PUBLIC LANDS -- Mountain biking groups lobbying Congress to amend the Wilderness Act and allow bikes into designated wilderness areas have triggered a reaction from wilderness advocates.
This week, 116 conservation and preservation organizations, including The Lands Council in Spokane and Friends of the Clearwater in Moscow, asked Congress to oppose attempts to weaken wilderness protections.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 has protected special roadless areas designated by Congress from motorized use as well as from mechanization equipment, such as bicycles.
"This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of mechanization and mechanical transport,” the groups said in the letter to Congress.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition, a mountain biking advocacy group, is seeking supporters and sponsors for legislation to amend the act. "Our simple objective is to modify existing legislation and give land managers more flexibility in how they manage the trails that humans are invariably using to visit our 762 wilderness areas," the group says on its website.
“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,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch.
“Mountain bikes are exactly the kind of mechanical devices and mechanical transport that Congress intended to keep out of Wilderness in passing the Wilderness Act. Mountain bikes have their place, but that place is not inside Wilderness areas,” explained Kevin Proescholdt, Conservation Director of Wilderness Watch.
What's notable about the letter is which groups DID NOT sign it, including The Wilderness Society, the Montana Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League.
To be continued.