Human-powered trail-access bills now in Senate and House

Legislation to let land managers regulate bicycling in federal Wilderness


Human-powered trail-access bills now in Senate and House

On May 17, 2018, Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee (R–Utah) introduced a revised version of his 2016 Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. With similar legislation by House Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R–Calif.) pending in the House of Representatives, legislation to let Wilderness managers regulate bicycling in federal Wilderness areas is now under consideration in both houses of Congress for the first time.

In reaction to this news, the Sustainable Trails Coalition sent out the following news release:

The STC thanks Chairman Lee and Chairman McClintock for their principled leadership and urges people to support the legislation.

Chairman Lee issued a press release on the 2018 Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, S.2877. He stated, “The National Wilderness Preservation System was created so that the American people could enjoy our country’s priceless natural areas. This bill would enrich Americans’ enjoyment of the outdoors by expanding recreational opportunities in wilderness areas.”

Utah residents saluted Chairman Lee’s legislation. In the Salt Lake City region, Linda George noted, “Thoughtful access to new and existing Wilderness areas, where deemed appropriate by local land managers for the health and sanctity of these special areas, will foster appreciation, stewardship and interest in protecting these lands. One example would be an access corridor for segments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that traverse lower-elevation Wilderness along the western slopes of the Wasatch Range.”

“I am a southern Utah mountain bike guide,” said Jake Weber. “Hooray for a common-sense bill being introduced in the Senate that will allow local land managers to manage their designated public lands as they understand them best. Senator Mike Lee is listening to his constituents. While we may not agree on everything, we can agree that bikes belong. They always have.”

In North Dakota, Save The Maah Daah Hey Foundation executive director Nick Ybarra commented, “Our country’s longest multiuse federal singletrack trail is North Dakota’s 144-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail. Most of it is open to mountain biking, but a seldom-used one-mile section inside a wilderness area is off-limits. We have to make a long detour around it.”

S.2877 will not open Wilderness trails to mountain biking unless the federal agency in charge of a Wilderness area authorizes it or takes no action within two years. In the latter case, it is presumed that it wishes to run a pilot program. Trails would open to nonmotorized, human-powered travel, letting agency staff observe the result. They would still be able to restrict or prohibit mountain biking, just as they can other recreational activities.

S.2877 does not require creating trails or modifying existing ones to facilitate bicycling or other human-powered uses, and the character of a Wilderness area is to be preserved.

STC’s base of tens of thousands of mountain bikers will vigorously support Chairman Lee’s bill.

To read section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act in its current guise and under Chairman Lee’s Senate legislation and Chairman McClintock’s House legislation, visit

About the author: Mtbr is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.

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  • dave says:

    The IMBA is not going to be happy about this. People free to ride where they want, and not allowed to use e-bikes. The double whammy!

  • Pynchonite says:

    Let me be the first to say that this bill’s a poison pill and I wouldn’t trust Lee any further than I could throw him. Which, you know, I’m a biker: my arms are basically vestigial.

    • Me says:

      How is this a poison pill? Have you actually read the bill? Please point out the specifics of how it is a poison pill and please don’t use that slippery slope crap that is based on nothing but fear mongering.

      It allows land managers to decide if it makes sense to allow access to bikes on specific trails. If passed as mountain bikers we can actually advocate for Wilderness designation and protection instead of cringing at the thought of losing access to trails.

      • rth says:

        its a poison pill because Mike Lee is an anti-public land person whose motivations should be suspect to anyone who likes clean water and air and noncommercial uses of public lands.

    • rth says:

      Mike Lee is a total cretin who would gut the wilderness act and all public lands protection in a heartbeat, and I would not trust him with anything, but this is a good bill that would do a lot for mountain biking in big wilderness states such as MT. It would also result in bikers supporting a lot more wilderness, which would be great. I too am fearful that at the last minute Lee would not add something that is terrible for wilderness, or use this as a foothold to allow commercial use of wilderness.

  • Oskar says:

    So happy that this is going ahead. Sustainable Trails Coalition wrote the bill, and it’s very common sense minded. Sure, Lee is a slippery fish, but this bill really doesn’t help him take federal lands for Utah (and then give/sell them to oil/mining).

  • evdog says:

    @rth – there already is commercial use of Wilderness. Ever accessed wilderness near a commercial pack station? You can take 25 head of horses in your group and all the glamping equipment they can carry. But one bicycle…will ruin the wilderness, according to some.

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