The sign-on letter from the 133 organizations was prepared ahead of a December 7 hearing in the U.S. House's Subcommittee on Federal Lands on a Republican-sponsored bill (H.R. 1349) that would open up all of America's 110-million acres of Wildenress to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions. Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced HR 1349, at the behest of a recently formed mountain biking organization, the Sustainable Trails Coalition.
For the last half century, the Wilderness Act has protected Wilderness from mechanization and mechanical transport. These mountain bikers erroneously claim that mountain bikes were allowed in Wilderness until 1984, but then banned administratively by the U.S. Forest Service.
In a seemingly cynical attempt to use people with disabilities as a justification for the bill, the legislation lists “motorized wheelchairs” and “non-motorized wheelchairs” as the first uses to be authorized in the bill (even prior to the listing of “bicycles”), despite the fact that the 1990 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have allowed wheelchairs in designated Wilderness for more than a quarter-century.
Mountain bikes have their place, but that place is not inside Wilderness. At a time when wilderness and wildlife are under increasing pressures from increasing populations, growing mechanization, and a rapidly changing climate, the last thing Wilderness needs is to be invaded by mountain bikes and other machines.
“We believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the ‘benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness’ would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas,” the 133 organizations wrote Congress.
Read the sign-on letter.
Photo: Leon Werdinger Photography