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Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Sierra Club Weighs in on Bikes and Wilderness


Sheepshead Creek, Bitterroot Recommended Wilderness. Photo by Lance Pysher
A few weeks ago, we published a piece about the contentious ban on mountain biking in Wilderness areas. Dan Chu, the director of the Sierra Club’s, “Our Wild America” campaign, gave us the Sierra Club’s perspective on the issue. Here’s some additional food for thought on this complicated and thorny issue…
Vernon Felton: So, where does the Sierra Club stand on the issue of mountain biking in wilderness areas?The Wilderness Act actually states no mechanized means of transport can be used within wilderness boundaries, which is why mountain biking is not allowed in official wilderness. However, I can say that the Sierra Club has been involved with the mountain bike community to try and find some consensus whenever that’s possible.
Dan Chu: We try to step back and say, “What is the area we want to protect and how can we do that and still allow for different types of recreation?” There are a variety of conservation designations that allow for that, like wild and scenic river designations, national recreation area designations, and something we’ve been focused on these last few years with President Obama, national monument designations.
Here’s an example: This past December, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Our volunteers on the ground worked with mountain bikers to sit down and identify areas that were popular with mountain bikers in the Snoqualmie area, and the Middle Fork Trail was identified as an important trail for recreational mountain bikers. So they worked together on an agreement that had the Middle Fork Trail fall into the wild and scenic river designation along the river instead of it falling within the wilderness. As a result, that trail remains open to mountain bike use. And in return, the mountain bike community supported the recommendation for the wilderness designation that was on both sides of that trail.
That’s an example, certainly, of where we are trying to find common ground and that means taking a step back, talking about the areas we want to protect, and taking into account trails mountain bikers are particularly passionate about using so that we can then figure out ways to keep those trails open while protecting the land. There are opportunities for consensus here. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a good example of that...

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