party. Wildlife MUST be given top priority, because they can’t protect themselves from humans. Once they are gone, humans will be close behind them. Mountain bikers don’t like to talk about wildlife, because they know that their sport is incompatible with the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

    Allowing biking on alternate days is no solution, because it deprives the MAJORITY of its public park for half of the year.

    Likewise, creating mountain-biking-only trails is also no solution, because it either deprives the MAJORITY of their trails, or, if new trails are built, destroys twice the habitat.

    Bottom line: there is only ONE solution: ban bikes (and other vehicles) from natural areas. Then EVERYONE can enjoy and share the trails.

  150. I have an acquaintance with a ranch that has like a 3-4000′ elevation change, all in his private hands. Is there a market for mountain bikers willing to pay a trespass fee to get hauled to the top and ride down? It would be cow trails, ATV roads, water tank access roads, and bushwacking. You would be on your own with some cows, elk, bears, cats, and wolves. Ranches, like anything else, are always looking for a way to gain cash flow.

    If so, how do you charge for something like that. Ski lifts cost at least $50 to over $100 a day. I don’t how much it costs to run a van up a hill all day, but it would take that and fuel and a driver, and bike carriers. Any suggestions? Or is pure capitalism out of the question when it comes to mountain biking?

  151. There is all sorts of lift access mtn biking across the country and it is profitable once a certain scale is reached. If there was a solid bike community in the area, there will be a decent number of downhill guys who may be interested in something this ranch provides, especially if the land owner allows them to build trails. There are people willing to pay for shuttle service if the trails are worth it. He would have to worry about liability and insurance though, if he were charging money. That would most likely negate any potential profits for anything less than large scale.

    Making trails bike only does not deprive anybody of those trails, just get on a bike and ride them. The whole population is served that way 😉

  152. haha I remember Vandeman way back from the Usenet days. Lots of entertaining long winded discussions with that Usenet crossposting. Good to see you still kicking, Mike.

  153. Dave Skinner –

    Why do you advocate ending the wilderness act and public land protection when you work for a commercial national park website?

  154. To the two or three posts that referenced motorized dirt bike NOISE – I do so much agree with you. I actually work in the powersports biz and just the other day I was discussing how ELECTRIC OFF-ROADING is the future for public access powersports recreation. Soundless, non-polluting, they’ll be a whole lot harder to ban.
    FYI: see ZERO Motorcycles, Santa Cruz, CA – it’s almost here now.
    There goes the posters that opposes powersports on QUIET vs NOISY.

    Truthfully I have never ridden an ATV outside of a course, I don’t much care for them personally. I don’t think they mix with single-track users well. I can see how they would ruin a MTB track, but I also think they have their place in the mix. We all have a place in the mix.
    It seems that many feel powersports isn’t part of any plan. That’s just wrong, that’s the real prejudice here.

    What upsets the wheeled recreationalists, human-powered and otherwise, is the large areas and absolute bans. And the take-aways, places like Oregon and others where compromise has lead to MTB and Powersports getting screwed. I know of no powersports enthusiast that says open up everything. Nor any MTBs. We call ALL agree that there are some places worthy of protections.

    There are however WILDERNESS/Hiker types that would ban every wheel, ski, oar, and anything else. One must enter their Church of Nature like primitive man by their thinking.
    Folks, I do think Man owns Planet Earth until some one else lands and takes it away! You ought to remember that the dirt in the PUBLIC PARKS is property of ALL Americans. When you start counting numbers of supporters y’all should reflect on the fact that Jeeps, ATVs, Dirt Bikes and old farts in 5-ton RVs outnumber backcountry hard core campers somewhere around 232 to 1 [made-up stats, but sure sounds good]. When the Wilderness protection becomes too restrictive the smaller group is going to loose. Better to just try to get along.

    And as an aside, I must also confess to extensive backpacking experience, boy scout as a kid, from 1971 to 1980, I was a 4-season camper. I was an REI member when there was only 1 location. I’ve been up and down the Appalachian Trail, to the 3 Sisters in Oregon, all over Colorado, Yellowstone, Yosemite. A lot of that time I went to trailheads on a street motorcycle. Meet, later married a non-camping woman in 1980, she sleep in a tent once, about 100 yards from a parking lot and that was that. I messed around with MTBs in the 90s, just wasn’t the fun of a dirt bike. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 12.

    Yes I am Motor Max but I am willing to accommodate, within reason, ALL public land users. Are you? My earlier point was on alliances and it still stands, MTB users will be better served by cooperation with powersports than with the Hikers and the posts here prove that.

    Friend of mine said back in the 70s that if we allowed the Federal Gov’t to push states to implement mandatory mc helmet laws that mandatory seatbelt laws would be next.
    Same thing, sure gang up on the BIKERS now, but then see who’s next.

    It’s all about VALUES and my values are not the same as some of yours.

  155. I like your motives behind these ideas, but as a mountain biker and Wilderness user I cannot support allowing mountain bikes in Wilderness areas. Wilderness was created to allow certain areas to be FREE from mechanized travel and that includes bikes. The biggest problem I have with allowing mountain bikes on Wilderness area trails is that bikes can cover a very large distance over a very short time compared to other means of wilderness travel. This will greatly diminish the remoteness and increase resource degredation. Areas that now take several days to hike to, could only take a day to bike to. This would greatly increase the amount of use in Wilderness areas and greatly diminish solitude. I believe that Wilderness and mountain bikes are incompatible. I will however support alternative designations to areas where support can not be won for Wilderness designation and are currently widely used by mnt. bikers. These alternative designations could Special Protection Areas, National Recreation Area’s, or your idea of “wilderness lite”. The Wilderness Act In my opinion would be waterdown by allowing any kind of mechanized travel and that includes mountain bikes. If this would be allowed it would set an awful precedent that we as wilderness users would be fighting against for many years to come. Thanks, I hope to keep the dialogue going.
    Nick Clarke
    Student- natural resources management
    Colorado State University

    “Bottom line: there is only ONE solution: ban bikes (and other vehicles) from natural areas. Then EVERYONE can enjoy and share the trails.”

    So wrong, so very, very wrong…..
    It’s only EVERYONE when every is designated as those that share your limited perspective on the exclusively correct manner in which to “enjoy” the outdoors. Anti-wheel bigot.

    That’s the problem. Absolutely NO ACCOMMODATING from Mike. OK, I don’t mind scaring a deer or two, I don’t kill ’em. Wildlife is nice, I don’t want to kill off any species today, but Man, not some snail rules the planet. I am perfectly OK with using MY HOME WORLD for my enjoyment. I am just not interested in slowly plodding to the top of whatever. Been there, done that, gone beyond it. I enjoy the challenge of off roading to interesting destinations, so do MILLIONS of nobodys in your equation.

    MTBs see Mike, see Trails, can you spell CLOSED?

  157. Wheelie of Death

    Motor Max,

    Thanks for weighing back in. Your moderate tone is appreciated. Electric ‘motorcycles’ are certainly an interesting prospect on many fronts. The quiet user argument goes out the window.

    What to do with the ATVs remains the 10 million acre question. They absolutely have a place in the mix but where is that? Obviously trying to regulate them into extinction won’t work nor will relegating them to a small corner somewhere in the forest that no one ‘cares’ about.

    The ATV users need to be brought into the process and held accountable. In Montana we just lost an opportunity for a important step toward that accountability when a proposal that would require all ATVs to have state issued license plates got shot down during the legislative session. If you can’t put your name and reputation on your ‘vehicle’, you shouldn’t be out there on it. A license plate would put a big crimp in the veil of anonymous destruction. Step up and be held accountable for your behavior. This licensing should be promoted and supported by the motor sports industry not killed by flexing their lobbying muscles. Education and peer pressure…

    So here’s a random thought. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership Strategy is a Wilderness proposal combined with a very limited economic development plan based on logging and restorative forestry across the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest in Southwest Montana. This ‘partnership’ did not include any user groups in this plan, just logs for the mills in exchange for 573,000 of Wilderness in 16 areas – basically all the ‘good’ stuff. The plan certainly sucks for bicycle access to important trails where no concessions were given and the motorized community is howling over the plan as well.

    Howabout when the bulldozers and skidders are still in the woods doing the sanctioned ‘Partnership’ logging and restoring the forest (doing so with a guarantee to be free of the frivolous lawsuits that hog tie our forest product companies and compromise the forest health) that the exit plan for a few locations is to make a Disneyland for ATVs. Build a ride center that caters to the ATV experience; build world class challenging and sustainable ATV trails that will attract riders from around the country. We’ve just logged the area; why not let the Phoenix rise out of that landscape that will serve a need. Build it and they will come? It will take the heat off the other lands and singletrack we are fighting to protect.

    It certainly will be hotly debated where these ‘sacrifice’ zones should be. Maybe we should be asking some of the small economically depressed towns across southwest Montana if they would be willing to support such a ride center in their area.

    Just a thought…

  158. I have heard that thought before from others. Its a good one.

    I think ATV areas should be in currently roaded areas, not on classic singletrack or roadless areas. ATV use should only be in areas designated for motorized use, plus random exceptions for ranchers to manage their herds.

  159. Nick from Colorado State summed up my thoughts on Bill’s proposal quite well. Mountain Bikes in Wilderness would change many now remote places for the worse. Picture Beartrap Canyon on the Madison River with mountain bikes added. It would be a whole different experience than the quiet place it is now. And Nick is correct on the distance mountain bikers can cover. Forty miles a day of difficult trail is not unusual for skilled, fit mountain bikers. That means crossing pretty much any Wilderness area in the lower 48 in a day.

    I don’t think Wild Bill has given enough consideration to the many ways mountain bikes are used. Some people use them as high-speed, downhill thrill machines. I am guilty of this myself, though my skill, equipment and bravado limit me to moderate downhill runs. But when a mountain biker is riding downhill fast, there is little difference between him or her and a person on a motorcycle, except the noise factor. In some ways it is worse, since mountain bikers are fairly quiet and people nor animals may not hear them coming.

    I am sure willing to entertain the idea of a Wilderness Lite as a new designation, but not for existing Wilderness areas.

  160. Recent posts by Ted Stroll, and this one by Randall continue to add value to this hoary thread.

    The distance a bicyclist can cover in a day is an interesting factor. No one’s ever brought it up as a reason to exclude horseback riding of course… so it seems the decision about whether or not you want a certain type of conveyance remains.

    The point about each Wilderness area having its own rules and exceptions is well-taken also. Politics is the art of compromise. I think it sucks that there are jet boats on the Salmon river in the Frank Church Wilderness (for example), but if there weren’t we might not have the Wilderness designation at all.

    And since cherrystems seem to be part of most any deal going forward, I’d feel a lot better about bike-based ones than gasoline-flavored cherries. Opportunities to promote mixed-mode recreation: when in hand a cherry, make cherry pie.

  161. So how is that different than having the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Area with river blocking, fish blocking dams? Church was a supplicant to the Idaho Power Company. Live with it.

  162. Changing the designation on Wilderness areas will not destroy nor detract from the backcountry experience in anyway. Many of these trails would be very difficult to ride, both from a technical standpoint but also the high level of aerobic endurance required. You are not going to get armies of mountain bikers in the back country wilderness areas. You will get a larger number of wilderness advocates that will help protect and monitor backcountry areas from motorized poaching. Opening up wilderness areas to mountain bikers is fair; we don’t have motors. We don’t have iron horseshoes on 1300 lbs stock animals. We are not going to tear up the trail. Mountain bikers want the same backcountry experience hikers and horse packers want. Our method of moving on trails is just different.

  163. Max Frisson: “the dirt in the PUBLIC PARKS is property of ALL Americans”. So’s the White House lawn, but that doesn’t mean that it should be open to every use that someone can think up. The majority of the public doesn’t want bikes in Wilderness (or wilderness), has said so in the Wilderness Act, and has absolutely no good reason to change.

    Trau: “We are not going to tear up the trail. Mountain bikers want the same backcountry experience hikers and horse packers want.” Your nose is growing. I think that the reason that mountain bikers lie so much is that they KNOW that their selfish, destructive sport can’t be justified by any facts or logic — only by lying. Luckily, saner heads prevailed when the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act were written.

  164. Mike Vandeman,
    I respect your passion and willingness to engage however I am dissapointed with your rash thinking. I may agree with your core beliefs, but you are approaching this the wrong way. I challenge you to use constructive agruments or say nothing at all. This kind of talk is getting us nowhere, and nowhere fast. I don’t mean to single you out because you are by no means acting any different than half the people in this blog, but I think your passion could be used in a very positive way. This is a debate that requires understanding of ALL sides.Just a thought. Thanks.

  165. Nick, what is “rash”? I just tell the truth. I know that mountain bikers don’t like that, but that’s how I was raised, and I would much rather hear the truth, than lies. Wouldn’t you? Mountain bikers want to be able to lie and have no one point it out. Isn’t that a bit naive?

  166. Well Mike the problem I have is that you are grouping all mountain bikers together. I am a mountain biker, but I don’t think I fit your label at all. My point is we should be careful with describing preconceived notions and bad experiences as “truth”. We both care about the integrity of Wilderness greatly and we have to try not to alienate ourselves. Thanks Mike

  167. from Vandeman
    “The majority of the public doesn’t want bikes in Wilderness (or wilderness), has said so in the Wilderness Act, and has absolutely no good reason to change.”

    Oh Yeah? The MAJORITY? I seriously doubt a majority of Americans have any idea the size of the current land grabs in progress or what Wilderness even means. I bet if I asked 1000 citizens on the street “Are bicycles allowed in Wilderness areas?” 75% would say they were. People have no idea and most Americans could really not care less. Read that Outdoor Recreation survey. If 2% of Americans Backcountry camp that would be a liberal number.
    I do think there are places where the wheel can be banned, places that nobody could ride to but an area the size of Indiana in one act is too radical. Most people to NOT SHARE you perspective on appreciation of the outdoors and you elitist attitude toward approved behaviors in the national parks.

    From CYCLE NEWS:
    House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on May 5 to consider a bill that would designate more than 24 million acres of public lands in western states as Wilderness or Wilderness Preservation System land. If approved by the full Congress, the measure would close off more than 24 million acres in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming to off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders. [inc. MTB]
    …there are other bills on the legislative horizon on Capitol Hill that would close even more public land to responsible riding. They include:
    * Senate Bill 799 — America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act — and its companion measure, H. R. 1925, would designate some 9.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Utah as Wilderness.
    * Senate Bill 721 and H.R. 1769 would add 22,000 acres to the 394,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in Washington State.

    MTBs, motorcyclists, ATV riders and others must let their lawmakers know that they enjoy WHEELED recreation, and that we have a right to do so responsibly on America’s public lands. What these actions do and what you advocate Mike is take aways from existing riding areas and making the outdoors the exclusive retreat for those that share your position.
    I know thousands of motorcyclists are email and writing representatives to stop this radical action. I know my two senators will oppose because I have gotten letters from them after I wrote.

    TO NICK from CSU – Yes, I DO expect those that want solitude to have to go farther and make bigger efforts.

    Right now the AMA, Blue Ribbon Coalition and others will work with Hikers and MTB to achieve a shared use plan. You stick all ATV and MTBS in dull locations without any challenge and variety and they will ride illegally.

    There won’t be a motocross track on the South Lawn at the White until ” Bubba” Stewart is elected president 2032. But I’m cool with waiting.


  168. Nick: “Well Mike the problem I have is that you are grouping all mountain bikers together.”

    As I pointed out, a scientific study found that 83% of mountain bikers break the law (in that case, by ignoring a sign and riding through a creek instead of using the bridge). Generalizing is what science is all about. Everyone knows that there may be exceptions, but that doesn’t change the general rule.

    Max Frisson: “MTBs, motorcyclists, ATV riders and others must let their lawmakers know that they enjoy WHEELED recreation, and that we have a right to do so responsibly on America’s public lands.”

    There is no such right. The public has the right to vote to create Wilderness areas in order to protect the wildlife, which cannot protect themselves from humans and their vehicles (or for any other reason). Nor is there a right to mountain bike, which was decided in federal court in 1994:

    All you guys are doing is complaining that the MAJORITY is controlling things. But isn’t that the nature of a democracy?! If you want a MINORITY to run everything, I can suggest a few countries where you will be more comfortable, such as North Korea….

  169. The majority is NOT controlling this, a vocal minority is pushing this radical land closures. That’s the complaint. If most Americans knew what Wilderness restriction were you would be big losers on this.

    Maybe I should write Glenn Beck?

    gotta work now, more tomorrow.


  170. Question for you Mike V…

    You state many times that it is a fact that bikers are damaging the environment and are law breakers. You alude to a scientific study that states that 83% of mtn bikers are law breakers. I was wondering if you had any links to the data that supports these comments. I am interested in reading them as they are absolute opposites of my experience and facts that I have read.

    I build and maintain a lot of trails for multi use and can tell you that a properly built, sustainable trail is not damaged any more by riding than by hiking, at least in my soil composition areas. Skidding can be a problem but if a trail is built correctly, should only be an issue with a small minority of people who just need educating on proper braking technique.

    Also, myself and everybody I ride with would much rather take a bridge over a stream than ride through it. I was kind of shocked by your example as creek crossings wreak havoc on bicycle drivetrains and are usually only ridden grudgingly. Most don’t really enjoy frequent maintenance and avoid situations that force them to do it.

  171. While you’re at it, how about citing all those public restrooms along the way that are nothing but excuses for toilet sex???

    Honestly, people (at least the gay ones) can’t seem to behave themselves when off in the wilderness.

    Okay – but why do I have to be subject to offers of sex from men I have no interest in???

  172. Max,

    It’s ALWAYS a vocal minority that get things done. Pick an issue and you will find the vast majority of the Amrican public is uninvolved and could care less.

    That said, Wilderness is not a playground. It is designed to preserve some small remnants of the landscape in a primitive, undeveloped state. The US will have over 300 million people before long, and the land keeps getting developed – paved over, crushed for malls and offices and houses and freeways. Protected land, like Wilderness, is more valuable, and necessary, every minute. We probably have as much paved land in the US as we do protected Wilderness!

    Humanity, and the planet, need wild places that are basically left alone, where nature operates according to age old rules. Humans may think we are rulers of the planet, but natural law dictates what we can and cannot do, and whether we will survive in the long run.

    As much as I love bicycles, they are toys when taken in the backcountry. In town, they are transportation. In the woods, they are (very fun) toys. Opening our Wilderness areas to bicycles would be a big step toward downgrading the land from a cathedral to a playground.

  173. For Mike V:
    Labeling all mountain bikers as liars is disingenuous, and may be construed as mildly antagonistic. This type of comment makes an open dialogue about relevant issues very difficult. Also, citing a scientific study about mountain bikers tearing up trails and then failing to post the authors and a link to the study makes me wonder about the validity of your comment. Science is not about generalizations; it is about accurate data collection and concise conclusions based on said data. I would hazard a guess that you have never ridden a mountain bike on a single track trail. We need to have you hop on a trail bike and take a spin through the woods. I have an extra bike you could use. However, you may not want to delay taking me up on my offer. In the near future there may not be any trails left to ride.

  174. As Bill has reminded us –the freedom to head into the mountains for a quiet ride or walk is a big part of what makes living in Montana special.

    Its also important to understand that Montana wilderness’s heritage is far from complete Only 3.7% of Montana is designated wilderness today –less than most western states — including neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming. At the same time –places like Bozeman, Missoula, and Helena are growing very rapidly.

    Many people, myself included, enjoy a variety of quiet recreational pursuits –including mountain biking. Its a fact that most bicyclists also hike and ski, so as enthused as we get about riding single track we dont have to take wheels everywhere. Wilderness is a place where we leave wheels behind.

    A few weeks ago I was at the annual meeting of Montana Back Country Horsemen, two nights ago the Helena Bicycle Club. Both groups represent quiet recreationists. Both groups support wilderness and quiet trails.

    Its not necessary or wise to amend the wilderness act — I cant think of ANY credible conservation group that wants to change the wilderness act — nor does IMBA. However it may be advisable to blend wilderness with nonmotorized designations –particularly on public landscapes where quiet trails can connect to our communities –such as Continental Divide near Butte or Helena’s South Hills .

    readers want to check out an example of this — I suggest you look at the Montana High Divide Trails agreement .
    Over the course of two years, Montana bicyclists, horseback riders, hikers, hunters and conservationists forged a new unifying vision for quiet mountain trails and wilderness known as Montana High Divide Trails.

    Montana High Divide Trails is the vision of a nine southwest Montana outdoor groups pledged to work cooperatively to expand trails and conserve wild country along 240 miles of Montana’s rugged Continental Divide.

    ”¢ Mountain bike riders will enjoy over 400 miles of quiet single-track trails in some of Montana’s most scenic mountain lands, including 202 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail- America’s longest quiet trail.

    Ӣ Connecting trails link open space, parks, cities and towns on both sides of the Divide giving bicyclists, horseback riders, hikers and other recreationists ready access to quiet trails linked to the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

    ”¢ Traditional wilderness pack trails will provide horsemen and women wide ranging opportunities to explore Montana’s vast wild lands along the backbone of the Rockies.

    ”¢ Some of Montana’s finest backcountry and wilderness -where grizzly bears, wolverine, mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, moose and lynx still roam- will be fully protected.

    Check out YOU Tube for vid of last september’s cooperative trail project on the Continental Divide:

    What he neglected to mention ver the course of two years, Montana bicyclists, horseback riders, hikers, hunters and conservationists forged a new unifying vision for quiet mountain trails and wilderness known as Montana High Divide Trails.

    Montana High Divide Trails is the vision of a nine southwest Montana outdoor groups pledged to work cooperatively to expand trails and conserve wild country along 240 miles of Montana’s rugged Continental Divide.

  175. John Gatchell, I see that you’re the conservation director of the Montana Wilderness Association. Could you explain to this audience why the Montana Wilderness Association has sued the Forest Service to block the agency’s plan for mountain biking in Wilderness Study Areas in Montana, i.e., areas that might become Wilderness someday? And could you explain why the lawsuit lumps mountain biking in with motorized recreation? That lawsuit hardly seems to be the vehicle for bringing about the harmoniousness your comment alludes to. Or am I mischaracterizing the aims of your lawsuit? (For everyone’s information, go to: and search for “bik” within the pdf.)

  176. Questions come to mind as I follow this lively thread.

    What evidence do we have that a coalition of hikers and bikers would be enough to overcome the logging, mining, oil-gas industries’ opposition to being excluded even from Wilderness Lite? Alternatively put, is the barrier to protection of roadless lands really just a matter of erasing or smoothing the conflict between hikers and bikers?

    And do bikers want to block EVERY new acre of designation for wilderness? At the same time, do hikers want to block biker use of EVERY acre of roadless but undesignated areas? Wrap up the two questions into one, and I find myself asking if the dichotomy is as huge as it seems to me.

    It seems to me, after decades of hiking, driving, motorcycling, and horseback riding in the mountains (of Montana) that even the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act leaves millions upon millions of acres open to motorized and mountain bike use. Now, my own biking is limited to urban settings, but if I wanted to ride my bike in the mountains, I know that I’d have biking opportunity galore even if somebody came along with wilderness designation twice as inclusive as NREPA.

  177. Lance, a response to your question.

    I am an avid mountain biker and have no need to go and ride in existing wilderness areas. My concern is with losing existing trail systems to new wilderness designations. It would be a loss to those that love to ride in these remote areas we have historically enjoyed. If it has been open to cycling in the past, work should be done to keep continued access for that group or they are going oppose the new proposition. That is where the conflict really comes from.

  178. Cody, you say “I am an avid mountain biker and have no need to go and ride in existing wilderness areas. My concern is with losing existing trail systems to new wilderness designations.”

    Yes, you and others have stressed that point, and I think most of us hear it. So I gotta ask: How many acres of existing trail systems are at stake for you? Would bikers lose everything to new designations under the Act?

  179. The latest proposal was around 300,000 acres for the Boulder White Clouds area. The original was over half a million acres. Under the current proposal, bikes would be completely excluded from these lands.

    My views are that we are not damaging the land and have the same appreciation of and desire to protect as anybody hiking it would. It is a lot of pristine trail to lose out on. I asked for material to back up Mike V. on his stance that bikes are destructive, I will provide some that say they are no more so than hiking.

    First is off IMBA site but it was originally from the Appalachian Mountain Club with permission to redistribute:

    And this one from the National Trails Training Partnership:

    What reason could anybody possibly have for kicking bikes out of these backcountry areas?

  180. “You alude to a scientific study that states that 83% of mtn bikers are law breakers.” As to erosion, and impacts on wildlife, see What you forget is that (1) mountain bike tires are designed to rip up the soil, (2) mountain bikers travel several times as far and as fast as hikers. Even if they did the same damage PER FOOT (unlikely), mountain bikers would still do several times as much damage as a hiker, due to travelling several times as far! Mountain bikers almost always ignore this fact.

    “Labeling all mountain bikers as liars is disingenuous”. I never said that, but in my experience most of them lie. A lot! The reason is obvious: there is no other way to justify mountain biking. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for their claim that they do no more damage than hikers. They know that, but they keep repeating the claim anyway.

    As to mountain biking in non-Wilderness roadless areas, why should THAT wildlife receive any less protection than the wildlife that happen to live in Wilderness areas? There is no good reason for giving any natural area insufficient protection to preserve all of its species.

  181. wheelie of Death

    I thought we already solved this issue Mike, give ’em helmets.

  182. two Tired of this Debate

    If the Montana Wilderness Association was sincere about their own propaganda concerning the High Divide Trails Agreement, they wouldn’t be screwing cyclists in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership Strategy…

  183. I just read the two articles supplied by Mike V. Tell me, any others who have read it, do they soud at all scientific to you? My opinion, and I admit I had trouble reading them with an open mind with all the opinion thrown in but really did try, is that they were completely biased and unscientific at all. That and the fact that both links were from the same source led me to discount them as propoganda. “Bikers who skidded (a normal occurrence) were not compared with hikers”, purely opinion. A vast majority of riders take great pride in braking technique and very rarely skid. Like in a car, skidding gives you less braking traction and less control and is frowned upon by all. Peer pressure has done wonders for minimizing this sloppy riding behavior.
    “Bikes create V-shaped ruts in trails” Simply not true. I have never seen a V-shaped rut caused by anything but rain. Bike tires cause less pressure on the trail per square inch than a laden hiker. The whole article is just an opinion summary of studies the author has read with no facts to back them up. Some things make sense, like the fact that bikes travel farther but only compared to hikers. What about horses? Those easily equal bikes and cause vast more amounts of trail damage? If you really want to protect the wilderness, ban all traffic uses and let the trails grow over. Any thing less than that just seems hypocritical to me.

    Now, like I said, I am a bit biased so I would like to hear what others might say. Mike is also a bit biased so maybe there are some moderates who can chime in with their outlook on the reading material.

  184. just found this…
    “Dead plants and lost genetic diversity do not “recover” (see Vandeman, 2001).”

    Is this the same Vandeman as is posting?

  185. Greg Beardslee

    I have to agree with Gatch. The High Divide is fairly well put together, although I have concerns about the lack of motorized users in the mix. At some time their exclusion may backfire. I commend Gatch and the MWA about the detail of using a National Protection Area for Lost Creek near Anaconda.

    Once before I knew that detail, I publically read an IMBA letter that denounced their Lost Creek scheme and other items at the Courthouse in Anaconda. For that I apologize.

    Wild Bill, the MWA recognizes the NPA designation!

    The most important aspect of the High Divide Agreement that can be carried into talks concerning the rest (southern and western) part of the Beaverhead Deerlodge is COOPERATION. Plus lets throw in the terms, Respect, Tradition, Stewardship, and the vague one – Montana Values.

    It has been previously mentioned that bicyclists must make the next move. The Montana Mountain Bike Alliance has, and is waiting for something back from the MWA. We gave them a packet containing a detailed list of what we need for access in the Beaverhead Deerlodge N.F. They know our secrets, our Forest Planning Comments, and they also know how little the adjustments would be to satisfy us. We are waiting now for them to partner in fair negotiations.

    To have a transparent process, the Mountain Bike Alliance gave the same packet to the staffs of Tester, Baucus, and Rehberg. Plus to the county commissions of Beaverhead and Madison.

    “If the Montana Wilderness Association was sincere about their own propaganda concerning the High Divide Trails Agreement, they wouldn’t be screwing cyclists in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership Strategy”

    Harsh words from Two Tired. Time will tell if they are true. We don’t feel good about what is happening up till now in the B-D. Every time the High Divide is mentioned it really does contrast with the cold shoulder bicyclists have gotten when compared to the rest of the Beaverhead Deerlodge Partnership Strategy. We have had our sleeves rolled up for quite a while now, and we’re not afraid of the hard work required to find solutions. Let’s go Gatch and get er done!

    Not every advocacy effort happens on New West. But thanks Bill for bringing this important issue to the public.

  186. Bill Schneider

    FYI, Greg and others, I agree that the Montana High Divide Trails agreement is a good example of how it can and should be done. I wrote a column back in September 2007 applauding the agreement. Here’s the link.

    Creating Quiet Trails Doesn’t Need to be Noisy


  187. Cody
    If I understand this controversy at all correctly, it seems that one of bikers’ basic concerns is that they may lose access to lands/trails they’re already losing.

    In answering one of my questions, you say,”The latest proposal was around 300,000 acres for the Boulder White Clouds area. The original was over half a million acres. Under the current proposal, bikes would be completely excluded from these lands.”

    Are you saying that the entire half million acres, including the 300,000 proposed for designation, were (already) established as biking trails? And do you or anyone have data on how many trails have become used by bikers in the past few years, and where those trails are located?

  188. Oops! Apologies for the typo when I said that bikers are concerned about losing access that they’re “already losing.” Sheesh. I meant to say “already using.”

    So let me repeat: in the case of the proposed 300,000 acres in the Boulder White Clouds area, had bikers already established use of all 300,000 acres?

  189. I don’t have data on percentage of acreage is used by bikes, sorry. The area in questions starts about 40 miles north of Sun Valley and extends to the Sawtooth Wilderness area. It is not “heavily” used as it is pretty rugged terrain and not for your casual cyclist. But Sun Valley is a mecca for mountain bikers and draws many into region. The trails are not for your beginner cyclist so don’t get the use from the masses. But those who go out there are very passionate about the area.

    I, personally, know of a solid 100 miles of trails that myself or my friends travel out to ride. That is purely a personal number as I surely do not know of all there is to ride out there. There are others more vocal and knowledgeable on the area than myself that I ride with. I am just the one who read and commented here.

  190. For Mike V,
    Mike I read the study you cited in your argument. You wrote the study yourself. Scientifically, that is a direct conflict of interest. The articles you cite in your study have been written by you. I was expecting a throughly prepared, independent study in a peer reviewed journal. Not some Microsoft Word document you threw together. If you are going to cite a scientific study to support your arguments please do it correctly and do not waste our time citing biased articles you have written in your spare time. I don’t know where you received your PhD, but where I’m from, this is completely unacceptable. Junk science has no place in this discussion.

  191. IN Region 6, Wilderness use itself is limited entry. On Wild and Scenic rivers, the permit system is a draw with reserved numbers for both do-it-yourself people, and outfitters. I believe I have heard numbers like a 5 year wait on some rivers like the Rogue.

    Wilderness regs there allow x number of entries at any one given time a Wilderness or from particular access points. There must be some sort of sign up, trail registry, to control numbers at any given time. So if the non mechanized element of Wilderness use is limited, and by permit, what impetus should there be to create new Wilderness, only for subscription to entry be limited in the future as Wilderness managers determine what and who should be there on any given day? Add to that Wildland Fire Use evacuations, and Wilderness use is reduced further. All of which begs the question of mechanized use putting people into the interior faster but perhaps shorter periods of time. It is not whether any mountain bike use is allowed, but then the question of how many limits on there use as to by who and when. Will the USFS have a mountain bike mounted Hot Shot fire crew? Fast access to interior fires, you know. The USFS trail ranger on his trusty government issue Huffy. And here comes trail mainenance pulling the little mountain bike Fresno smoothing the trail. Good for the Gander is good for the Goose. Will they be equipped with little thumb operated bells to warm of their approach and to scare off bears? Or an OSHA full body protection cage? Fire extinguisher, axe, and shovel?

    The USFS is about conflict resolution. They spend, literally, years sitting in their compounds holding hands and promising not to irritate one another about anything. They have grand and great operational plans if someone working there gets offended by another. Their entire focus has been on social engineering for the last 30 years, and this mountain bike deal sounds like conflict to me. Their way of dealing with it will be a total and outright ban unless Congress decrees otherwise in any particular Wilderness legislation. You must remember that the public is not particularly welcome on sacred public lands, as the public usually has some sort of consumptive, wrongful impact on these lands that have never seen humans until European descended hiking clubs invaded the wild lands. There we no trails, and the USFS had build them all. The trail builders were the first to ever visit and stay overnight in designated wild lands. Pristine. Never offended by human activity. And I have some beach front property to sell in Eastern Montana.

    If you read what some historians say about the trail system Native Americans had, and used, the deal about trails being “ruined” by livestock is such a crock as to be laughable. I read an account of Nez Perce livestock holdings, a census as it were, for over 20 years until they got squeezed by miners, and the shooting began. The livestock numbers were pretty stable, the number of horses, mules and cattle pretty much around 25,000 head, until one year, and they dropped to around 12,000 head. The notation was that on the annual buffalo hunt the Crow nation had pilfered a substantial number of horses, if for no other reason than that is what the Crow people did and were proudest of. And the question in my mind, of course, is how many of those horses went back and forth over Lolo Pass each year, and beyond, and what did the trail look like they followed. They were driving a large herd of horses with them anywhere they went. Without USFS permission. On precious trails, those horses pooping exotic seeds, weeds in their hair, hooves grinding down the terra firma to fine sediment erosion and damaging the salmon streams. Building fires every night and not properly putting them out. And most likely starting fires to burn out the underbrush so that there would be new grass when they returned in the early fall. The whole of their progression through the wildlands was one of consumptive use and human landscape vegetation management. Until, of course, the 1964 Wilderness Act. And then all activity before that date was erased.

    I have no idea of the real “damage” such a contingent of animals and people had on their environment, but it was not benign according to today’s rules. The Nez Perce were just doing what they had done for a long time, and it was about their survival, their protein intake, their raw materials for homes, clothing, tools, transportation. And it was only when they were required to get permits that things went henhouse. Only when the regulations and restricted travel and use began that things went south. When the regulators came to protect the resources. Or take them, as our Govt was accustomed to doing, the rules changed. It still works that way today. (The White House running General Motors to keep the largest “private” health provider in business?)

    So the real issue for mountain bikers, and most other wildland users, is how restrictive do you want the rules to be? What level of Govt. “protection” is needed? The purpose for Wilderness is to put land in suspended animation, and preserve it in one state forever. Humans are allowed, or not, depending on the nature of the protection scheme. It would seem to me that mountain bikers ought to sing to the heavens that they can still ride on public lands, because the element in control for the last two decades is anti-people, (unless, of course, people are “wilderness friendly” like THEY are), and mountain bikes just don’t measure up on the purity scale. Status quo is the best mountain bikers will ever do, as to having access to rides. Any and all regulatory process, rule making, land use designations will take from that inventory of available land on which to ride. The land use rules are like the teeth on a python—all point to the gut—are omni-directional—one way to the digestible end. And the squeeze has never been off. The squeeze to put more land aside for no use is never turned off. The pressure on land managers, the public process, never lessens. The result is always the same: less public access and more regulation, and for sure, it is going to be disfigured and re-ordered by stand removal fire, at which time no mountain bikes will be able to use the land because it will need time to heal. You can’t mug the burn victim. Gaia knows best. Jim Jones knows best. Our jobs are to be good followers. Obama knows best. Be a good follower. Do as we say. We know best. Now go back to sleep. Writers from Saturday Night Live are now going to write our laws. We are just players in a great comedy skit. The joke is us, on us, and we are doing it knowingly. Surrender. That is our lot in life. Quit struggling. Our government knows what is best for us.

  192. The main issue for me is losing freedom to ride trails. I don’t want my 5 year old son to lose the opportunities I have had. The more trails that get closed off, the less room he has to explore the wild places. I realize the Wilderness areas will probably never open up to mountain bikers. I also realize that people view these areas as ‘cathedrals’. But what good is a church if you restrict access in? I don’t want to open up every wilderness area to mountain bikes. Really, who wants to ride a mountain bike in the Bob? Those horse pack ruts would be murder on a bike. I would like to see access open up on parts of the Bitteroot. Open up access on Gates of the Mountains. Places that have light traffic and user conflicts will be minimized. Do it on a 1 year trial basis to scientifically measure the impact of mountain bikes in these areas. I’m not suggesting access to all Wilderness areas. Just selective areas with low traffic that could easily allow mountain bike travel. Even if you are not an avid mountain biker, weighing on this issue should be important; anything that takes away access on public land affects all American and our children. The laws we craft now will affect their future freedoms.

  193. I’m having a hard time getting a handle on the extent and depth of conflict between wilderness designation and bicycle use. Generally, there seems to be agreement — amongst bikers — that it’s OK to leave the already-designated Wilderness areas off limits, but that new designations would prohibit bike use of the newly designated areas. In that context, assuming I’ve got it right, bikers can be counted on to oppose new designations.

    But beyond those generalities, things get fuzzy fast, especially if bikers don’t have information on exactly which acreage they have actually been using. For example, who can tell me how much roadless acreage bikers are riding now, nationwide? And who can tell me how much of the acreage proposed for NREPA are already being used by bikers? Without that kind of information in hand, it’s hard to weigh the depth and extent of the conflicts over designation.

  194. Bill Schneider


    Nobody really has those figures, but I have been using the analogy with horse use to help explain this shortcoming.

    Back when the Wilderness Act was being debated, horse use was established in many, but not all, proposed Wilderness areas. Nobody had any figures how many miles of trails or how many acres backcountry horseman would lose if horses weren’t allowed in Wilderness, and so horses were included in the Act as a “pre-existing use.”

    If you take the current debate over roadless lands that are not Wilderness, where mountain biking has become established, to me at least, it seems like a similar situation. Mountain bikers consider bicycling a pre-existing use now, just as backcountry horseman did fifty years ago. Hence the controversy when proposals come along to designate these roadless lands as Wilderness.

    Mountain bikes have never established themselves as users of most current Wilderness areas, so in most cases, they do not feel they are being locked out.

    Hope this helps.


  195. Thanks Bill
    I suppose it does, in a way, help to know that nobody has the data on bikers’ use of roadless areas. But it also raises a scenario where bikers oppose all new designations, in their entirety, without data on actual biker use so far. Is that the stance bikers are taking? Is that why you say it’s necessary to work things out?

  196. Bill Schneider


    Some of the real mountain bikers tuning in might be able to answer that question better than I can, but I think saying they oppose all areas is an overstatement. To me, the controversy gets especially hot in areas close to urban areas where access is easy. These areas might be good candidates for an alternative “Wilderness Lite” designation, as I proposed in yesterday’s column. On the other hand, Wilderness designation might not be opposed in more remote areas without well-developed trails and only sporadic mountain bike use.


  197. Greg Beardslee


    You are coming across as accusing.

    I am most familiar with the B-D Forest and could try to form a picture of what bike riders have asked for there. In the Forest Planning process, bicyclists from the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance asked for boundary adjustments and corridors on roughly 5 to 10 percent of the proposed recommended wilderness areas. Of the many hundreds of miles of trail we are losing (300+), we asked for around 80. We didn’t get a concession from the F.S. on even one mile of trail. In several areas, these adjustments could have been no brainers. By not making any adjustments at all, the F.S. has created a tense situation. This final decision was driven by the Region One managment, not the B-D supervisors office.

    We examined our needs, and asked for only key trails. Apparently even asking for one mile of trail would have been too much. Our best chance at a compromise now lies with the B-D Partnership Strategy.

    Lance, it’s not about acreage or miles of trail, it’s about the key trails that have been ridden for decades. It’s not about riding off the trail to access all the remaining acreage. In many cases, wilderness could be created there, just try to make some logical adjustments up front in the design. In the rare cases where that scenario doesn’t fit, maybe wilderness lite would fit better….

    When wilderness is planned without anyone elses consideration, objections occur.

  198. The Coalition for Recreational Trails, the umbrella organization to promote Recreational Trails Program, comprised of a wide range of motorized and non-motorized trail organizations, has forwarded to the Congress its recommendations for adjustments/improvements to the Recreational Trails Program. those recommendations are available on the ARRA website:

    also available on the ARRA website, a new Sharing Our Trails guide recommendations to improve RTP;

  199. HERE’S WHAT POWERSPORTS is doing to retain our legecy access:

    Americans for Responsible Recreational Access has partnered with the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA), who are providing resources to develop and conduct a series of workshops for U.S. Forest Service personnel and OHV enthusiasts. The workshops are aimed at ensuring that the new OHV Route Designation Rule results in quality OHV trail systems that are adequate for demand, sustainable and fun.

    The USFS is in the process of implementing its Travel Management Rule. The rule requires all forests to designate and map OHV routes and when completed, no OHV use will be allowed except on these designated routes. Now that individual Forests are in the process of implementing the rule, it is extremely important that OHV riders participate in this process.

  200. Bill wrote: “Some of the real mountain bikers tuning in might be able to answer that question better than I can, but I think saying they oppose all areas is an overstatement. To me, the controversy gets especially hot in areas close to urban areas where access is easy. These areas might be good candidates for an alternative ‘Wilderness Lite’ designation, as I proposed in yesterday’s column. On the other hand, Wilderness designation might not be opposed in more remote areas without well-developed trails and only sporadic mountain bike use.”

    Bill, I have to respectfully convey a different personal view. I don’t want to lose a single mile of trail if it’s pleasant to mountain-bike, no matter how remote it is. In fact the more remote it is the less happy I’ll be if I can’t ride there. What makes mountain biking in large remote areas special is that they provide a high degree of solitude. I also want access to trails currently in Wilderness that have these characteristics and provide these experiences.

    In sum, I don’t want to lose access to any more bikeable trails, or continue to be excluded from any currently bikeable trails, simply because a previously ridden area is already or will become formal Wilderness. I suspect this view won’t be well received by such as the Montana Wilderness Association. As some comments here make obvious, Wilderness to the purists is like the Shroud of Turin, an object of veneration that, in their gauzy-eyed and mystical view, a wheel can only profane. (I notice that Mr. Gatchell of the Montana Wilderness Alliance hasn’t replied to my questions of yesterday. If he proves willing to enter a dialogue, I will ask him whether there’s any roadless place in Montana that he would consider for a designation other than Wilderness, or if it is to be Wilderness, Wilderness with a statutory exception allowing mountain biking. I suspect that the answer to both questions will be “no.”)

    I am constantly bearing in mind, in reading these posts and contributing my own, that the federal land management agencies may be indifferent to what any of us thinks. No bureaucracy wants to change anything that isn’t causing a problem. It’s quite possible that from the Forest Service perspective, Wilderness isn’t causing a problem and in fact is solving one. That is, the hostility to it from motorized users and mountain bikers (soon to be joined by snow-kiters) makes for less creation of new Wilderness than would otherwise be the case. Meanwhile, the Forest Service probably is little interested in mountain bikers’ complaints about Wilderness exclusion.

    If someday the Forest Service decides it needs mountain bikers’ support for some purpose, wants more human visitors to Wilderness areas, or would like to expand Wilderness with less resistance, it may simply “discover” that its no-bikes regulation is legally erroneous and repeal it. The National Park Service in the process of abandoning (or trying to abandon) its excessively stringent no-bikes rules, precisely because younger people have little interest in the National Parks, visitation to them is dropping, and the agency is worried as a result.

  201. Bill, I’m sorry; after rereading my last post, I see that I read your post too hastily. Of course I have no problem, as far as mountain biking goes, in designating areas Wilderness that have little trail development and little prospective demand for such development. (There might be some other reason to oppose Wilderness designation in such an area; for example, it might be the sole U.S. source for a critically needed chemical element.) Also, I see I referred mistakenly at one point to the Montana Wilderness Alliance.

  202. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    TRau: “The articles you cite in your study have been written by you.” This is a good example of how mountain bikers LIE to try to make their case. I cited some articles I wrote which are relevant (all of which have been presented at scientific conferences, where none of the scientists found any fault in them), but most of the articles were written by others. Seven were written by mountain bikers (and are cited on IMBA’s website), and are indeed junk science. That was my point! One is excellent science, and concludes that mountain bikers have more negative impact on elk than either hikers or equestrians.

    My paper is a review of the scientific literature, and was accepted and presented at ten different scientific conferences. None of the scientists found a single fault in my paper, either before, during, or after the conferences. In fact, the only people who complain are — you guessed it — mountain bikers!

    “Junk science has no place in this discussion.” I agree, which is why I wrote that review, debunking the mountain bikers’ junk science. In fact, my paper is the ONLY science that has been cited in this entire discussion. That in itself is interesting. Mountain bikers aren’t interested in science, unless they think it supports mountain biking.

    If you want “peer reviewed” papers, all of my papers were peer-reviewed at and prior to the conferences where they were presented. See also my chapter in the following book:

    Vandeman, Michael J. (, 2008. The Impacts of Mountain Biking on Amphibians and Reptiles. In Urban Herpetology. J. C. Mitchell, R. E. Jung Brown, and B. Bartholomew, editors. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Conservation 3:155-156; expanded version also available at

    You are just blowing hot air. Mountain bikers have ZERO science to support their selfish, destructive sport, as you well know, or you would have cited it here. The fact is, you can’t, because there isn’t any.

  203. Wheelie of Death

    OMG! In addition to a helmet, might I recommend a muzzle?

  204. Vandeman

    “showing that bikers are not able to avoid killing wildlife”

    how can you extrapolate with such a bold statement from one instance of this happening?

    and maybe you should check your terms on what ‘freeriding’ actually is.

    Your whole article reeks of bias.

    While i can only attest to having a BS in Earth Science, this article seems like one that i would have read in my freshman year earth science writing, not from someone with a PHD.

  205. today i took my seven year old son out for a nice spring like 60 degree bicycle ride and on a trail that we’ve hiked together numerous times. The rockier sections we walked, and also chatted about the living organisms trailside. Perfect day and i’m happy to show my children the beautiful things within this giant earth of ours. Reading most of these hateful comments almost makes me want to post one just like it. One side of the fence or the other……bottom line is that we have a large human population on this earth and it’s appearent that we have a hard time accepting each other. Mountain bikers for the large part are after the same thing a hiker is after….a little bit of solitude and peace. I just wish more of us exibited the same and were respectful towards each other.

    peace out brothers.

    brother Chad.

  206. Just give up Mike, all credibility has been lost. You are simply a person with an opinion, just like the rest of us so you can step away from your pulpit. You have stong convictions and you are not going to back down. That is fine, but don’t try to convince the readers that your opinions are any more factual than anybody elses.

  207. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Chad DeVall: “Mountain bikers for the large part are after the same thing a hiker is after….a little bit of solitude and peace. I just wish more of us exibited the same and were respectful towards each other.”

    What’s “respectful” about LYING? Or about forcing everyone else to accept mountain bikes where they destroy nature and our experience of it. If mountain bikers would start telling the TRUTH, all of this could be easily cleared up, and mountain bikes be restricted to pavement, where they belong. That was accurately demonstrated by Wheelie of Death: “OMG! In addition to a helmet, might I recommend a muzzle?” Mountain bikers just want to shut up anyone who tells the truth about their selfish, destructive sport.

    MTBiker: “‘showing that bikers are not able to avoid killing wildlife’
    how can you extrapolate with such a bold statement from one instance of this happening? Your whole article reeks of bias.”

    To prove that mountain bikers can’t avoid killing animals, all it takes is one counterexample. It’s just simple mathematics and logic.

    If my article were biased, it would never have passed peer review (by expert herpetologists) and never would have gotten published. Mountain bikers just don’t like science that doesn;t support mountain biking. They prefer junk science, such as the crap cited on IMBA’s website. That was proved by Wheelie of Death: “OMG! In addition to a helmet, might I recommend a muzzle?” Mountain bikers want to shut up anyone who tells the truth about their selfish, destructive sport.

  208. Look Mike, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.

    You’ve made your fact-based points, and then you’ve beat us near to death with your opinion that MTBers are the spawn of Satan, utterly incapable of telling the truth, and mindlessly killing everything that crosses their path.

  209. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Tom von Alten: “I can see you’re really upset about this.” No, you can’t. I’m not “upset”. I just tell the truth. Mountain bikers can’t stand that!

    But I’m glad you’re listening. “MTBers are the spawn of Satan, utterly incapable of telling the truth, and mindlessly killing everything that crosses their path.” That’s pretty accurate! Obviously YOU are the one who’s “upset”. But you are upset at the wrong person. You should be upset at mountain bikers, for causing this whole problem. If bicyclists had kept their bikes on paved roads, where they belong, none of this would have ever happened, and everyone would be happy and enjoying nature conflict-free. It can still be that way. It’s all up to the mountain bikers. There’s nobody else they can honestly blame.

  210. Mike, Ph.D: you are very full of yourself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you could use a sense of humor to go with. The first line was a quote from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Next up: A Few Good Men.

  211. Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

    Tom von Alten: “Mike, Ph.D: you are very full of yourself.” Mountain bikers keep trying to make everyone think the problem is someone other than themselves, when they are the sole cause of the problem. This is a perfect example of that.

    I’m only the messenger. I just tell the truth about mountain biking and its impacts. Many other people are saying the same things as I am. Are you going to try to find fault with ALL of them? (That’s a rhetorical question. We know you are already doing that — calling people who don’t like being around large, fast-moving pieces of machinery “elitest”, “selfish”, and other names.)

    The longer you guys persist in trying to put the blame for your problems on other people, the longer you will continue being seen as boorish, uncivilized, selfish, belligerent people. I didn’t make you like that. You did it to yourselves. And you apparently have no inclination to stop. Just look in the mirror!

  212. So if i kill one animal while i’m hiking, on accident, does that mean i can’t avoid killing them?

  213. Mike Ph.D.: Try practicing what you preach – listening. Or, in this case reading.

    I am not one of “them” — I’m an individual with unique experience, insight, opinion and skills.

    You sell yourself short; you’re much more than the messenger. You are the embodiment of the 2nd grade playground insult. I know you are, but what am I?

    After all the Sturm und Drang, I remain open-minded about the issues under discussion. I’ve heard what you have to add to it, thank you. Have more confidence in yourself; it’s not like people can’t understand what you’re trying to say. They do.

    Many do not agree with you, or hold your stated opinion in quite as high regard as you do yourself. Further emphasis, and insistence that only your opinion is the TRUTH, sprinkled with a steady stream of caricatures and accusations are not making your position–or your credibility–any stronger.

  214. Unbelievable! Mike Vandeman, now that name takes me back 11 years. He’s been trolling the net (Usenet back in that day) for years with the same tired arguments and silly claims. It’s kind of fun to see him here, just don’t take him too seriously.

    Being a multi-user myself, I think opening up all current wilderness areas to biking is a very bad idea. Simply restricting motorized use on a case-by-case basis is pretty much de facto wilderness-lite and makes sense to me.

  215. MTBiker: “So if i kill one animal while i’m hiking, on accident, does that mean i can’t avoid killing them?” There are only two possibilities: it was done intentionally, or unintentionally. I was giving the mountain biker the benefit of the doubt, but you are right, he COULD have been doing it intentionally. I didn’t even consider that gruesome possibility. Either he couldn’t avoid killing it, or he CHOSE to kill it. Take your pick.

    Tom von Alten: “Mike Ph.D.: Try practicing what you preach – listening.” I listen very well, which is why I know all of your arguments, or lack of them. For example, I know that you’d MUCH prefer to talk about Mike Vandeman, than the issue at hand: why mountain biking is a very bad idea and should be restricted to paved roads. You already lost that argument, which is why you tried to change the subject to Mike Vandeman. Either way, you lose. Project all you want, but it’s obvious to everyone: you don’t have a leg to stand on.

  216. Mike V., desperation is a stinky cologne. Your arguments are ridiculous my friend, pleast stop now.

  217. OK, can we get back to the subject at hand? From what I have seen in a lot of trail miles, mountain bikers can do as much damage to a trail as motorized travelers, if they ride during the wet season. A speeding mountain biker can also be just as threatening as a motorcycle to hikers or horseback riders. It’s all a matter of how and when the machine is used.

    Mountain biking is for the most part about mountain biking, not nature study, so let’s not pretend it is something it is not.

    That said, you can certainly ride responsibly and carefully, and have a backcountry experience when you stop and take it all in. Given that more and more people are taking to the trails – a trend we should be encouraging – we had all better play it cool and make room for each other.

    I believe that opening Wilderness areas to mountain biking would degrade wilderness, and start the process of turning wilderness areas into thrill parks.

    I don’t buy the argument that we have to open new wilderness areas to mountain bikers in order to bring them on board as supporters. That would be catering to the most selfish instincts of public land users. It’s like saying, If I can’t play I’ll wreck your game. Let’s see mountain bikers come out in support of just ONE new wilderness with no bikes in it. Then we can talk.

    I do think MWA is on the right track with the High Divide agreement. It’s got something for everyone.

  218. 1.Most (50% or more) of mountain bikers are also backpackers/ hikers. They seek the same solitude, peace, and natural experience as the rest of us. There is no experience like riding your bicycle to a high alpine lake, taking in the wonder and beauty of mother earth, and returning to civilization rejuvenated, excited that you are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Yes there are endorphins and adrenaline produced that cannot be equalled to hiking, and that is one small reason people participate in that acitivity. But essentially, this issue is not about us vs. them. It is about COOPERATION AND SHARING. Something we were all taught at an early age. We need to protect these lands from mineral/ energy extraction/ human development / ecological destruction.
    2. Mountain bikers are NOT interested in letting their mode of transportation into already existing wilderness areas (very important to note) What makes this issue an issue are large sweeping wilderness designations, making trails that, for many years, mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians have all enjoyed, relatively conflict free, illegal for just mtn. bikers. Mr. Schneider’s article, while may not be the be all end all solution, is an example of a potential solution, one which our government must examine further.
    3. Don’t feed the troll. there are bad apples in every user group, only education, responsibility for our own actions and rule enforcement will minimize conflict and create memorable experiences in undeveloped areas for the aforementioned user groups.
    4.MOST IMPORTANT !! This article has contributed many insightful comments, philosophies, and hope for the future of wilderness in this great country. let’s continue to debate, compromise, and protect our lands from interest groups that seek change what we hold dear to our hearts. WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT. Thank you for reading, and go spend some time outside today 🙂

  219. m.k. (I wonder why mountain bikers are afraid to use their real names? It heavily discounts everything the say!): 1. “It is about COOPERATION AND SHARING.” Hikers are equestrians have no objections to sharing trails with mountain bikers. It’s only the BIKES that we object to. If, as you claim, mountain bikers are cooperation and sharing, then you should be willing to leave your bikes at the trailhead. But that’s not the case. Mountain bikers are fighting tooth & nail for access to all trails, including Wilderness. Jim Hasenauer (one of the founders of IMBA) said so himself. So your #2 is also FALSE.

    3. “Only education, responsibility for our own actions and rule enforcement will minimize conflict”. Mountain bikers have been crowing about “education” for decades, but (a) they don’t do it (they are afraid to criticize their peers), and (b) it doesn’t work: even when they know what they are doing is illegal, they won’t stop it. I see that every time I visit a trail that is off-limits to bikes: mountain bike tire tracks & mountain bikers.

    4. If we are so “alike”, why are so many mountain bikers’ posts (including yours) here and elsewhere attacks on me? You can’t even stick to the subject at hand! I think that you KNOW I’m right, which is why you don’t even attempt to refute me. If we are so “alike”, why did I conclude, after trying it for a day, that mountain biking is no fun at all? If we are so “alike”, why are mountain bikers almost universally unwilling to walk? They claim that it’s “boring to death” (including in this thread). That doesn’t sound to me like someone who enjoys solitide and nature!

  220. Whoops, sorry, I had the audio track wrong. Next up is Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

    But good suggestion to get back to the subject. There have been a lot of statistics bandied about which raise interesting questions, but I’m generally left wondering where they came from, and how reliable they might be. The statements of the form “all X are Y” are generally not useful nor worth further comment.

    I’ve never been much of a mountain biker, in part because the thrill of risking life and limb on a rough trail hasn’t appealed to me. I like riding uphill just fine, but I much prefer a high-speed descent on pavement to one on a trail. So if I were looking to adventure into a wild area on a bike, it would be for the mechanical advantage, not the adrenalin.

    On the simplest question, “is there room for a compromise?” some here just keep screaming no, and apparently hope they can do so persistently enough to kill the possibility. That sort of thing works as far as it goes, but tends to poison the well. It’s why so many areas worthy of some protection have none.

    I applaud Bill’s effort for trying, but we can see it’s not going to be easy to find any common ground.

  221. Tom, I agree with you that compromise is both essential and elusive. Even though I said above that I would like to have reasonable access to any multiuse-ready trail, I recognize I can’t have everything I want and I’m ready to compromise. The paid Wilderness promoters may not be equally so inclined, however. With a Democratic president, a Democratic House of Representatives, and a Democratic and soon to be filibuster-proof Senate (for some bills, not all), they may not feel the need to compromise. And the agencies may also be indifferent to mountain bikers’ entreaties. Bill gets great credit for encouraging this discussion.

  222. Greg Beardslee

    True Ted. The political climate is something to reckon. When people have power, undesireable characteristics seem to emerge. They become arrogant and don’t listen to others, and they push agendas on to others. Both political parties have these faults. I have certainly despaired at the extremes exhibited by elected officials.

    That being said, I am sure that players of influence from Montana’s professional wilderness community are reading this ongoing discussion. I am inviting anyone of them to contact the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance, through Bill Schneider (who knows everyone), to continue this discussion offline. Bill makes an excellent point, and there is a need to explore it fully. As evidenced by the continued emotion and dedication to this topic, it would not be fitting to let it die as a withered thread in the archives of New West.

  223. I am donating some money to IMBA in Mike Vandeman’s name.

  224. Greg, that’s great. I hope they do contact you and you’re able to continue the discussion off this thread.

  225. While I deplore the loss of reptilian life, the death of a snake with tire treads on its spine should not be sufficient reason to block mountain bikes from trails. Mike V. PhD(?) is only writing in this thread to disrupt meaningful discussions. I’m not going to read any more of his posts and I would encourage others not to answer anything he posts as he is intent on drawing the discussion away from relevant issues. The more time and effort we spend answering his baseless, mindless remarks the less effort we put into discussing a coherent solution.

  226. Trau: “The death of a snake with tire treads on its spine should not be sufficient reason to block mountain bikes from trails.” Yes, it is! (1) One of the snakes is a federally Threatened species. (2) It demonstrates that montain bikers aren’t able (or don’t care) to avoid killing animals and plants. (3) The life of one snake is vastly more valuable than your cheap thrills, especially since you guys are simply too lazy to WALK. (4) Wildlife are protected by LAW; mountain bikes don’t even have rights. Also, there is no right to mountain bike. But thanks for demonstrating mountain bikers’ attitude that mountain biking takes priority over everything else, including the lives of other living beings. You should be ashamed of yourselves. But I know you’re not.

  227. It’s like one of those Sunday puzzles; how many errors in logic and inference can you find in one little post? Don’t let the enumeration fool you, there are more than 4!

    (Not yours Steve; welcome to the melee!)

  228. So MTBer’s join with ARRA or the Blue Ribbon Coalition and fight the
    Anti-Wheel Bigots,

  229. I just took a few minutes to read more of Bill Schneider’s articles on this very subject. All well written. It’s all the same theme build coalitions with MTBs and against the motorized evil hordes. That of course lead me to more of Doc Mikey V.’s comments. And I found my favorite word among his musings, “anthrocentrism” which should more correctly be spelled as “Anthropocentrism” but either way the word is used to denote those that believe Man Rules Planet Earth. And Bubba, that is me, 100%. An it’s a point which I think could easily be proven to be the Majority opinion in a Pew-funded research study.

    Let’s just say the Mike is the antithesis of an anthropocentrist. He’s basically an anti-Machine, anti-Human bigot. I am on the other hand a Cardinal in The Church of Anthropocentrism. Snakes beware!

    Hear Yea, Hear Yea! Gather round, all brethren of the man-invented Wheel. Heed my warnings, MTBer & IMBA if you believe the pitch that only SOME Sierra Clubbers, in A FEW areas are 100% anti-MTB access and that those few won’t come back to take away what you think you got in a compromise then I will tell you they have done it before. Ask yourselves why after years of trying Sierra Club gave up on Hunters and Fisherman, it was because NRA and Anglers kept on finding whole sections of Sierra Club that wanted absolute bans on both.
    So remember 10 years from now when your Wilderness Buddies close yet another area to the Evil Wheelists what some lazy MotorHead said about who your friends are.

  230. I make every effort not to run over snakes on the trail. Trying to resuscitate a snake is lot harder than one might imagine. Especially rattlers. Whew! Big fangs on the mouth-to-mouth!

  231. Max Frisson, I don’t agree with all of your points, but there’s a lot of wisdom in your political observations. If I were on the board of the Int’l Mountain Bicycling Ass’n I’d be pushing for more tactical alliances with motorized groups where we have common interests. But I’m not on that board.

    I think what bothers people is that motorcycles are loud and sometimes dig deep grooves and ruts in trails. Do you think these issues could be worked out? Regarding noise, is there any future for electric-powered motorcycles? Regarding trail damage, could motorized user groups arrange to do or pay for trail repairs?

    I realize that no one asks luxury pack outfitters to fix the damage their commercial operations do to trails. If I recall correctly, one study showed that hooves do more damage to trails than do motorcycle tires. Anyone who doubts the effect of horses and packstock in Wilderness need only hike from Joseph, Ore., up to Horseshoe Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The nine-mile trek contains sections of deep powder and thick choking dust because of heavy hoof traffic. So I feel a bit sheepish asking this question.

  232. Ted, Quick response.
    1. NOISE
    Electric power is the Future of off-roading on Public Lands, I have no need to burn gas and make noise. see ZERO Motorcycles, Santa Cruz, USA, they have two available for sale today. They have their limits but battery tech will advance rapidly. Also electric ATVs are on the way next year.

    2. Maintenance
    Off Road Clubs spend 1000s of hours on trail maintenance across the nation

    3. I hate to pick on the horsemen, but you have to be a pretty aggressive motorcycle rider on some hi-power equipment to do the damage a couple of horses will. And you have to try. A casual ride thru on a mid-size trail bike is not that impactful.

    Can’t wait for the author’s Part two!

  233. Bill Schneider

    Max–It has been up for a few days. Here you go….Bill

    Branding Wilderness Lite

  234. MIKe, I followed the link. Well, the limited Marin decision seems to have been over-used by zealots and I think it might be time to take that right legislatively away from land managers. Establish the rightful place of the Wheel in the Wilderness by law and not the most liberal activist of all Federal circuit courts.

    You continually post that we can all recreate in all locations and that by foot is equal access. It is not. That seems to be the basis of the 9th Circuit Court ruling. But a Federal Circuit Court in a less liberal jurisdiction, say Texas could establish another precedent in the opposite direction. You know that can happen too.
    Point is one court decision does not answer forever and all time this issue of MTB rights as you imply in your repeated use of the link in various posts. That changes not the fact the wheeled recreants do have access rights and anti-wheel bigots use biased emotional appeals and baby forest creatures to make their elitist restrictive plans for limiting public access seem palatable to the general public. The 1964 Wilderness Scam need to be ripped open and re-done. The more I read here the less of a cooperator I become.

  235. Not sure I know what I’m lying about Mike, and I would never call you a liar, so I would hope you would give me the same respect.

    We are all damaging the environment just being here. I don’t see what a bicycle could possibly do to damage anything anymore than my boot could. Oil leak, sure, but you could look at bug spray leaking the same. The problem lies solely on the fact that WE don’t see things as THEY ARE, we see things as WE ARE.

    Yes Mike, I agree we as cyclists have the same place everyone else does to recreate, but that isn’t going to be enough space for the traffic that exists or is growing when we’re shut out. I’m not saying mountain bikes have rights, or anyone else really for that matter, but the hikers and everyone else SHOULD have the right to not be overrun by cyclists on the few trails they’re still allowed to be on. Mountain Biking isn’t going anywhere except up, it’s gaining riders everyday – anywhere from the ex-motorcycle rider to the average Joe that just wants some exercise. I’m not asking for free reign to do whatever the hell I feel like, that’s not how life goes. I’m not asking to let me go where I currently can’t. I’m not asking that I can continue going to all the places I can now. Everyone sounds pretty ME ME ME, poor ME – I’m not looking at it that way at it that way. I’m looking at everyone’s experience. We should all have enough options that allow everyone elbow room. That’s all.

    Tell me honestly that you wouldn’t complain if I told you I was closing 80-90% of the roads and you had to sit stopped in traffic where ever you went. Then tell me that you wouldn’t be a bit annoyed if you lived on one of those roads that used to have one or two cars drive by all day, and now it looks like Downtown LA in your front yard. This is the best metaphor that I can think of to describe how I feel about the situation. That’s all.

  236. Max, thanks for your reply on electric motorcycles and motorcyclists’ trail maintenance work.

    If the noise and maintenance issues can be resolved, I don’t see why electric motorcycles shouldn’t be accommodated in roadless areas.

    Sure, motorcyclists will go faster than other users, but on challenging trails the difference isn’t that great compared to skiers in winter and mountain bikers in summer. In addition, a speed limit can always be imposed.

    And sure, motorcycles aren’t operating under human power, but then neither are equestrians and outfitters using horses and packstock.

    And of course motorcycles impact trails more than hikers or mountain bikers, but that is also true of horses and packstock, and I would bet that hooves sometimes do more damage to trails than do motorcycle tires.

    I suspect that many mountain bikers won’t want to share narrow trails with motorcycles because they’re distastefully not human-powered, just as many hikers and equestrians don’t want to share narrow trails with mountain bikers because we have distasteful wheels. Personally, I’m in favor of maximum trail access if it’s reasonable, and I’m not impressed by hoary traditions or the I-was-here-first mentality. But I bet I’m in a minority even among mountain bikers.

    One accommodation might be for electric motorcyclists to agree to alternate-day trail use, so that those who would grit their teeth at the sight of someone on a motorcycle know they will be spared the affront on certain days. As for those who detest so much as seeing a tire track on a trail, they have all of Wilderness to repair to. There, under the federal agencies’ (erroneous) rules forbidding wheels except on wheelchairs, the diehards can be spared the sight. That ought to be enough to satisfy all but the most obdurate.

  237. Steve Bretson: “Not sure I know what I’m lying about Mike, and I would never call you a liar, so I would hope you would give me the same respect.” What respect does a liar deserve?

    “We are all damaging the environment just being here. I don’t see what a bicycle could possibly do to damage anything anymore than my boot could.” How can anyone be that dumb? Or dishonest? How far can you walk in a day? How far can you bike in a day? OBVIOUSLY, seversal times as far as you can walk, so you are doing AT LEAST several times as much damage. You just don’t want to admit that a mountain bikers does a lot more harm than a hiker!

    “Tell me honestly that you wouldn’t complain if I told you I was closing 80-90% of the roads and you had to sit stopped in traffic where ever you went.” I don’t care, because I don’t drive. That’s how out of touch mountain bikers are: they still drive. With very rare exceptions, they can’t get to their destinations without DRIVING.

  238. From Mike V…(again, dude have your meds checked)
    ” I don’t care, because I don’t drive. That’s how out of touch mountain bikers are: they still drive. With very rare exceptions, they can’t get to their destinations without DRIVING.:

    Earth to MIKE, Earth to MIKE. Somewhere around 99% of Americans still DRIVE those antiques we fondly call CARS! [I would quote my own self-published definitive study here, but I must go work some] – That’s definitely OUT of TOUCH with Reality, still driving an automobile. Oh wow, shocking. Mike you couldn’t find reality with a Garmin GPS and written instructions.

    Your absolutist, elitist, attitude will in the end cost your cause support. Rhetoric from folks of your ilk is too easy for a seasoned PR professional to turn into damning evidence of your wrong-headness. I know I do it all the time. I could cast you as a dangerous wacko about one step from a Unibomber with your writings found all over the internet. Your ever seen the poem “Ode to Mike Vandeman”

    I mentioned before I’m part of the Powersports Industry. I didn’t say what I do. I own a specialty media company. On Monday of next week I will announce a new national magazine specifically for the Adventure Bike Touring and Camping Market. I am it’s VP, Director of Marketing. I already have sponsorship from major OEMs. I came to this site as part of research. I can assure you, our new magazine will be covering the battle for public land access and our opposition aggressively.

    Welcome to the Real World, Michael J. Vandeman, PhD.

  239. Holy cow, that is all I can say to you Mike. Enjoy your bubble and don’t lest any of us do anything to burst it for you. But please, keep it to yourself. I don’t want to hear of anybody else sucked into your delusional world filled with faulty logic and hatred for all who do not love the earth in the exact manner you believe they should. Keep that back straight my friend and weather the rest of us, but keep us out too. Your negativity is your burden alone.

  240. What you aren’t seeing is that the trails we want open are relatively short (4-5)miles in MT. I don’t ride it multiple times in a day. i ride it once. i go the same distance a hiker goes on that same trail. Just because bikes are able to doesn’t mean they are going for the longest ride possible in a day.

  241. I think the best solution to this problem is to create a new super-race of humans that have wheels instead of feet. Call me a liar but I think this is a great idea! Then, instead of hiking you’d be ‘wheeling’. As an alternative we could make tires that have treads that are shaped like rounded hiking boots. In fact we could recycle hiking boots to make new tires! We could call them bootires. That way if you broke a chain you could pull off a pair of boots, tie them on, and walk out! Brilliant!!! (I was going to suggest making tires out of snakeskins but I thought that would be insensitive. No self respecting mountain biker would ever have snakeskin on his/her bike.)

  242. What if we made mountain bikes for snakes? Then humans and reptiles could ride together in harmony. Hand in hand. Cold blooded and warm blooded as brothers! Of course we would have to manufacture helmets for snakes. But I think a helmet wearing snake sends a message of both safety and responsibility. Trek needs to get on it right now!

  243. We’re on a road to nowhere, so I think I’ll just steer my bicycle to this next exit.

    I’ll stop Bicycling when it’s found to be damaging more so than anything else human powered. I did it before – I grew up riding motorcycles in the woods and once I was mature enough to realize that it was far from sustainable, I stopped and I will never again. I don’t even own a car.

    Moving through an area quickly means no need to set up camp, less likely to need to dig a hole for “natural” reasons, etc. Bikes stay on the trail 95% of the time. That’s not much impact compared to anyone else, unless it’s wet. If it’s wet, no one should be there if the goal is slowing erosion.

    So hikers and yourself included walk to these trailheads? I can say I and many more ride to them from our doorsteps.

  244. Steve,

    Don’t bother with Mike, he’s as open to discussion as the KKK.

    Do a search for “Mike Vandeman FAQ”
    Does this sound familiar?

    Ride your bike and spread the love.

  245. Bill Schneider

    For an interesting andinsightful look at this issue, check this out…..

  246. Wheelie of Death

    Ph.D. Dude,

    When cyclists venture into the backcountry, they can cover some TRAILl miles, no doubt. Even if they ride 40 + miles in either a loop ride or a out and back venture, it is usually done in a day. If a backpacking hiker does the same trip in 2, 3 or more days, they cover the same trail mileage but add the impacts of camping, cooking and latrine needs all OFF trail. Add a meadow mowing and seed spreading pack animal or two to this scene and tell me HONESTLY who has more impact?

    Whatever… Another big YAWN to you. Save your pomposity for your polyester pals on the golf course.

  247. The term Wilderness just sounds so cool! But in its legal form it just isn’t. No “mechanised” activity is allowed in a wilderness protected area. Last I checked a bicycle is mechanised. To be considered a Wilderness area the said area can not have any existing roads. The law SHOULD state Wilderness areas can NOT contain any single track bike trails!!! Moreover, anyplace a horse is allowed I should be allowed on my Specialized Stumpjumper fsr!!!

  248. Wow. I can’t believe I just read this entire thread. It’s actually quite an interesting debate on the philosophy of “wilderness.”

    What comes across very strongly to me is that this is like the Biblical fable of Solomon trying to decide which woman is the real mother to a baby. Sick of their bickering, he threatens to cut the baby in half and give half to each. The true mother cries out in objection, saying she would rather he gave the baby to the other woman than killed. That’s how Solomon knew who the real mother was.

    What does this have to do with mountain bikers and the wilderness? It seems to me that the mountain bikers commenting in this thread really don’t care about the land unless they can use it. They would just as soon the land not be protected as “wilderness” at all, than be declared off-limits to them.

    If they really cared about the wilderness, they would say, please preserve the land, even if we cannot use it. And in fact, as Mike correctly states, the land would still open to their use. Just without the bicycle.

  249. jedediah Redman

    Excellent argument, GW…

  250. Singletrack Solomon

    Unlike the fabled baby, roadless lands can be cut up and shared.

    Cyclists don’t want access to every trail in a block of roadless lands – but we do need to be at the table when the future access to trails we have ridden for decades is considered for Wilderness.

    The cycling community can support new socially responsible Wilderness that continues to ban bicycles when it is part of a larger protection vision for the remaining roadless lands that offers permanent conservation and continued bicycle access. The Wilderness-only mentality has failed to produce one acre of Wilderness in Montana for the past 25 years. It would seem if the Wilderness advocates really cared about the land they would try another approach.

    Bicyclists are conservation and stewardship minded. Bring us into the process and we can help permanently protect landscapes including new Wilderness. There are more options than just Wilderness for permanent protection. In many scenarios a non-mechanized Wilderness Area combined with a companion designation such as a National Protection (Primitive) Area that allows bicycles can protect more land than qualifying Wilderness lands alone.

    So let’s quit bickering and cut this baby up! What is there to lose besides more roadless lands and time?

  251. Gads. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for someone to miss the point of the Biblical Solomon story so completely.

  252. Here’s my request to everyone who thinks a bike on a trail is OK.

    The thing about bureaucracies is that they have a lot of inertia, aren’t easily budged, and generally don’t want to change anything they don’t have to. Change means inconvenience and bother.

    So we mountain bikers face an uphill battle trying to get the status quo altered. Right now the status quo means few alternatives to Wilderness and no bikes in Wilderness.

    Let’s say you believe that bikes shouldn’t be in existing Wilderness but boundary adjustments, corridors, cherry stems and alternative designations should be employed so mountain bikers don’t lose too many trails to which they have access. (This is, by the way, my problem with that approach: I see it as a recipe for slow death by a thousand cuts; a trail here, a trail there and soon you’re losing hundreds of miles of access to prized trails.)

    If that is your view, please write your members of Congress and ask them to introduce a bill creating a designation like Backcountry Area or Primitive Area that amounts to Wilderness plus bicycles.

    Some of us believe bikes should be in Wilderness. (See I’m of that view, because I believe (1) Congress did not forbid it, (2) only federal agency staff have forbidden it, in regulations that aren’t valid, (3) as a matter of sound policy, on many Wilderness trails where a horse or pack animal is allowed to go a bicycle should be allowed to go, and (4) potential user conflicts are manageable and the old complaints about environmental effects have been discredited.

    If you agree with that, then you can help nudge the agencies and get them to reconsider the no-bikes rules by writing your individual members of Congress (Representatives and Senators). The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service likely aren’t interested in our views as presented on this thread. But they do sit up and take notice when elected representatives start meddling. That, of course, is because those folks control their budgets.

    A letter will be more effective if it contains a specific request. A general complaint is likely to be read by a bored intern and generate a form response.

    Your letter might ask your congressmembers to ask the aforementioned agencies just to explain why they have the no-bikes rules. You can mention that the Wilderness Act of 1964 says nothing about bicycles and also that the Forest Service’s original Wilderness regulation (which is still on the books) allowed mountain biking! (That rule is 36 C.F.R. § 293.6. You can find it on the Internet.)

    Or, if you want to be more direct, you could ask your congressmembers to ask the agencies to reexamine those rules.

    Finally, is any bike-positive person on this thread from central Washington state? If so, you could play a really important role. Please get in touch with me in that case. I don’t want to put my e-mail in this thread (spam galore), but if you write to me care of Bill perhaps he will be kind enough to forward your message. (Bill, if that’s inconvenient then everyone please disregard; I’ll figure out another approach.)

    Don’t send postal mail to Washington, D.C., by the way. It takes weeks to go through security. Send your letter to your congressmembers’ district offices, or send an e-mail (they’ll have a form on their website).

    Then we can all return to these posts as a form of practice for the real thing, which is lobbying the decision-makers.

  253. Greg Beardslee

    Whoever Singletrack Solomon is, He/she saw beyond the attempt to associate our land preservation with a biblical fable. Whoever that person is saw past the fable to a solution. There is nothing wrong with trying to find a solution, that is the point of Bill’s article.

    GW just brought back the same tired attitude that keeps everyone from working together. It is the attitude of no compromise (not cutting up the baby) that is fueling the land preservation stalemate. BTW, Is this the GW that coined the word “Thrillcraft”?

    Singletrack Solomon didn’t miss the point. GW doesn’t like being upstaged.

  254. The point of the Solomon fable is……would you want the wilderness preserved, even if it meant you could not use it?

  255. In a word, yes.

    In a qualified statement. The Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest has gone through a drawn out planning process, and the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance commented in favor of about 90% of their recommended wilderness in that plan. The MMBA asked to retain about 20% of the trails proposed to be closed, by asking for boundary adjustments and corridors.

    If we had had a wilderness lite option, we probably could retain those trails, plus conserve additional acreage, plus wilderness.

    GW, quit asking those leading questions, come back to Montana, and be a creative part of the solution.

  256. Singletrack Solomon

    GW – no point was missed on the fable – you just missed the sarcasm. A more important point is that Wilderness is not a religion but a land protection tool. A blend of uses and protection tools are key to the future of our roadless lands. There are plenty of trails that already ban your ‘thrillcraft’. I suggest you go there if you can’t share or care about equitable protection of our remaining roadless lands.

  257. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m against the cutting of babies. They’re kinda cute.