Mountain bikers may have moved one step closer to being able to ride on designated Wilderness lands. This week, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to pass H.R. 1349. The bill would restore what Congressman Tom McClintock (R-California) calls the original intent of the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles and other forms of human-powered locomotion in wilderness areas at the discretion of local land managers.
“People who enjoy mountain biking have just as much right to use the public trails as those who enjoy hiking, packing or horseback riding, and our wilderness areas were never intended by Congress to prohibit human-powered mountain bikes,” said McClintock, who introduced the bill. “When the House considered the Wilderness Act in June of 1964, the record is clear that its framers intended that the term ‘mechanical transport’ be applied to non-human-powered vehicles like motorcycles — not human-powered devices like bicycles. The Forest Service built this understanding into its original implementing regulations by explicitly allowing all forms of human-powered travel in Wilderness areas.”
Indeed, bicycles were originally permitted in wilderness areas from the time Congress enacted the Wilderness Act until 1977 when federal bureaucrats began adopting blanket prohibitions against their use, closing Wilderness areas that are now equivalent to the entire land area of California.
One of the principal objectives McClintock has set as Chairman of the Sub-committee on Federal Lands is to restore public access to the public lands. You can read more from him here. The bill would restore to federal land managers the option to permit non-motorized mountain bikes, adaptive cycles, strollers and game-carts in Wilderness areas where their use is compatible with the environment, trail conditions, and existing uses.
The measure is supported by the Sustainable Trails Coalition and was adopted by a vote of 22-18. It now goes to the House floor for vote.