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Meetings With BLM Create Opportunities for Trail Projects, Clarify 'Wild Lands' Policy

For Immediate Release 1-26-2011
Contact Mark Eller
IMBA Communications Director
markeller [at] imba [dot] com
303-545-9011 ext. 115

In recent weeks, IMBA staff and mountain bike volunteers from around the nation have participated in meetings with state directors and national leaders in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Topics of discussion included near-term and long-term opportunities for trail projects, and clarification of the BLM's Wild Lands policy, which Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced shortly before Christmas.

The BLM is the largest land-managing agency in the United States, with 264 million acres under its control, mainly in 12 western states. Many large-scale trail systems that open for mountain biking are controlled by the agency.

"Mountain bikers and the BLM have worked together closely for more than a decade, resulting in some of the most celebrated trail systems in the country," said Mike Van Abel, IMBA's executive director. "Meeting regularly with the agency's local leaders, as well as the BLM's top brass in Washington D.C., helps mountain bikers share our success stories and plan for future projects." Well-known riding areas like Fruita, Colorado, and Moab, Utah,  are largely managed by the BLM, and recent additions include IMBA-led projects in California's King Range and Oregon's Sandy Ridge Trail System.

Dan Hudson, an IMBA trail builder and a local cycling advocate from Virginia, attended a meeting with regional BLM leaders. "There were great opportunities to talk about our shared successes, such as the trails at the Meadowood Recreation Area,  in Virginia. It was time well spent, and I left confident that the Eastern leadership team left with a better appreciation for how mountain biking can enhance recreation opportunities with popular and cost-efficient trail projects."

Secretary Salazar announced the BLM Wild Lands policy in a speech on Dec. 23, 2010.  "The announcement raised questions about how the agency will handle bike access for Wilderness-quality lands, so I immediately requested a meeting with BLM Director Bob Abbey," said Van Abel. "In January, I brought IMBA's government affairs team to sit with top agency officials. We want to make sure bicycle trails are specifically accommodated in the Wild Lands designation process. It's premature to say what the outcome will be, but I'm confident that the BLM understands IMBA's position. Namely, we want to see lands with Wilderness characteristics protected, and we adamantly believe that you do not need to ban bicycling to achieve that goal."

Stay tuned to IMBA's website for announcements about mountain bike projects on BLM properties, and for updates on the Wild Lands policy.