Skip to Navigation

Answering Your Questions on Bikes in Wilderness

Dear mountain bikers,

This past week, IMBA took a stand that was unpopular with many mountain bikers when we submitted written testimony stating that we do not support HR 1349, a bill that would amend the Wilderness Act by reversing the ban on bicycles.

We’d like to discuss this further with our members and the mountain biking community.

IMBA takes seriously our role as the recognized national leader and a powerful voice for mountain biking. It is a monumental responsibility, especially during this politically divisive time. We considered the responsibilities of our leadership role, and our mission, in our submitted testimony on HR 1349. IMBA’s mission is to create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes. The word “protect” guided and motivated us and made it imperative that IMBA not be silent on this bill. We reaffirm our position today and below.  

Core to IMBA’s mission is being a catalyst for trail development all across the country—both close to population centers and in the epic, backcountry locations that define mountain biking for so many of us. This speaks to (among other things) public health and wellness, community economic prosperity and engaging youth. IMBA is positioning mountain biking at the highest levels in the United States as a solution addressing some of today’s most timely and important topics.

A foundational element of our mission is our dedication to land protection and to working for new and creative ways to protect lands for mountain biking. We honor and recognize the fact that we are one of many user groups sharing our beloved trails. Collaboration and partnership are paramount to progress. Our organization has built and nurtured cherished working relationships with land management agencies over our 30-year existence. These partnerships have consistently delivered results, and IMBA will continue to respectfully work within the framework of these partnerships to further mountain biking.

IMBA’s mission does not include amending the Wilderness Act and never has. In 2016, IMBA’s board of directors reaffirmed our position on this issue, which is to respect both the Act and the federal land agency regulations that bicycles are not allowed in existing, Congressionally designated Wilderness areas. This does not mean that we are content with the present situation on these vital and revered public lands. HR 1349 has raised this topic to a national level.

How did we get here? Beginning nearly 30 years ago, a group of mountain bikers—organized as IMBA—found their way into U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service planning processes and meetings: processes that the pioneers of the conservation movement in the 1960s and 70s realized they could influence.

With a several-decade head start, the conservation organizations were less than thrilled to have two-wheeled, human-powered lovers of trails and public lands showing up and working hard to insert the voice of mountain biking into important conversations. Through our partnerships with federal land agencies (the decision makers), IMBA has made and continues to make an impact on trails and access to public lands.

Over three decades of work, IMBA has earned the trust of land management agencies and incredible progress has been made; IMBA has been an integral part of opening up untold miles of trails to mountain biking; and IMBA has helped protect large tracts of our precious public lands. These efforts and partnerships have been, and continue to be, core to IMBA’s world.

Believe me, I would like to see mountain bikers regain access to some Wilderness trails as much as anyone. However, we feel strongly that HR 1349, while addressing an important aspect of land protection reform (bicycles in Wilderness) is not in the best interest of mountain biking long-term.

IMBA has great respect for any movement that gets more mountain bikers engaged in advocacy and in learning all aspects of complicated issues. Wilderness and land protection have always been difficult. Add in today’s political climate, and it becomes exponentially more difficult. This is not black and white and it’s far from over – no matter the outcome of HR 1349.

We know that mountain bikers won’t always agree with our approach, and may choose not to support us. That’s okay. IMBA will continue to work for the long-term gains of mountain biking, just as we have for three decades.

We are paying attention to your responses. Below, you’ll find answers from the IMBA team to the most common themes that are surfacing in the conversation online and in the media. This post will be updated as other important and relevant questions emerge. We invite you to read on and to check back for updates. Also, we plan to release a survey during the upcoming week as an additional way for your voice to be heard.

Thank you.

Dave Wiens, IMBA Executive Director


We answered the following questions:

Why did IMBA offer written testimony on HR 1349? 
Why is maintaining relationships with federal land management agencies so important to IMBA?
Did IMBA violate its agreement with STC?
Are IMBA’s positions influenced by funding from the outdoor industry or other organizations?
How IMBA is dealing with Wilderness at a national level?
How IMBA is dealing with Wilderness at a local level?
Is IMBA doing anything to expand trails and trail access?


Here’s what we’ve learned and what we want you to know:

We understand that we have to be more connected, give you more information and listen more actively. And we pledge to do this, particularly with reaching out and asking you to comment on certain issues that we’re dealing with. It’s almost impossible for IMBA to please everyone all the time and, ultimately, what we’re trying to do is further mountain biking for as many people as possible in the best way that we can.

Dave and Eric Melson from our government relations team are going to Washington, D.C., on Monday to advocate for the tribe of mountain bikers in meetings with the Forest Service, and we’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, let us know what you think by leaving us a comment on this post. If you keep it positive, we’ll do our best to answer your questions. And we’ll add content to this blog as good questions come in, because we do want to get information out. We want you to understand what we’re doing.

IMBA is not—and never has been—the kind of organization that utilizes just one tactic, funnels all of its resources toward a sole effort or hyper focuses on a single issue. Our mission, our history and the diverse communities we serve means that we’re working every day to help solve complex problems and engage with unique opportunities in all 50 states.

When IMBA started in 1988, mountain bikers were rapidly losing what little access there was. Three decades later, there are more than 100,000 (known) miles of trails open to mountain bikes. It doesn't mean we never lose access or are able to grab ahold of every opportunity, but the overall gains for mountain biking have been outstanding. IMBA looks forward to the next 30 years and the next 100,000 miles of trails.



Why did IMBA offer written testimony on HR 1349?

We are the International Mountain Bicycling Association. We are the experts in mountain bike policy because we’ve been at it for three decades. We constantly track bills that are both good and bad for mountain bikers and submit testimony to Congress, often. Whenever we can elevate mountain biker interests or speak out against things that would hurt us, we are doing so at the highest levels of government. A discussion about riding on federal public lands would be incomplete without IMBA.

But with regard to amending the Wilderness Act, we simply do not think the answer to our challenges is to change a bedrock conservation law, especially right now. Public lands are being threatened at an unprecedented level, and it's imperative that public land users come together to protect these cherished places and offer our voices in this critical dialogue.

Mountain bikers deeply appreciate the experience of riding in an undeveloped landscape. Mountain bikers and the recreation community depend on public lands and thoughtful conservation. This legislation divides the recreation and conservation community in an unproductive way.

We carefully considered options on submitting testimony. We concluded that, as the leading mountain bike advocacy organization with a broad and diverse mission statement, it is our responsibility to represent the greater mountain bicycling community on legislation that directly affects us. It is essential for our voice to be present in this discussion and on this bill, and for IMBA to stand independently with its testimony.

If you read our testimony, you'll see that we raised a number of important issues with the committee, including the importance of having mountain bikers involved in conservation discussions. We also highlighted the significant problems we're seeing at the U.S. Forest Service and ways IMBA has been a valuable partner. Ultimately, IMBA believes that there are better, more effective ways to get lost trails restored.

Our most cherished partners are the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service because they manage the lands on which many of us ride and where we hope to ride in the future. Maintaining positive and productive relationships with these agencies is critical to IMBA’s mission and work. 


Why is maintaining relationships with federal land management agencies so important for IMBA?

IMBA has had official partnerships with the Forest Service, National Park Service and BLM for more than two decades. Our relationship with the Forest Service goes back the farthest: In 1994, IMBA signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service that encouraged the agency to promote mountain biking throughout its 191-million acre (at the time) system. In 2000, IMBA signed a cooperative agreement with the BLM.

These ongoing, 23 and 17-year partnerships have allowed IMBA to provide education, fight for access and demonstrate the value of mountain biking at the highest levels. Our partnerships are the bedrock on which IMBA and its chapters chapters and supporting clubs across the country have built trails and gained access over the years.

In the southeast, for example, IMBA partner Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) has a longstanding formal agreement with Region 8 of the Forest Service. That MOU is directly based on IMBA’s many years of good faith efforts to cultivate productive relationships with the Forest Service. The partnership has allowed SORBA to make major access gains for mountain bikers across the Southern and Southeastern U.S.

We consistently hear that there is little appetite in any of the federal land agencies to amend the Wilderness Act. The moment IMBA crosses that line, we lose our seat at the table that we spent decades working to earn. Major access gains in every corner of the country would be jeopardized if the federal agencies no longer see IMBA as a viable partner.

To be clear, IMBA is not afraid to stand up to the agencies when we believe major losses are pending and a bad precedent is about to be set. In 2001, an IMBA-led campaign was directed at the BLM to stop that agency from lumping mountain bikes in with motorized trail users in its new management plan. IMBA and mountain bikers spoke, and the agency listened. Currently, we are critical of the way the Forest Service is managing recommended wilderness in some parts of the county, which has banned mountain biking from several hundred miles of backcountry trails.

IMBA’s relationships with the federal land management agencies matter to everyone who rides on federal lands in all parts of the country. This includes U.S. Army Corps of Engineer properties in Pennsylvania (like the famous host site for Dirt Rag Dirt Fest); to BLM parcels in Oregon (like the home of Sandy Ridge: a technical, bike-only trail system designed by IMBA); to BLM lands in California (like the home of the Sea Otter Classic, the trails of which are in a National Monument that IMBA advocated for); to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (a 33,000-acre property near Cleveland that opened trails to mountain bikes in 2015 following efforts of IMBA and local mountain bike groups).


Did IMBA violate its agreement with the STC?

IMBA and the STC do not have a formal agreement or, as commonly mentioned, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Instead, IMBA and the STC released a “joint statement” in May 2016. The statement is very clear that IMBA and the STC respect each other’s convictions and efforts to get more mountain bikers engaged in advocacy, but it did not shy away from acknowledging that the two organizations have unique missions and different forms of governance.

While crafting our testimony, we carefully consulted this joint statement and feel strongly that we have not put forth anything that is not already present in the joint statement.

Since IMBA and STC’s joint statement was issued, we have been encouraged by regular dialogue between our organizations, including our approaches to this bill and the congressional hearing. STC was the first organization to see our draft testimony well before it was finalized and submitted.

IMBA’s position in its testimony (which was a response to “what does IMBA think of this legislation?”) simply says that we do not support the legislation. The wording was pulled directly from the joint statement that the STC signed and shared with IMBA.

The joint statement reads as follows: “IMBA reciprocally respects STC’s approach and does not oppose it, but chooses not to support STC’s legislative reform efforts, partially in order to safeguard and strengthen positive working relationships with other stakeholders.” And our testimony reads as follows: “IMBA is not supporting H.R. 1349.”

Nothing contained in our testimony is a deviation from our mission, our methods or our statements. IMBA’s stance and efforts to work for more mountain bike trails and access without touching the Wilderness Act itself have been public for a decade or more. And while there are countless organizations aggressively opposing H.R. 1349 with money and large-scale activations of their members, IMBA is not one of them.

There is actual news in our testimony: as mentioned above, IMBA is making headway in our effort to change how recommended Wilderness is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. We’re attempting to re-gain access to nearly 1,000 miles of trails lost to bikes in Montana, and prevent the potential loss of thousands more, through this high-level effort. We’re making significant progress and you can read more on that below.


Are IMBA’s positions influenced by funding from the outdoor industry or other organizations?

Corporate support does not influence our policy decisions. IMBA works with corporate partners that support the work IMBA does to further our mission to create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes.

Over the years, we have had many generous partners fund specific programs, events and positions, but all of this work ladders into our mission. We would not consider a corporate funding source that is not in alignment with our mission.

In 2017, IMBA received only 13 percent of its revenue from corporate supporters, including zero dollars from conservation-focused organizations. There are no agreements or arrangements with companies or advocacy groups to financially support IMBA for its position on H.R. 1349 or any other legislation.


How IMBA is dealing with Wilderness at a national level?

There's something called "recommended wilderness" that the U.S. Forest Service can create on its own and that requires no input from Congress. The Forest Service can manage these areas as they see fit, and that management is inconsistent across the country. In some areas (notably Region 1, which includes Montana, North Dakota and northern Idaho), recommended Wilderness is being managed as actual Wilderness, banning bicycle use, despite there being no reason for this.

IMBA strongly opposes this, which is why it made up a large part of our testimony. We have seen 800 miles of trails closed by these bureaucratic actions in recent years, so we're taking this issue straight to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service. We recently sent them a letter regarding our opposition to this management style and why we think it should be changed. We heard back from the Secretary of Agriculture and he connected us with the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service for further discussion on this topic. If we are successful, IMBA could restore hundreds of miles of trail access and directly prevent the loss of even more.

IMBA is also one of the leading supporters of the Recreation Not Red Tape Act—bipartisan legislation that would not only make it easier to develop new trails on public land, but that would expand the number of areas where mountain bike trails are allowed.

And finally, when we see Wilderness (or other land designation) efforts coming together that could impact trails, we make sure that mountain bikers are at the table. And when mountain biking voices aren't heeded, we fight to defeat that legislation. IMBA opposes Wilderness-designation proposals that hurt trail access for mountain bikers. Nothing has changed here. IMBA has been and continues to lead the fight for trails and access for mountain bikers.


How IMBA is dealing with Wilderness at a local level?

By proving to be truly collaborative partners, IMBA has shown that there are ways to get Wilderness boundaries altered to restore lost trails. Where we aren’t able to be directly involved in these negotiations, we do our best to support out partners on the ground. Here are three recent examples:

In New Mexico (Columbine-Hondo Wilderness), we worked with local mountain bike organizations and moved a 1960s-era Wilderness boundary to allow mountain biking. It set a powerful precedent that we can successfully legislate a modification to a Wilderness boundary. IMBA will work to use that tool wherever possible.

IMBA also crafted a bill currently in the U.S. Senate called the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act that preserves bike access to 30 miles of trails in Montana, while also protecting additional acres of land. The local mountain bikers were supportive of this collaborative proposal because the other option, had mountain bikers not been involved, was a total loss of trail access for bikes.

Also in Montana, during negotiations over the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, mountain bikers and IMBA recently fought the expansion of a local Wilderness area that could have eaten up 270,000 acres and closed it entirely to bikes. Because mountain bikers got involved, the Wilderness proposal was shrunk to only 67,000 acres, and the other 208,000 was given a bike-friendly land protection designation, instead, thereby preserving a significant amount of access. 


Is IMBA doing anything to expand trails and trail access?

Yes. Check out out our Dig In campaign, which is fundraising far and wide for 68 trail projects in 31 states. Those shovel-ready, IMBA chapter-led projects represent 500 new miles of new singletrack, 140 miles of trail maintenance and 10 new bike parks within reach of millions of mountain bikers.

IMBA is also partnering with federal agencies to produce state-of-the-art trail building guides dedicated to what mountain bikers want (see the BLM’s Guideline to a Quality Trail Experience, developed with IMBA); we're fighting for legislation that will dedicate more public land to recreation and mountain biking (Recreation Not Red Tape Act); we’re hosting advanced trail building schools all across the U.S. for land managers and volunteers (15 in 2017); and we’re actively building trails at the request of local mountain bikers in multiple communities.

In Johnson City, TN, for example, IMBA is building a new trail system in conjunction with the local IMBA-SORBA chapter and local Trek retailer. This week, the project was awarded a significant amount of additional funding from the city council expressly because IMBA is a leader on the project.

In Athens County, OH, the Wayne National Forest approved yesterday (Dec. 8) the construction of the Baileys Mountain Bike Trail System to include 88 miles of bike-specific trail. This wouldn't have happened without IMBA’s advocacy, our local chapter’s efforts and the collaboration of the many partners that we brought together to speak with one voice, promote the vision, educate the Forest Service and ultimately enjoy this major win.


+ Comment On This Post


Sorry, but it doesn't quite add up.

IMBA prides itself on (unsuccessfully) trying to regain access to trails within recommended Wilderness in Montana. What's the point? As soon as those areas become Wilderness, IMBA will support the bike ban in those areas anyway. I know their argument would be that they will try to get alternate designations for those areas that allow bikes. Except for some rare cases, that strategy has been unsuccessful also. If bikes were allowed in Wilderness, then mountain bikers could align with other Wilderness advocates for more Wilderness designations. HR 1349 allows local land managers to decide which trails are suitable for bicycles and which are not. They could allow bikes on a trial basis, perhaps only in off season times when there are fewer people using the trail. I remember when snowboarding was not allowed at ski areas. Us skiers thought snowboarders would ruin it for us. Now I realize it was an unfounded fear and have no problem with snowboards. I think people's perception of bikes in Wilderness will be the same. Bikes were once legal in Wilderness. The Forest Service changed the law in the early 80's. Some say bikes were banned all along, but if that was the case, why were they allowed at one time and why did they have to make a new law banning them? The first time I actually saw a mountain bike was in a Wilderness area in 1980 or '81. I thought, "Wow that is cool, I want one of those!"

One final thought- IMBA states that they want to maintain relationships with land managers. They can maintain a good relationship without agreeing on all it's policies. . I believe the Sierra Club was instrumental in influencing the Forest Service to outlaw bikes in Wilderness, indicating they had a good relationship, even though they have taken the Forest Service to court countless times before and after that.

I will not renew my membership

I am a long time mountain biker and a long time IMBA member who has been active in trail building, maintenance, working with land owners and local, state and federal entities. Without a doubt the statement you are making defending your stance on H.R. 1349, is total BS. IMBA seems to have forgotten their goal of being a group representing mountain bikers. In the future, I will send my donations to groups that are willing to support MTB access.

I hope its worth it.

From your opening paragraph on IMBA history on your website.

"IMBA was founded in 1988 by a group of California mountain bike clubs concerned about the closure of trails to cyclists. These pioneering clubs believed that mountain biker-education programs and innovative trail management solutions should be developed and promoted."

I read the whole bill, its really short, less then a page.

It opens wilderness to wheelchairs, human powered bicycles and game carts. Nothing else. This is clearly something any Mountain Bike advocacy group would be in favor of. NONE of your responses mention anything about why this bill would be bad for mountain bikers. And I don't understand how the current issues with national monument land, or the environment has anything to do with this. This bill does not take away any public land, or open it to anything other than mountain bikes, wheel chairs and game carts. Local land managers will still be able to close local wilderness to MTB if they choose, their just won't be a prohibition. You said you would respond to positive comments- please address the bill directly and how it will harm the people, environment or whatever.

That said I understand that relationships with other advocacy groups, local land managers etc ARE important in the long run. Destroying them for a bill that probably won't make it through anyway would not be worth it. But you are destroying your relationship with your members by taking such an active part in shooting down this bill. Standing on the sidelines would have been much better. You are loosing members for life and disenfranchising many, many others. I hope you have gotten solid commitments on concrete items from those entities you have agreed to help, but I doubt it.

Where is the poll you were going to send out? I can't imagine if you post the actual bill, ask IMBA members if they want you to support the bill or not that it would even be close.

Brian Miller

There WAS a poll. 96% in favor, 90% thinks Mountain bike advocates (Thats YOU IMBA) should ACTIVELY purse opening wilderness. Since I assume you actually do love MTB someone must have put a lot of pressure on you and made some pretty serious threats for you to do this.... I hope its worth it.

Not in step with your membership

IMBA took action completely out of step with the overwhelming majority opinion of its membership. I did not see any attempt to survey membership before going in front of congress. According to your own survey results, 55% of your membership believes advocating for expanded access is the primary purpose of the organization. The congressional testimony is a significant betrayal of the single most important core value IMBA claims to have - expanding access. That core value is the primary reason most members support the organization.

I like the idea of a large national organization representing mountain bikers, but IMBA has demonstrated they are not that organization. I am a volunteer, I encourage and organize others to volunteer as well. But I can no longer encourage supporting IMBA. I am not asking for a refund, but I am struggling to find a reason to renew my membership.

You had one job IMBA, one job.

Enough is enough

Done with IMBA. And I'm not the only one. I'll never give another penny to help pay them to fight against riders.

The whole crew ought to just open a brothel. At least then the customers would expect to be screwed.

Steve Z

Vote with your membership

It is time to seriously consider the relevance of IMBA in advocating for access for Mountain Bikers. Having invested countless hours over the past five years to fight for trail access for all non-motorized users, I am thoroughly discouraged by IMBA. I've waited to cancel my membership to see how Dave and IMBA listen to our responses. I've surveyed many forums and MTB sites and a large majority (more than 85%) seem to disapprove of IMBA's stance. Unfortunately IMBA doubled down on their position rather than reconsidering.

Having worked with Congressional committees, USFS, BLM and local land managers, I am confident that neither IMBA or the groups I represent will see their position compromised with land managers for advocating for minor changes to the Wilderness Act to enable greater local control and further, to enable some trails to open (or re-open) to mountain bikes. Some of the objections espoused by IMBA just don't seem to be valid.

As a result, I will not renew my membership and plan to encourage the advocacy groups I work with to break away from IMBA. I had hoped IMBA could be reformed from the inside out because it's a bad thing to separate and divide our advocacy efforts, but that seems unrealistic at this point. Please join me in encouraging people to leave IMBA and let's find better ways to use our dollars to benefit the MTB community. IMBA no longer seeks to represent our sport or their constituents in many matters.


Still, what was wrong with the bill

Someone else said this as well and I agree with them. I understand that there may have been many reasons why you didn't want to support the bill, but you didn't mention even one! You said a lot of words but after reading it, I'm still left to trying to figure out what you meant and why you didn't support the bill. I'm assuming (and there lies the problem with your letter, I shouldn't need to assume), that the bill called for bikes on all wilderness land and you felt that would be an overreach. We want to leave some wilderness land free of bikes. Ok, maybe I agree. BUT YOU DIDN"T SAY THAT.

wilderness aint no flow trail

IMBA has lost their focus on supporting mountain bikers in favor of bringing new, noninvested users to the sport. This politics only serves to solidify IMBA as the sole voice for a community that no longer believes in the cause. Why aren't the avid riders that have been with IMBA for decades represented by this organization?! IMBA and STC don't need to be in competition and the effort to block the bill is counter to advancing the mountain biking reputation. It's ridiculous that IMBA is fighting against even opening the possibility of wheels in wilderness.
Great job for bringing partisan politics tactics to what I love most, though.

Because that's the way we've always done it!!

It doesn't surprise me at all that the IMBA doesn't support this bill. Talk about straying from what a MTB advocacy organization should be doing. Fighting individual battles every time the Feds want to designate more public land as wilderness area sounds kind of crazy to me, one would think coming to the table with a law behind your cause might help?? I noticed you didn't mention the biggest reason for the Nat. Forest Service wanting to designate more and more land as wilderness in the last decade, Budget reduction, When they make large chunks of the forest wilderness area there off the hook to maintain the roads and infrastructure (1st thing that came to mind with the Pisgah NFS proposal). Its time to grow a pair and act like you represent tax paying land users and stop worrying about making waves with the "land managers" that work for us, I get so tired of hearing how we need to tread lightly when working with the land managers, They don't own the land the American Tax payers do. I've seen the efforts of working with the local NFS manager and getting MOU's signed and having them (rangers) come to trail building and maintenance clinic's only to watch them turn around and do things the way they always have, hire the low bidder to come in screw up the trail and then expect the local MTB club volunteers correct the poor work that the low bidder got paid to do, but hey lets not make waves or call them out for wasting our tax dollars.
You need to be more careful with your choice of words, you say the bill will change the Act when its clear it changes the arbitrary rule made by the NFS due to pressure from certain eco groups.
This position you have taken is flat out wrong and you might want to reconsider yours and the boards position on this, just because the IMBA said it's right doesn't mean it is.
Good Luck.


Wow, that was a long windend bunch of politically correct BS to say absolutely nothing.

I think the only thing I actually took away from this whole article is "We at imba have been doing what we're doing for a long time, and since we've been at it a long time, we're really good at uptalking ourselves, even though we don't really say anything"

Sounds like a typical group after it has outlived it's usefulness.


After reading through all of the discussions over why anyone would go against reasonable legislation that may allow mountain bike access to be restored or expanded on a case-by-case basis, it seems painfully clear what IMBA's stance is all about: not wanting to accept good ideas because they are from the other "team."

True, the weakening of environmental protections (primarily by Republicans) is extremely serious, but none of that is in H.R. 1349. We expect IMBA, a non-political organization (by law), to vote based on substance, not partisanship. Speak to the substance of H.R. 1349, not the politics of the party who sponsored it.

Don't undermine the fundamental basis of environmental protection - environmental appreciation - by alienating would-be allies, regardless of political affiliation. The type of thinking embodied by IMBA's stance on this issue is why America is so divided - we've become a bunch of polarized zealots with no interest in finding common ground and, in so doing, we all lose.

It's simple: say why the bill is bad.

Why is this a bad bill? That's not a rhetorical question; it's the central question. I don't find an answer in your post. It needs to be stated simply, directly, and right up front. Otherwise, you've got: "too long; did not read", and a bunch of disappointed members wondering why IMBA doesn't support a bill supposedly opens wilderness to bikes.

I support keeping the conservation and recreation communities united against resource extraction interests. Most mountain bikers probably do. By all means, keep public-lands public. But most people won't even try to read the text of a bill. So do that for us and tell us what the bill does. After that you can tell us what IMBA's values and strategies are.

Bike in Wilderness & HR 1349

Dear IMBA,

I think many of us are confused as to the reasoning behind not supporting bikes in Wilderness areas. You haven't give a clear answer or explained exactly WHY the IMBA won't support opening up future options for biking in Wilderness. Is it because you feel that the bill is a no-win situation? An uphill battle you feel you would lose? You mentioned there are better battles to get involved with but don't elaborate any further. I think you should reconsider your stance on bikes in the Wilderness, even if we only gain back a few trails that we've already lost. I don't think the mountain bikers should have access to all trails in the Wilderness, but there are several cases where a trail may connect or cut a corner of the Wilderness Area and you could help advocate for these small portions of trails that could allow bikes access. You should also never take a stance on anything that hurts mountain biking, and by not supporting HR 1349, you are basically agreeing with the same conservationist's in 1964 that created the Wilderness Act to keep mechanized objects off the trails. There is going to be more and more gray area with the growth of mountain bikes and e-bikes on trails....why not take stance....a definitive stance... for mountain bikers of whom you are supposed to represent?

I also think the 'Recommended Wilderness' areas need to be rejected and fought over harder. Work hand in hand with other special interest groups to get these areas re-opened! We've lost a lot of great areas to ride that were built by mountain bikers/ohv users.


Chad Hummer

Time for change...

Dave, you are not answering any questions. You are stating the position that does not make any sense to the people that give IMBA money. You have failed to convince me that you are speaking as the voice of Mountain biking. I watched silently in awe as you and IMBA sat by and let my beloved Boulder White Clouds slip away. I’ve watch many stories since about losing ground to ride. Yes, you’ve created a few new trails. Yay... The gains you have made are a small nugget compared to what has been lost. The tide has risen. This blog post doesn’t provide enough details to sit silently again and watch IMBA squander the donations it has been given. STC is actually doing something to stop the losses we are incurring. It is time for you to join STC and support mountain bikers instead of “relationships” with government agencies that are making up rules as they go. “Human Power” will win this, I will donate to STC.


People love and cherish wilderness most when they are able to experience it. Too few have any firsthand appreciation of the outdoors these days, and that problem is only getting worse as we spend more and more time in front of electronics. The notion that humans passing through nature, whether via foot, horseback or bicycle, cause substantive harm to wilderness is not only misguided, but contrary to the original intent of the Wilderness Act.

What will cause harm are future generations of shut-ins, banned fom wilderness, with no stake in preserving it from being exploited by monied interests who truly cause damage to our natural resources on a massive scale. Denying people accessible opportunities to appreciate wilderness is counterproductive to the goal of preserving it.

Furthermore, while e-bikes should be endorsed as alternative forms of transpirtation, compared to cars and gas-driven motorcycles, they should not be endorsed as alternatives to human-powered bicycles. It is disingenuous to treat e-bikes as anythng other then mopeds. Your stance on supporting e-bikes, while simultaneously undermining efforts to provide healthy, 100% human-powered recreational areas is misguided and will be the undoing of us all.

There may be wilderness places unsuited to mountain biking, but it makes no sense to support a blanket ban on mountain bikes in all wilderness areas. There may be cases where riding an e-bke is a viable transportation alternative, but it makes no sense for it to be endorsed at the expense of the healthier and more environmentally-friendly alternative of non-motorized cycling.

IMBA has lost the plot

Dear Dave,

It has become abundantly clear that IMBA has lost its way. First, IMBA modified its previous position regarding eBikes on non-motorized trails. Yay mopeds! Now IMBA testifies against restoring bicycle access to Wilderness?

Clearly you are not listening to the community you believe to represent.

The STC has been very articulate and precise about what it is doing and aims to accomplish - to restore the intent and interpretation of the Wilderness Act to what it's authors intended and how it was originally framed. Restoring the original intent and interpretation would not negatively impact IMBA's partnering efforts with like-minded associations and land managers. If it did then what strange bedfellows you have made. It would have been better to simply stay out of the ring than oppose this so publically.

Have you even surveyed your membership to see where we stand on the matter? It seems not as the vast majority of mountain bikers I have spoken to are quite decidedly in favor of restoring, where appropriate, bicycle access to wilderness.

IMBA no longer represents the best interests of the mountain bike community and OMBA will be surveying our membership to determine if we should remain in any way affiliated with IMBA at our next AGM.


Sean Ralph
Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA)

I just don't understand your position

I'm a relatively educated person. I've read the materials and comments on this issue.

After all that, I don't understand what IMBA is doing or its strategy.

I would normally expect it to support any law that gave us more access.

So guys, I'm not sure what you are doing other than generating a lot of bad press, pissed off mountain bikers, and fleeing members.

But if you don't put out a plain, compelling message in 3 lines or less that will cause me to say, "OK, I get it, good job." you are failing in communication and your organization is going to implode.

What exactly is IMBA's purpose then?

This seems to be pretty basic stuff to me. Reasonable access to wilderness trails with appropriate exceptions by the local land managers. I read your position and that of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) and frankly, IMBA's position is nonsense. Your stated mission, and the reason I joined, is to support mountain biking. You should change the IMBA name, or change the management.
I'll not be renewing with you guys since you're unable to advocate on my behalf.

Wilderness Access

I just read your "explanation" on why you oppose expanding mountain biking. I guess it's time to either change who is in charge or find another organization that is actually there to protect and expand our access.


Your Communications and Optics SUCK

Nobody is listening. I seriously doubt if this blog post does anything to turn the tide that is drowning IMBA. One disastrous misstep after another. I for one am in favor of keeping my chapter associated with IMBA because as long as we are members, our voices count for something. But recent events do not support that position.

You aren't listening. The beatings shall continue.

mike barrow
25+ year mtb access advocate
Lafayette CO

H.R. 1349

I'm a new mountain biker and first year member of IMBA. I've worked in legislative affairs and am baffled by your strategy. Your explanation makes no sense to me and I'm wondering if there's something I'm missing.

Am I correct in understanding that you believe that this strategy will help you protect what we already have and improve access in other areas? I don't see how that would work.

As a trail liaison for the local IMBA chapter (MORE) I am completely confused by this decision. There is nothing in the law that would force the land managers to allow bikes. It just gives them the option. There is nothing that allows for motorized vehicles and clearly IMBA should oppose that - although I would support low power e-bikes, especially for the handicapped.

Reading your testimony it seems that you think it makes more sense to work to have special bills to re-designate portions of wilderness to allow for bikes. That's an extremely challenging strategy and one that will result in almost no additional trails.

And any logic that indicates a fear of the motorized vehicles being included is just that - fear. Don't let it stop you from advocating for us, your funders.

I expect that you have put yourself on a path to encourage the growth of a competing mountain biking organization that is focused on the interests of mountain bikers. I for one would support such an organization if you continue down this path.


Steve Harper
Trail Liaison for MORE
Arnold Maryland

Is it IMBA's intention to

Is it IMBA's intention to continue to advocate for a blanket ban on bicycles in Wilderness areas even though congress has demonstrated its belief that mountain bike trails are compatible with the definition of Wilderness by designating Wilderness areas on long established bike trails? Is it IMBA's intention to advocate for a blanket ban rather than local input, regardless of members' views on the subject? What would it take to get the current board of IMBA to step down and let the members choose leadership that will represent their views? Has IMBA changed its mind about not lobbying government for fear of losing its tax deductible non-profit status as stated in the joint statement with STC and in other places? How does IMBA justify claiming to be the voice of mountain bikers before congress after so many years of claiming that IMBA would avoid lobbying when asked to support reversing the one-size-fits-all blanket ban for more than a decade? Finally, why does IMBA feel that it is necessary to dialogue with mountain bikers after submitting testimony but did not feel the same need before, and is this to be expected from now until the board steps down?