How is IMBA dealing with Wilderness?
Updated fall 2017
At the 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.
At the 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.