A Stinging Loss in Idaho
Posted in August, 2015, by IMBA Communications Director Mark Eller.
This was supposed to be a happy week at IMBA, the announcement of the 2015 Epics and Ride Centers. The announcement was posted on schedule, but unfortunately the good news has been tempered by a stinging loss—just days ago, the U.S. Senate approved a bill creating new Wilderness in Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds and passed it along to the president to be signed into law. The bill closes bike access for a handful of highly valuable trails in an amazing landscape.
IMBA does not oppose all Wilderness proposals. In fact, of the recent half dozen Wilderness bills signed into law (as well as the national monuments) since 2010, this is the first where we lost highly valued trails. In Idaho, however, the mountain bike community opposed the Wilderness plan, instead supporting a bike-friendly national monument for the Boulder White Cloud landscape. We made significant progress on the monument effort while actively seeking to amend the legislative bill, but ultimately our efforts came up short.
We look at every land protection proposal individually and works with our local chapters and members to determine an appropriate course of action. In many cases we advocate for companion or alternative designations to Wilderness in order to protect bike access. We also look for alterations to the proposed boundaries of Wilderness parcels that are compatible with the riding community’s goals, yet still offer meaningful protection for natural areas. IMBA believes it’s important to protect the places we ride and seeks ways to achieve that through a host of tools.
It’s not easy to say it, but the truth is that in Idaho our best efforts ultimately failed. We stand by our decision to advocate for the monument, and we stand by our grassroots and grasstops advocacy efforts that created a substantial stir in the final months of this fight. However, the deck was always stacked against us, as the trails we hoped to preserve for mountain biking were located on lands long ago labeled as Recommended Wilderness, and had been part of deeply entrenched Wilderness proposals for more than a decade.
Our goal was that a national monument would finally settle this long fought debate with a bike-friendly solution that was both a conservation gain as well as a mountain biking win—a strategy that has gained meaningful results for mountain bikers in other parts of the country. But in recent months, an new dynamic emerged—an anti-monument sentiment that has grown strong in some regions of the country. This led to new-found energy in Congress to pass this bill and that is what moved it through in the end.
IMBA went down swinging in Idaho. Just weeks ago, we organized an advocacy group ride in the Boulder-White Clouds with leaders from the bicycle industry attending, along with representatives from the conservation and cycling communities. This resulted in high level outreach to Congress. We distributed action alerts to cyclists across the country and generated many calls to Congress, and we worked on both sides of the aisle to convince lawmakers that there was a better solution available.
We will continue to seek to work with diverse stakeholders and resolve to ensure trail losses like this are not repeated. As always, there are victories to celebrate as well as losses to mourn. But there’s no denying that the news from Idaho hurts.
|FINAL OA Boulder White Clouds NM Letter_9-13.pdf||222.26 KB|
|WRBC_letter_BWC NtlMon_9-13.pdf||308.73 KB|
|TWS_WRBC_ICL letter-Final.pdf||85.53 KB|
|Proposed Monument Map 10-6-13.pdf||1.4 MB|
|East Fork Salmon - Google Earth Flyover||23.13 KB|
|2015 Letter to Idaho Delegation.pdf||7.07 MB|
|The Honorable Mike Simpson.pdf||882.54 KB|
|IMBA_H.R.1138_IMBA Testimony.pdf||86.62 KB|
About IMBA's Public Lands Initiative:
The Public Lands Initiative is IMBA's effort to better organize local cycling communities and the bike industy to rally around bike friendly policies and public lands protection. Read more about the PLI.
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