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BOLT Act: following a fast-moving mountain bike bill through Congress

BOLT Act: following a fast-moving mountain bike bill through Congress

By: Jali Fernando
Posted: March 18, 2022
The Maah Daah Hey is an IMBA EPIC that could benefit from the BOLT Act

A bill to promote biking on federal lands across the United States and bolster the outdoor recreation industry is awaiting approval by Congress. If passed, the Biking on Long-Distance Trails (BOLT) Act will identify at least 10 existing long-distance bike trails and identify at least 10 areas where there is opportunity to develop or complete such trails.

IMBA has been working with its Local and industry partners and other like-minded organizations to get the BOLT Act passed. Read the full bill here.

Below is a timeline of the bill’s progress to date. 

BOLT Act Timeline

January  2018: Long Distance Bike Trail concept is proposed

IMBA hand-delivers an administrative action concepts memo to the Department of the Interior’s Senior National Advisor to the Secretary for Recreation. The memo identifies the concept of designating a legacy system of long distance bike trails. This sets the stage early for the eventual introduction of the BOLT Act.

2018-2021: IMBA’s concept memo makes its rounds in Congress

The concept memo makes its way around congress while IMBA targets specific long distance trails with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act.

November 18, 2021: BOLT Act is introduced

The BOLT Act is introduced by Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The bill is co-sponsored by Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY), and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“This bill would allow the Department of Interior to pinpoint opportunities to develop or complete long distance bike trails as well as allow the Department to promote these exciting opportunities to the American people. As mountain biking’s popularity continues to increase, this legislation will make outdoor spaces more accessible to Americans and bolster outdoor economies nationwide.” - Senator Ben Ray Lujan

December 2, 2021: The bill is added to the hearing schedule by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

The Energy & Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the BOLT Act. The bill is heard alongside several of IMBA’s priority bills to benefit mountain biking and outdoor recreation, including the Parks, Jobs and Equity Act; the Recreation Not Red Tape Act; and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, among others. These bills are all candidates for an expected Senate Recreation Package.

January 2022: IMBA mobilizes its network of Local partners to support the BOLT Act

IMBA Local partners support the BOLT Act by adding their organization as signatories to a letter to Senators Joe Manchin and John Barrasso urging lawmakers to pass the bill.

January 14, 2022: A letter with suggestions for refining BOLT Act language is submitted to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Non-profit partners Bikepacking Roots and Adventure Cycling Association express their support for the BOLT Act. IMBA, along with the two organizations, submit a letter to the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The letter contains suggestions for refining the language on the BOLT Act, including a clearer definition of a trail and a resource that contains examples of existing and potential trails that could benefit from the bill.

Bikepacking Roots and Adventure Cycling Association also encourage their members to write their representatives in support of the BOLT Act.

Some of Adventure Cycling's most iconic routes are the ones that showcase our public lands, and allow people to experience these amazing places in a sustainable way. We envision a future where long-distance trails enable more people to take advantage of the incredible assets of this nation. - Adventure Cycling Association

At Bikepacking Roots, we strive to connect bikepackers to landscapes through immersive, beautiful, and iconic routes on public lands. Routes that could be developed from the BOLT Act will further connect bikepackers to America's public lands. In connecting with landscape through the medium of bikepacking, cyclists have powerful experiences that lead to a stewardship ethic and advocacy. - Bikepacking Roots

January 30, 2022: The bill is heard by the House Committee on Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee

The BOLT Act is included in the hearing schedule by the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, with mountain bike advocate Jen Hanks testifying on the bill.

“The BOLT Act will make an investment in cycling infrastructure allowing more people the opportunity to experience the backcountry. The mental and physical benefits of being outdoors cannot be denied. Building cycling infrastructure is also good economic policy.” - Jen Hanks

May 3, 2022: The BOLT Act passes through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

IMBA submits a letter of support on behalf of IMBA Local partners.

The bill is included in America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, passes through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and now awaits passage in the full Senate. 

June 15, 2022: The BOLT Act passes through the House Committee on Natural Resources

The bill passes through the House Committee on Natural Resources and now awaits passage in the full House of Representatives.

July 20, 2022: The BOLT Act passes the full House

The bill passes the full House of Representatives under suspension of rules. 

March 3, 2023: The BOLT Act is reintroduced in the 118th Congress 

The bill is re-introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). In the House of Representatives the bill is re-introduced by Joe Neguse (D-CO) and cosponsored by John Curtis (R-UT) and Susie Lee (D-NV). 

March 28, 2023: IMBA Testifies on the BOLT Act 

The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing for several recreation bills Outdoor Alliance partners have helped craft. IMBA Director of Government Affairs Todd Keller provided oral testimony on the BOLT Act. 

April 28, 2023: BOLT Act Passes House Committee

The bipartisan House Subcommittee on Federal Lands passed the BOLT Act with a unanimous vote. This primes the BOLT Act for a House floor vote, or, it is likely to be compiled into a recreation package similar to America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which has already been reintroduced in the Senate and includes the BOLT Act. 

May 17, 2023: BOLT Act Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources passed the BOLT Act as part of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) by voice vote with no opposition. With bipartisan support by both Chairman Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member Barrasso (R-WY), the bill will now be recommended to the full Senate for consideration.

What can you do to support the BOLT Act?

Send a letter of support to your elected officials, telling them mountain bikers like you support this great legislation. 

Support the BOLT Act

IMBA is also asking mountain biking and outdoor recreation companies to add their signatures to IMBA’s letter of support

About the author

Jali's passion for cycling and the outdoors began in Philippines where she was born and raised. She shared her love for the outdoors by accompanying students on environmental research trips and facilitating youth camps on marine conservation. Her love for cycling was reignited when she moved to…

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