If you haven’t already heard the news, nearly 600,000 acres of public land in Idaho just became federally protected Wilderness, meaning no more access for certain human-powered transport such as mountain bikes. The Boulder-White Clouds is one of Idaho’s most treasured areas and has been legal for human-powered recreation for generations, until now. This is just the latest addition to a broken system that selectively excludes tax paying citizens from more than 100 million acres of federal Wilderness, ultimately reducing the quality and upkeep of the trails in those “protected” areas.
To help stop the bleeding of trail access, the Sustainable Trails Coalition is on a mission to raise upwards of $100,000 to help fix America’s trail system. The current federal policies in place – like the Wilderness Act – are well intended, yet flawed. A blanket ban on bicycles is a discriminatory blockage on one of the fastest growing groups of human-powered trail users in this country.
In a time where childhood obesity is at an all-time high and where mountain towns struggle to maintain tourism-based economies, any legislation that excludes human-powered transport from public lands hurts U.S. citizens, and hurts the trails we’re allegedly trying to protect, as less usage means less maintenance, and ultimately, a trail disappearing for good.
Not even wheelbarrows are allowed in federally protected Wilderness, making trail maintenance extremely difficult (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy Sustainable Trails Coalition
Adding to the hypocrisy, under current laws, federal land managers aren’t even able to use basic maintenance tools like chainsaws or wheelbarrows to maintain trails in Wilderness areas. The very laws that were created to allegedly protect public lands are the same laws preventing them from being used and maintained.
The STC is not trying to turn a blanket ban into a blanket permit, but instead change the current regulations that were created more than 50 years ago when America’s population was a fraction of what it is today. There are certain places where human-powered recreation isn’t a good idea, but there are literally millions of acres of land where activities such as mountain biking are the most ideal and efficient means of human-powered recreation and transportation.
Times have changed, and rigid, inflexible and antiquated laws that forbid low-impact outdoor recreation on public lands need to change as well. Every American citizen has a right to enjoy human-powered recreation in their own way without the government or special interest groups creating blanket bans on how we choose to enjoy our public lands.