For Immediate Release 2/5/2015
Contact: Jeremy Fancher
IMBA Government Affairs Interim Director
The U.S. Forest Service recently issued a final ruling regarding winter uses on National Forest System lands. IMBA, as well as its partner recreation groups in the Outdoor Alliance have engaged with the agency in the process leading to this ruling because bicycles are frequently banned on snow trails as "Wheeled Vehicles." IMBA requested that the Forest Service also use this occasion to provide additional guidance on winter use of bicycles, particularly fat bikes.
However, in its final form the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule does not apply to bicycles. In comments attending the ruling, the agency directly stated that bicycle use is outside the scope of the rule. “We knew that our request would be a long shot because the Travel Management Rule only requires the Forest Service to address motorized use, though Travel Management Plans may elect to address human powered uses, particularly bicycles,” says Jeremy Fancher, IMBA’s interim director of government affairs.
An interesting point that emerged from the ruling, says Fancher, is that the Forest Service categorizes mountain bikes as human-powered and distinguishes them from electric-powered bicycles. “We are glad to see that mountain biking is being consistently treated as a non-motorized activity, though in this case that also means that the rule does not apply to us,” says Fancher.
What does the new ruling mean for mountain bikers? Individual forests that do not already have a Winter Travel Management Plan (or Subpart C Plan) must now proceed with establishing one. Even though not mandated, those plans frequently effect bike access. “All travel management planning, for both summer and winter uses, is vitally important,” says Fancher. “IMBA chapters should work closely with their region directors to track and participate in such planning—each forest’s plan is unique and will benefit from the involvement of local recreational users.”
Recommended steps include:
- Follow the planning efforts of your local Forest Service office and watch the Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA) to announce the planning efforts.
- Subscribe to any newsfeeds the Forests you are interested in tracking. These feeds can usually be found on the “Alerts and Notices” web pages for each Forest’s website.
- Establish a working relationship, including regular meetings, with your local Forest Service staff. This will help keep you in the loop and track opportunities to enhance the mountain biking experience on the forest.