The Bureau of Land Management’s website has roughly 90,000 pages, but until recently none of them were dedicated to mountain biking. That changed last weekend, when before a captive audience at the Outerbike consumer demo event in Moab, Utah, BLM director Neil Kornze unveiled a new fat tire-friendly section of the federal agency’s Internet presence: www.blm.gov/mountainbike. The new web pages highlight 20 mountain bike trails (all but one in the western U.S.), providing pictures, interactive maps, trailhead directions and more.
“The goal was to create an on-ramp for people who are interested in mountain biking to see some of the great trails that are on BLM land,” explained Kornze in an interview with Mtbr just after the announcement was made. “This is something the BLM has not done much of in past. Until a few months ago you couldn’t go on our website to start your adventure.”
That changed with the addition of a hiking trail information portal earlier this year. Now there’s one for mountain bikers, too. Kornze says in the future he envisions the addition of information for other recreational opportunities such as climbing.
The BLM mountain bike portal was created in partnership with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and MTB Project, the advocacy organization’s burgeoning trail map app. Within each trail section of the new BLM web pages are direct links to the MTB Project site, which includes more photos, trail descriptions, maps, and key metrics such as distance, elevation profiles, and difficulty.
And while some will surely view this new partnership as more symbolic than significant (especially if you had attachment to riding in Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds area), the folks at IMBA see it as a breakthrough.
“It’s really exciting to see the BLM become more progressive in promoting recreation on the lands it manages,” said IMBA mapping manager Leslie Kehmeier, who was on hand at Outerbike to witness Kornze’s announcement. “They have been very good to mountain biking over the years, but it’s not common for a federal land agency to promote recreation outwardly like they are doing now.”
Kehmeier acknowledged that a lot of people just think oil and gas or grazing when they think of BLM land. “That wont go away. But this helps broaden the perspective, and that can go a long way toward stewardship with future generations,” she added. “If you don’t show the type of ways you can interact with landscape, then people wont understand why you’d want to keep those places for future generations.”
Kornze, who spent the earlier part of the day first riding an Ibis Mojo HD 3 and then an electric mountain bike, echoed these sentiments.
“It’s important that we talk to all our constituencies,” he said. “Each year over a million people ride mountain bikes on land that is managed by the BLM, but in the past we have not done a lot to embrace them. Instead most of the dialog has been around restrictions related to Wilderness and the tension that creates. But there is so much good work going on. The partnership between IMBA and the BLM has resulted in some spectacular trails being built in just the last few years. That’s a story we need to tell and to celebrate.”
Kornze mostly deflected questions about the on-going debate surrounding capital “W” Wilderness and its ban on mountain bikes, which includes the recent loss of trail access at the aforementioned Boulder-White Clouds.
“We at the BLM have the privilege of managing about 13 percent of this country’s total land, which comes out to about 245 million acres,” he explained. “Of that about 30 million is identified for conservation purposes and some of that land has open trail use (for mountain bikers). So Wilderness is an important but not huge part of the whole system. I personally think the tension is a little overblown which is part of why I am here today. I think if we are proactive we can have much better outcomes.”