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Ten Years, Five Big Wins, Thousands of Mountain Bike Advocates

Ten Years, Five Big Wins, Thousands of Mountain Bike Advocates

10 Years of Advocacy with IMBA & Outdoor Alliance

Posted: April 11, 2024
Two mountain bikers riding in the San Gabriel Mountains

Today, the outdoor recreation community is one of the most powerful voices advocating for the outdoors in Washington, D.C. But it wasn’t always that way. More than a decade ago, human-powered outdoor recreationists, including mountain bikers, climbers, skiers, paddlers, and hikers, were all working separately on advocacy issues like defending the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Over time, they began to work more closely, joining voices and realizing how much more influence they had with lawmakers as a unified group. Through that work, Outdoor Alliance was born with IMBA as a founding member. This year marks ten years that Outdoor Alliance has been a 501c3 and uniting the outdoor community to protect outdoor recreation experiences and conserve public lands and waters.

The Outdoor Alliance coalition brings the human-powered outdoor community together to advocate for more and better trails, protected public lands, and other key climate and conservation policy. IMBA helps strengthen the work of Outdoor Alliance by bringing local voices together to advocate for place-based work, as well as funding for trails, improved recreation policy, and protecting places that matter to mountain bikers. Together with IMBA Local member organizations and Outdoor Alliance partners, mountain bikers have secured big wins in the last ten years, including:

Bonneville Shoreline Trail

One of our most recent successes, passing the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act (BSTAA) in 2022, was a team effort led by IMBA that included years of behind-the-scenes work from local partners, other conservation organizations, and Outdoor Alliance. Outdoor Alliance’s GIS team mapped the project initially, and our respective policy directors partnered to vet and advocate for the Wilderness land exchange. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail boundary adjustments were originally part of a larger effort to pass a recreation and land protection package–while the package ultimately did not pass, this work built awareness and prominence around the trail for the BSTAA to pass as a stand-alone bill.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

LWCF has been a hallmark issue for the Outdoor Alliance coalition since its inception. Before Outdoor Alliance was even a 501c3, IMBA and the other member groups were working together to advocate for LWCF, which provides funding in all 50 states for parks, public lands, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Over the years, IMBA and the other organizations that comprise Outdoor Alliance have advocated vigorously for LWCF, first to save the program when it expired, then to permanently reauthorize it through the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. Finally, in 2020, our joint advocacy played a huge part in passing the Great American Outdoors Act which fully funded the program.

Slickrock Trail

In early 2020, IMBA and Outdoor Alliance worked together to protect Moab’s famed Slickrock trail from being leased to oil and gas developers. At the time, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah offered up several parcels of land for a possible oil and gas lease, including a large parcel of land that overlapped with Slickrock as well as a nearby campground. Together, Outdoor Alliance and IMBA sent thousands of messages to the BLM office. Within 48 hours, the BLM had withdrawn the lease sale and reassured mountain bikers and other outdoor recreationists that they had been heard loud and clear. The moment was evidence of the power of working together, and of directing our collective voices to protect important trails.

Custer Gallatin National Forest

In Montana, the Custer Gallatin National Forest has been home to some very special mountain biking trails, including Porcupine Buffalo Horn and the Lionhead. While prized and stewarded by local mountain bikers, these trails were under consideration to be Recommended Wilderness Areas for their high conservation value, which would prohibit mountain biking in this region. Working together with local leaders, the Gallatin Forest Partnership, and in coalition with Outdoor Alliance, we were able to designate both areas with mountain biking-friendly designations, including a new land designation, to preserve their value to mountain bikers with a high conservation protection.

National Monument Defense

In 2017, IMBA and other Outdoor Alliance member groups came together to defend National Monuments during a nationwide monument review that sought to roll back protections on up to 27 national monuments. National Monuments provide a more flexible way to designate and protect public lands, including protecting mountain biking access. Outdoor Alliance has advocated and helped to designate a number of national monuments over the years, including Berryessa Snow Mountain and the San Gabriels in California, both of which are home to great mountain biking trails and were threatened in 2017. We brought together thousands of mountain bikers and fellow outdoor recreationists to defend national monuments across the country, ultimately resulting in the administration maintaining protections for 25 of the 27 monuments.

In Washington D.C., where so much outdoor recreation advocacy takes place, collaboration and shared voices are the coin of the realm. By bringing together mountain bikers with backcountry skiers, hikers, surfers, paddlers, and climbers, we have a much stronger voice with lawmakers and are better able to get policy successes like LWCF reauthorization, the Great American Outdoors Act, and Bonneville Shoreline Trail across the finish line as well as protect iconic trails like Slickrock and the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

You can learn more about Outdoor Alliance here.

About the author
Headshot for Tania Lown-Hecht

Tania Lown-Hecht is the Vice President of Communications & Strategy for Outdoor Alliance, a coalition of human-powered outdoor recreation advocacy organizations that unites the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to protect the human-powered outdoor recreation experience and conserve America’s…

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