Skip to Navigation

Frequently Asked Questions: Wilderness and IMBA

What is Wilderness?

The 1964 Wilderness Act protects approximately 110 million acres of federal lands from road construction, development, motorized travel and most forms of resource extraction and manmade structures. Many forms of mechanized recreation, including bicycles, are not allowed in Wilderness. Federal land agencies in the 1980's interpreted the Wilderness Act and developed regulations to prohibit bicycles, though previously they had been allowed. Wilderness is seen by some as the gold standard in federal land protection, but Congress can use similar prescriptions like National Protection Area, National Scenic Area, National Recreation Area, National Monument and other designations to preserve the land, allow bicycles and be more relevant to local cultures and needs.

[Back to the top]

Does IMBA Support Wilderness?

Yes, IMBA has supported and currently supports bills in Congress that contain Wilderness provisions. IMBA has worked with local mountain bikers, legislators, outdoor recreation allies and stakeholders to protect hundreds of thousands of acres and preserve our most important, scenic and prized trails for bicycling. IMBA firmly believes that new wilderness proposals should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to protect mountain bike trail access as much as possible.

[Back to the top]

What is IMBA's Wilderness Strategy?

IMBA's public policy strategies advocate that mountain biking, a low-impact, human-powered form of recreation, is an appropriate trail use on public lands and is consistent with the values of Wilderness land protection, which includes recreation in natural landscapes.

When proposed Wilderness areas include significant mountain biking opportunities, IMBA advocates for and pursues a variety of legislative tools, including boundary adjustments, trail corridors and alternative land designations that protect natural areas while preserving bicycle access. IMBA can support new Wilderness designations where they don't adversely impact singletrack trail access for mountain biking.

IMBA mobilizes and leads its grassroots network of chapters and members to participate in local planning negotiations over Wilderness proposals. It is essential that IMBA chapters and members, cycling clubs and individuals advocate strongly for mountain biking in the early stages of Wilderness proposals. Through education, outreach, community building, partnerships and media relations, mountain bikers can influence and support appropriate land protection bills, including Wilderness.

[Back to the top]

Do Mountain Bicyclists Support Land Protection?

IMBA members highly value land conservation and environmental benefits such as clean water and clean air. The vast majority of mountain bicyclists enjoy riding in natural areas on narrow singletrack trails, away from roads, development and resource extraction activities. Our sport brings us closer to nature and fosters a desire for environmental protection. Backcountry travel by bicycle is physically demanding, yet highly rewarding, and mountain bikers seek to preserve and protect these experiences.

[Back to the top]

Is IMBA Trying to Get Bicycles in Existing Wilderness?

No, IMBA respects the federal land agencies' regulations that bicycles are not allowed in existing Wilderness. However, when proposed Wilderness areas include significant mountain biking opportunities, IMBA advocates for and pursues a variety of legislative tools, including boundary adjustments, trail corridors and alternative land designations that protect natural areas while preserving bicycle access. IMBA can support new Wilderness designations where they don't adversely impact singletrack trail access for mountain biking.

[Back to the top]

Does IMBA Collaborate With Other Stakeholders?

Absolutely! Collaboration with allies, partners and opponents is the most productive approach to addressing today's natural resource protection issues. IMBA has a solid track record of collaborating with our chapters, members, local cyclists, land management agency personnel, other outdoor recreationists and wilderness proponents to achieve protections for mountain biking trails and access. However, federal land protection is a very political process. Mountain biking doesn't always get everything we want. Nobody does. IMBA needs more members, allies and partners to engage in our advocacy efforts to increase our overall effectiveness.

[Back to the top]

Are Bicycles Appropriate in Wild Places?

Yes. Bicycling is a human-powered, low-impact, quiet form of travel compatible with wild places and the intent of the Wilderness Act. Bicycling and other mechanized forms of recreation are prohibited in Wilderness areas. In addition, there are instances where bicycling may not be feasible or appropriate in proposed wilderness areas. Some trails in existing or proposed wilderness are simply too rugged to ride and sustainably maintain. On some national trails, such as the Appalachian Trail, IMBA also respects the prohibition of bicycles. In other cases, trails should be closed to all forms of recreation (hiking, horse use, bicycling, etc.) when sensitive or endangered plants and wildlife, or weather-related seasonal conditions prevent sustainable and responsible use.[Back to the top]

X