Do you remember when Richard Nixon was president and mountain biking was little more than a fringe sport in northern California, where riders were racing down rugged hillsides on homemade “klunkers?” That was the last time the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) overhauled the way it manages its public lands.
The year was 1974, and land managers didn’t have to put a whole lot of thought into balancing multiple uses, let alone recreation, let alone mountain biking. But in the past 38 years, much has changed, including the thousands of miles of trails that now traverse BLM lands throughout the West. Recreation became a major use of, and economic driver for, BLM properties. Land use decisions, including energy development, can lead to major impacts—good and bad—to local communities who rely on BLM lands for sustainable revenue. Needless to say, revising the way BLM lands are managed is long overdue.
IMBA has a long history of involvement in advocating for improved recreational access and management, including helping safeguard and enhance public lands for the benefit of outdoor recreation. From BLM lands and National Parks Service properties, to national forests, state parks and local open spaces, public lands are a core component of the experience in places we love to ride.
Last year, as part of the Outdoor Alliance—a coalition of paddlers, boaters, skiers, boarders, mountain bikers and climbers—IMBA submitted citizen testimony to Congress about the importance of setting aside public lands to “protect the landscape values and the experiences that encourage recreation access.” And we will certainly be paying close attention this year, making sure that mountain biking is a part of the conversation as the BLM Planning 2.0 process unfolds (you can learn more here).
In the meantime, all this talk about modernizing the BLM’s resource management planning has gotten us thinking about riding bikes and celebrating a few of the wonderful places we are able to ride because there are public lands open to all. Many of the most celebrated examples in the U.S. are the designated IMBA Epics—demanding, singletrack adventures in natural settings. A few are featured below. The IMBA Epics represent some of the best rides on the best of our federal, state and local public lands. All of them are testaments to a legacy of local riders, bike clubs and IMBA chapters working together to protect and enhance public lands for everyone—including future generations—to enjoy.
Long Live Long Rides!
Aaron Clark, IMBA Conservation Manager
The success and popularity of the 25-mile, point-to-point Bangtail Divide Trail has leveraged the construction of new trails on National Forest land across the canyon in the Bridger Mountains.
(Photo, right.) The All 5 Ride IMBA Epic is made up of five trails the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA), which is managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The access to this 33-mile ride is a prime example of the strong alliance that has been forged between the NPS and IMBA.
In partnership with the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association (SORBA) and local equestrian organizations, the U.S. Forest Service completed the first major rerouting and maintenance project on this trail system in 2011. The new upgrades make for a flowy and fast experience on the Jake Mountain trail, Mossy Creek and Black Branch trails within the Bull Mountain system. Linked together, this IMBA Epic is a cool, 25 miles.
In the spring of 2006, Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails initiated an IMBA trail project at Curt Gowdy State Park. This project began in response to public comments for expanded recreational opportunities and trail development on state lands. Wyoming State Parks decided to use Gowdy for a pilot project and to hire IMBA Trail Solutions for design and other support services, resulting in a 25-mile stacked-loop trail system that is serving as a model for multiple other state park properties in Wyoming.
(Feature photo above.) The Maah Daah Hey Trail was 30 years in the making, the product of a dream to span the Little Missouri National Grasslands between the southern and northern sections of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The vision was shaped in the late 1960s; today, the 93-mile trail is complete.
The country's oldest stand of hemlocks are protected here in the 90,000-acre Rothrock State Forest, and are a defining highlight of the 35-mile route.