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IMBA and the Sustainable Trails Coalition in the News

In the outdoor sports world, Outside magazine, and its online presence Outside Online, is about as big as it gets for media coverage. Combine that massive audience with the always-controversial topic of mountain biking and Wilderness and a rocket-fueled erruption occurs. 

Vernon Felton's provocatively titled Are Mountain Bikers About to Get Their Day in Wilderness? recently hit the airwaves and it's no surprise a massive click storm followed. Within a day's time the story had generated more than 3000 shares in social media and over 300 comments on Outside's website. 

With all those comments flying around, it's inevitable that a few misperceptions have been aired, including erroneous statements about IMBA and its advocacy work related to Wilderness. I'll try to address a few of those in this post, but first I want to express thanks to Vernon Felton, Outside and the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). 

"Wait a second," you might ask, "If IMBA and the STC disagree why is this IMBA guy praising them?"

It's because focusing all this attention on mountain bike advocacy is much better than what has always been the biggest threat to bike access—rampant apathy. So let's have an informed discussion about mountain bikes and Wilderness. Bring it on! 

But let's also make sure we get the facts straight. 

IMBA's Wilderness strategy yields real-world results. Our efforts have succeeded in moving many proposed Wilderness boundaries and protecting thousands of acres with bike-friendly designations other than Wilderness, including National Recreation Areas and National Conservation Areas. Right now, in North Carolina's Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, IMBA's staff and local advocates are engaged with the U.S. Forest Service planning process that could result in new Wilderness designations. Rallying local mountain bikers to get involved such planning efforts is one of the most effective way to protect bike access. 

IMBA and the STC share common beliefs and values. There are areas where collaboration is possible—for example tackling the issues associated with Recommended Wilderness and Wilderness Study Area designations. IMBA agrees that banning mountain biking from these areas on the grounds that our presence detracts from the future possibility of Wilderness designations is a poor land management practice. 

For some readers and commenters, there is no value in Wilderness if it prohibits their bike access. Respectfully, IMBA's view differs: Wilderness is a proven land protection measure that can be used to effectively safeguard landscapes from extraction, development and other threats. We agree that some things about the way that Wilderness is implemented need to be improved, and we are willing to work with any and all partners to move things in a better direction. Hopefully there are a bunch more readers and commenters out there who are now willing to engage in that work. We'll be calling on you.  

 — Mark Eller is IMBA's communications director. 

+ Comment On This Post

Comments

IMBA & STC

I think IMBA & STC need to work together. Putting resources together will help MTBs keep thier trails. I was reading an artical in Singletracks that its proven fact that MTBs leave less impact on the trails & environment then horses. I have riden on trails that have a lot of horse traffic & the trails are very loose & torn up. The 2 organizations stick together there will be more fire power. The Sierra Club & organizations like thta would love to see IMBA & STC but heads it would help them more power.
Also I was reading the letter to IMBA from NEMBA. The subject about E-MTBs was very disturbing. I hope IMBA doesn't approve the use of the E-MTBs on the non-motorized trails. Just the other day I saw one on a trail that is posted no motorized vehicles. It was actually on the competition loop the Maricopa County White Park in Az. The E-MTB was tearing up the trail. On the climbs it was digging in with the power to the rear wheels, leaving tracks going around corners. It was doing the same as a Motorcycle. I agree the e-bikes should be for Commute purposes & also help the handicapi & elderly people who can't ride a regular bike. They would be great in town riding plus on the paved bike paths in cities & Urban areas. Lets all stick together & put up a good fight to help keep our trails.

STC really could use your help

What is it you don't embrace about STC's tactics? As was pointed out in response to your August 24 blog there NEVER is a net gain in trails when Wilderness designations come up. I am glad Pisgah etc are getting some protections as you proudly report above, but it will still be a net loss of two wheeled human powered access. There is always a loss of trails and it seems like a huge amount of energy expended by IMBA and local bike chapters trying to just tread water. Good for you to keep up good relationships with local land managers but as we have learned with Montana/Idaho that really is not going to do any good in the grand scheme of things. Now with threats of huge swathes of theft to our access in Utah and Oregon, you need to really consider this other tactic. As you point out, getting the Wilderness mechanized designation changed IS an act of congress. That is the whole point of STC. The Sierra and Wilderness Club side obviously does NOT care about us at all and they are lawyered up. Why can we cyclists not force this change? It is a tall order, but nothing ventured, nothing earned. You, IMBA, needs to support this 100%. I don't know any of your constituents who think otherwise. You need to influence your deep pocketed bicycle industry friends, sponsored athletes, to contribute as well. I have been an IMBA member about 24 years since meeting Tim Blumenthal at the old Cactus Cup and talking about the Sedona Five ill-fated Grand Canyon arrests. I am thankful for what IMBA has done to be a positive influence in cycling access, education, trail design, etc, but you are on the wrong side of this. Right now is the time to act, not just stick your wetted finger in the air to see which way is the wind blowing. Heaven forbid we anger some one else and lose another entire ecosystem to ride, wait that already happened, twice in two years, and is going to happen again with the current status quo. Don't tell me that with all those 'relationships' you have created with IMBA summits, World Bike Congresses, Congress Bike days, etc that you don't know who up on capital hill can help champion, cajole, or start a cascade vote in our favor. I am sure STC appreciate your help in this regard. From this point forward, I will be spending my discretionary income on groups like STC and SaveMontana who are not turning the other cheek

IMBA's wilderness approach is failing

Mark,

At the September California Chapter Summit virtually every Chapter President in the room was against or deeply concerned with IMBA's stance towards Wilderness. California is experiencing a tremendous amount of trail closures due to expedited Wilderness designation. IMBA's approach is defensive in nature and losing far too much land.

When IMBA sides with the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society AGAINST a commonsense wilderness bill something is dramatically wrong. The proposed commonsense legislation brings access control for mechanized transportation to land managers. How can IMBA be against this???

The firestorm is directed at IMBA's lack of leadership with STC filling the vacuum. During the summit Aaron tried to convince a room of Chapter Leaders losing 70 miles of trail for 1 mile was a win - that was insulting! He then told us we did not understand. If Chapter Presidents don't understand, who would? In five months it appears STC has done more for wilderness access than IMBA. That is something we understand.

Hopefully IMBA immediately adjusts its strategy to reflect what members are looking for and demanding.

Kevin Loomis - Chapter President - San Diego Mountain Biking Association

IMBA & STC

Mark,
I think IMBA & STC need to work together. Putting resources together will help MTBs keep thier trails. I was reading an artical in Singletracks that its proven fact that MTBs leave less impact on the trails & environment then horses. I have riden on trails that have a lot of horse traffic & the trails are very loose & torn up. The 2 organizations stick together there will be more fire power. The Sierra Club & organizations like thta would love to see IMBA & STC but heads it would help them more power.
Also I was reading the letter to IMBA from NEMBA. The subject about E-MTBs was very disturbing. I hope IMBA doesn't approve the use of the E-MTBs on the non-motorized trails. Just the other day I saw one on a trail that is posted no motorized vehicles. It was actually on the competition loop the Maricopa County White Park in Az. The E-MTB was tearing up the trail. On the climbs it was digging in with the power to the rear wheels, leaving tracks going around corners. It was doing the same as a Motorcycle. I agree the e-bikes should be for Commute purposes & also help the handicapi & elderly people who can't ride a regular bike. They would be great in town riding plus on the paved bike paths in cities & Urban areas. Lets all stick together & put up a good fight to help keep our trails.

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