Mountain biking impacts on bears and other wildlife by Brian Horejsi
This is a short email that Brian Horejsi sent me on mountain biking and bears. It is a thoughtful review of how mountain biking can have substantial impacts on wildlife.
The basic science solidly supports the general claim that bikers and bikes are displacing bears, can contribute to their habituation and are consequently adding negative load on human / wildlife conflict. I think it has been conclusively established that most kinds of human activity / presence displace bears (and almost all other species), and if there are bears that are not displaced / become habituated, they die at a disproportionate rate, hence their fitness is reduced (as is that of there mothers and fathers). Amongst the leading agents of displacement are industrialized forms of human activity that depend on machines / motors / mechanization to move people great distances, often, quickly, and with considerable “baggage” (garbage, guns, trailers, ATVs, dogs, and so on). Mountain bikers fit the general category of industrial users, since they come by vehicle (mechanized means), move more and more quickly than people on foot, (allowing quick approach and surprise encounters), have escalated their use of all public lands, are a behavioral cult that exhibits high levels of aggression, partly against the environment and partly against members of society who identify their activities as destructive.
Another not inconsequential aspects of mtn bikes and bikers is they have forced themselves into landscapes that did not have traditional mechanized access. There are literally hundreds of formerly mini security areas in local and regional parks (and this is in additional to what are thought of as traditional public lands – National parks, BLM and FS) that harbored some forms of wildlife because they had limited and low access refuge areas and/or a wide range of sizes. These are the “homes” of urban deer, coyotes, badgers, even bears and cougars, that are no longer providing day time (high human activity time) refuge and escape (from humans, pets and daytime heat).
I was just in Calgary a bit back and went for a walk in a provincial Park (Fish Creek) inside Calgary borders that formerly contained some forested refuge lands. These areas were cool, relatively dark, and discouraging to most (almost all) walking and running Park users. I was dismayed to see the extensive mtn bike roads on the maps, along with formal support of biking. The dense aspen and spruce/pine stands that I estimate were 5 – 50 acres in size, and functioned as ecological and behavioral “spaces” that provided security and thermal refuge for wildlife, are gone. The bike roads are well used (there are 1.2 millions people in the city, and there ARE bikers) and now bring bike and biker threats to animals that formerly had a daytime hideout. While there are high levels of use of the initially established paved trails, the majority of users (walking, hiking, running, just being out) stuck to them and left the formerly off trail areas alone. Because of bikers, this “standoff” no longer exists (to the detriment of wildlife).
And it gets worse! The demand / need for refuge from humans is greatest when human use is highest, usually on weekends. Previously un-biked niches in the landscape are of disproportionate value during these peak periods. So, what happened? These refuge habitats were dissected by bike roads, which is destructive enough, but biker use also peaks on weekends, aggravating habitat loss at a time when demand / need for it is greatest, so the negative impact of biker use is not linear in relation to the increased number of bikes, but exponential given the elevated need by wildlife.
Will this result in or increase the level of habituation? Any activity that escalates contact (space, visual, sound) between humans and their infrastructure and an animal changes the ambient environment for an animal and produces some sort of learning in a wild animal. If the learning modifies behavior by eliminating or altering the strength or frequency of behaviors in response to a given stimulus (human yelling at it from the back yard, vehicle sound/movement, visual presence of human structures, dogs barking) and that initial behavior contributed to that animals fitness, than that animal increases its risk of injury and death and consequently, life time reproductive success.
It may well be that the invasion of bikes/bikers “forces” contact with humans and leads to a more delicate and potentially explosive conflict. While I cant find any evidence in the scientific literature to support this, it could be argued that an animal forced from its routine and from secure (what ever degree) habitat, makes for an uneasy state of contact with humans and their infrastructure – a condition that could be more explosive due to the stress level related to the forcing. This contrasts with contact that might be initiated by the animal – for example, a grizzly bear female with young that wants to avoid male bears and can used that habitat other years when she has no young or when a male is absent. In the case of biker/biking displacement there is essentially permanent displacement and limited, if any, opportunity to reoccupy formerly (more) comfortable habitat. In other words, the predictability or stability, even strength, of the forced habituation could be questioned.
So, could local residences and human centers of activity begin to experience use by wildlife that formerly stayed away? I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. The consequences will be / are that fragmentation and use of refuge areas will reduce their capacity to harbor animals, displace them and their use/activity to other adjacent landscapes, many of which will be ecological traps, increase conflict with humans (and other animals), and incrementally reduce overall wildlife use of the larger area as well as reduce population size, distribution and movement. All these will unbalance wildlife dynamics and contribute to long term, incremental reduction of population viability.
The social / educational loss of tolerance for wildlife (the deer eating the roses, the black bear “near” the fence) that human society develops are also (generally) unproductive by-products of conflict and association; amongst these are distrust of, anger towards, and fear of “wild” animals, and not just local animals, but generalized attitudes to wildlife on a much larger scale of perception, and resentment and irritation toward, and consequent decline in support of, wildlife and land managers.
This large scale negative outcome is just another cumulative effect of catering to extreme recreation and the shrill political intimidation of mtn bikers. And while this has been ongoing in a large scale way on NF and BLM lands, its invasion of urban / rural park areas is “new” and threatens to destroy even more of the already stretched and frayed tentacles that connect the majority of Americans and Canadians that now live in Urban areas to the natural world.
George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology
134 Responses to Mountain biking impacts on bears and other wildlife by Brian Horejsi
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oh nooooooooo!! Not the start of another long mountain biker fanatic-laden thread where they display that they are just another special interest group that refuses to compromise, hold up questionable “proof” to support their arguments, and when they can’t change people’s mind to their point of view, storm off like angry, little children who want to ruin it for everyone if they can’t have it their way. Let the games begin…
The first comment, that didn’t get approved, was by someone who called themselves “Your Wrong” that complained that this was just “expert opinion”. Sigh…
Two days and counting AND 60 some odd comments later – and its pretty much all about selfish humans and the hell with wildlife and wild places……….
Jump to conclusions much? I know I have had a far greater impact on bear habitat while backpacking than cycling. Primarily because I’m not sleeping in bear habitat hanging my food from bear poles or trees when I’m cycling. “While I cant find any evidence in the scientific literature to support this” is the only reality based part of this hyperbole.
So compare bringing food to not bringing food, rather than mode of travel.
If you backpack you bring food. If you backpack in a bear habitat you greatly risk an interaction with bears. Once a bear is habituated to stealing backpackers food the bears are at a huge risk. The authors opinion is nothing but an anti off road cycling opinion, thinly veiled with concerns about bears. Any realistic look at bear/human interaction will reveal that the majority of problems occur because of uneducated campers leaving food out.
Cycling with food impossible, eh?
Thanks for clarifying, since I was ignorant.
I can carry a hell of a lot more on my back than on my bike. A bicycle becomes unwieldy and useless with a backpack-equivalent load on a narrow trail. My bike trips tend to be a lot shorter in time than my backpack trips, and while on a bike I stick to trails. While on foot I have a tendency to wander off to trail-less unexplored areas.
The only negative impact on bears that I have personally witnessed was on a week-long backpack trip in Yosemite National Park in the mid-1970s. Human-acclimated bears visited us every night. We didn’t lose any food to them, but we lost a lot of sleep, banging spoons on pots and shining flashlights at them every night. They clearly saw backpackers as a potential food source. I no longer visit National Parks, and prefer the less-crowded areas in National Forests. I’ve seen bears in those places, but they usually run off when they spot me, usually in camp or when I’m walking. I generally have a bear-bell ringing in really remote areas, walking or biking, so I don’t see them much, which is fine by me. I’d rather not be a potential food source for them.
I have been an avid mountain biker since 1991, going so far as to race nationally for a number of years and currently work in the cycling industry. I’ve seen the full gamut of mountain biking’s impact – both the good and the bad.
I do feel that there is a bit of truth to George’s piece above and some that is a bit of a stretch in some cases. Regardless two points that are crucial to this argument are that 1. Mountain biking is gaining in popularity. 2. Those gains are putting pressure on the environment as more and more trail networks are needed and being developed to support the demand.
I interact with mountain bikers all day long and one thing I’ve found is that they are just as polarized as American politics are today. On the one hand, you have those who realize or at the very least, sympathize with his argument. And those who could care less so long as they get to have fun.
Sadly, those in the second camp are doing the most harm in the form of illegal trail building – often in hidden and pristine parts of the forest. I’ve seen these trails and ridden a few myself. Not only are most not sustainable they actually have a negative impact on the perception of mountain biking as a whole. Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common and moving into areas I and others have enjoyed in peace and quiet for decades.
Needless to say, I gave up mountain biking almost two years ago and now only ride road or gravel. I do still miss the sport but do not miss overcrowded trails, user conflict, startling moose napping in tall grass, getting chased by angry grouse and stumbling across a new and illegal scar on the mountainside by individuals who have no concept or understanding as to what impact they are having.
Like MAD mentioned in their comment, like the wolf debate this one is surely to be just as heated or even more controversial. Tread lightly.
Thank you for your honesty, R. Harold Smoot. It is much appreciated.
I was being a bit facetious before. As a former Cat. 2 road racer and sometime mountain biker, I realize that within any group, there are always good, bad and indifferent people.
Regardless of method, whether hiking, biking or horseback, there will be always be some level of impact. The more important issue is not to argue who does more, or point fingers, but to try to mitigate those impacts to the least possible for whatever mode is utilized. I do not favor a ban of MB from all public lands, I just think that some portion should be set aside for the absolute minimum of human intrusion.
Now, what set that aside is, and what uses are allowed, smarter people than I will have to figure that out. Plus, I have very little or no say in the policymaking process, so in essence, all I have is my opinion.
MAD, I had to agree with your original post as I’ve seen it happen before. The cycling crowd – both mountain and road – are a very vocal and opinionated lot.
Where I live user conflicts are definitely on the rise but no where near what I have read about occurring outside of the Bay Area and other parts of California. The stringing of fish hooks at face level above single track and the individual who attacked a mountain biker with a saw a couple of years back where not so much about human vs. animal interaction as they were about maintaining peaceful trails for hikers.
But I feel those altercations, along with the few I encountered – even with a healthy dosage of trail etiquette towards non-mountain bikers – are just the tip of the iceberg as far as sentiments towards the sport go.
On the one hand, you really can’t bash on someone for getting out-of-doors to exercise regardless. But on the other those engaged in mountain biking have to realize that – no, they’re not using up real estate, water, etc… like a golf course does. But the trails they love to ride zig zag across a wide variety of habitat that is shrinking from a myriad of reasons – including trail building and use.
Anyway, it’s an interesting topic to say the least.
Scary video Ken. If you watch the last few seconds, there appears to be more than one bear up the hillside. Mother with cubs? No wonder she charged.
Cougars like to eat Mountain bikers maybe they can reduce their numbers to a sustainable level.
Seriously, the reckless speed some MBs move through the woods has to be disruptive. On the other hand backpacking and camping are relatively slow and methodical process and I suspect much easier for wildlife to avoid without stress.
While we are on the subject of mountain bikes, how about a bit of levity? Gender equity will be provided.
Why Mountain Bikes are Better Than Women:
Why Mountain Bikes are Better Than Men:
So as you can see, some rationale is interchangeable, both can be fun, and both require maintenance.
Typical lack of logic from Mr. Wuerthner.
“Amongst the leading agents of displacement are industrialized forms of human activity that depend on machines / motors / mechanization to move people great distances, often, quickly, and with considerable “baggage” (garbage, guns, trailers, ATVs, dogs, and so on). Mountain bikers fit the general category of industrial users . . . ”
Here’s where the hamster falls out of the wheel on this one: the blanket accusation of “mechanization” (a pejorative label used to stir anti-bike sentiment and liken cycles to motos) is irrelevant. Impact is relevant. Every scientific, unbiased study has shown bike encounters to have equal or, in many cases, significantly less impact, on wildlife than hiker encounters.
It is true that a cyclist can cover more ground than a hiker in most cases in the same amount of time, but that also lacks relevance in light of deeper analysis. First, I can cover more ground on the back of a horse who is doing all the work than I can on my bike which I must propel myself, and yet there’s no concern here for people penetrating more miles into the backcountry on a horse. Second, bikepacking is rare, but backpacking is not. All my rides are day rides. Yet, when I strap on a pack holding both required shelter and food for multiple days, I can then cover more ground, and penetrate into even more remote areas, than I can on my bike.
It’s also important to not that bikers are far more likely to remain on established trails where hikers, backpackers and equestrians are far more likely to go off trail, thus impacting the very areas wildlife has become most comfortable in.
“This large scale negative outcome is just another cumulative effect of catering to extreme recreation and the shrill political intimidation of mtn bikers.”
Extreme recreation? Spending a week backpacking in remote backcountry is fraught with peril. It is by definition extreme. How many S&R missions are called for bikers? Now how many for pedestrians?
As for political intimidation, anti-bike zealotry exploded long before IMBA or other bike advocacy groups even formed. The influence and impact of anti bike lobbies far exceeds anything pro bike forces have put forth. But biking is growing and the Sierra Club is shrinking. Maybe it’s time we work together for the betterment of all?
“Every scientific, unbiased study has shown bike encounters to have equal or, in many cases, significantly less impact, on wildlife than hiker encounters.”
John, I agree completely. I have far greater impact on wildlife while on foot then while on my 4-wheeler. Deer will let my drive right by them on my 4-wheeler, but if I stop and get off, they immediately run off. They don’t even look at me on my bike.
It’s also important to not that bikers are far more likely to remain on established trails where hikers, backpackers and equestrians are far more likely to go off trail, thus impacting the very areas wildlife has become most comfortable in.
Statistics, please. I think it is just as likely that the mountain bikers will go off the trails also.
You don’t need statistics. Just try riding a bicycle over rocks and deadfall. You will last one second. Hiking boots are the ultimate “ATVs” and can go places no bicycle can. Off-trail a bicycle is ballast, with very few exceptions. A bicycle is a very precarious thing compared to the natural balance obtained with bipedal travel. When I plan on bush-crashing I leave the bicycle at home.
Ah, the most “eloquent” Mr.Fisch adds his usual 2 cents worth, once again…Let’s not try to hijack this thread with the usual pseudo-science gobble-de-gook, Mr.Fisch.
1. Christopher Papouchis, Francis Singer, and William Sloan, reported in 2001 on “Responses of Desert Bighorn Sheep To Increased Human Recreation” This research noted that Sheep fled from hikers 61% of the time while they only fled from bikers 6% of the time.
2. Spahr (1990), in studying responses of eagles to human activity, noted that eagles flushed 46% of the time compared to 15% with hikers.
3. Herrero and Herrero (2000) noted that there was no difference in hiker and biker impacts on grizzlies and concluded that there was no basis for managing these activities differently.
Which of these is “pseudo-science gobble-de-gook?”
“Because if you read the whole study, you’ll find that much of the text and analysis doesn’t support that statement [when you are as blinded as I am by gear shifters and knobby tires…]”
Fixed it for you…
I’m sure one could go through the citations you listed and criticize as being poorly designed, poorly interpreted, etc., but I don’t have the time or inclination. I was simply pointing out the outright lie in your statement:
“Every scientific, unbiased study has shown bike encounters to have equal or, in many cases, significantly less impact, on wildlife than hiker encounters”.
I suppose if you’re going to be the judge on the merits of a paper’s findings, than of course you’re going to claim that anything that contradicts your biased opinion is going to be flagged as biased. But that’s not a big surprise coming from a person who finds it logical to argue that an oarlock is essentially the same as a mountain bike.
[when you are as blinded as I am by gear shifters and knobby tires…]
Nothing I have said smells of bias as I have always backed up my statements with facts and/or sound logic. When I err I admit it as I will do later in this post.
“I’m sure one could go through the citations you listed and criticize as being poorly designed, poorly interpreted, etc.,”
Maybe you could–maybe you couldn’t–but if you did and for it to be meaningful, you would have to do so with sound reasoning as I did. I didn’t just claim the study may have been flawed, but I pointed out with clear logic *how* it was flawed. I invite you to do the same.
“I was simply pointing out the outright lie in your statement:
“Every scientific, unbiased study has shown bike encounters to have equal or, in many cases, significantly less impact, on wildlife than hiker encounters”.”
You’re right–I should have said “Every scientific, unbiased study I have seen . . . ” I thank you for pointing out this study with which I was previously unfamiliar. It remains but one, however, of many I know of which makes this assertion–and more importantly, most of the text and analysis within the study itself, doesn’t fully support that assertion.
“I suppose if you’re going to be the judge on the merits of a paper’s findings, than of course you’re going to claim that anything that contradicts your biased opinion is going to be flagged as biased.”
Not true. As explained above, I will only claim lack of merit or bias if I can justify it which I did. The report is internally inconsistent and there is a huge flaw in the methodology which I explained based on logic rather than any personal feelings of my own. You may attack my motives all you like, but if you want to make sense, you need to provide logical refutation to my facts and reasoning.
Please see my comments below about the oarlock debate where I establish the validity of the comparison. Even if you don’t agree, you must admit that it does at least refute the mantra that “Bikes don’t belong because they’re mechanical” Funny how, whenever someone points out all the mechanical devices which are allowed, they anti bike advocates suddenly shift from “it’s mechanical” to “it’s the level of mechanization.” I address that in the post below as well.
“You” establish the validity of the comparison. Exactly. Not someone with a modicum of common sense. You are your own judge, jury, and executioner on this one.
The oarlock defense is still BS, and you know it.
One last comment on that ridiculous comparison–how about we have a contest to see whether I can build an oarlock using materials found in the wilderness, and you see if you can construct even a simple, single-geared mountain bike in the wilderness? Two pegs of wood mounted upright–done! How’s that bike coming along?
““You” establish the validity of the comparison. Exactly. Not someone with a modicum of common sense. You are your own judge, jury, and executioner on this one.”
Again, Jay, tell me where my statements are flawed. Ad hominem attacks have no place in rational discourse.
“One last comment on that ridiculous comparison–how about we have a contest to see whether I can build an oarlock using materials found in the wilderness, and you see if you can construct even a simple, single-geared mountain bike in the wilderness? Two pegs of wood mounted upright–done!”
I’ll buy that argument when you go into the Wilderness wearing only moccasins and clothing you constructed from the bison skin from the bison you killed with the bow you constructed out of a twig an sinew and an arrow you constructed yourself out of another twig and an arrowhead you hammered yourself out of native rock. And you sleep only in a tepee or other similar structure made from said bison or sleep in a cave or leanto built from native boughs, etc. And it should go without saying you must leave your backpack, water filter, cookstove, freeze dried foods, GPS, and every other thing you got at REI or your local outfitter at home.
“Actually, there’s quite a bit of sharing going on.”
Hmmm . . .
Interesting statement coming from one who has unfettered access to it all toward one who is under severe limitations and restrictions. Very telling as to the role fairness and equity play in your thought process.
“Hmmm . . .
Interesting statement coming from one who has unfettered access to it all toward one who is under severe limitations and restrictions. Very telling as to the role fairness and equity play in your thought process.”
I guess you’re just gonna have to put your cry towel down and lace up the boots and get out there like everyone else does. You have every right to use wilderness, but crying like a child because you can’t do what you want, where you want, won’t get your bike into wilderness. Get your big-boy pants on and get out there and recreate, trust me its fun!!
Of course you’re held to the same standards: no lock-in pedals and shoes, padded bike shorts, helmet, padded gloves, etc. Guess what, if we both procure all our materials from natural sources, you know what you still don’t have? Hint: two wheels, front/rear shocks, 27 gears, knobby tires, pedals, seat….
You’re still not grasping the ridiculousness of your assertion, are you…
“I guess you’re just gonna have to put your cry towel down” and lace up the boots and get out there like everyone else does.
Why all the nasty vitriol, Jay? I haven’t cried about a thing, just pointed out inequities. Is anybody who exposes unfairness “crying?”
“lace up the boots and get out there like everyone else does.”
I do lace up my boots–frequently. I hike as often as I ride and each year, I take my family on a few extended backpack trips. This year we did four days in the Holy Cross Wilderness NW of Leadville Colorado, camping each night near a different lake at of just above treeline. It was magnificent! Funny thing, though, Our experience wouldn’t have been degraded one iota had we seen a bicycle while on our trek. I noticed something else on our journey–many of the trails we covered exhibited the worst erosion I have every witnessed–and these are trails which, to the best of my knowledge, have never seen a knobby tire.
“get out there and recreate, trust me its fun!!”
I do and I agree. It doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t work to reverse the inequity that keeps an equally low impact user group off of as much as 85% of their most desired public lands.
“Get out there and share–it’s good for the soul!”
I said put down your crytowel, and you call that nasty vitriol? Wow–overly sensitive, are we? More like melodramatic. That said, you come around and call people zealots that don’t buy into your snakeoil sales pitch, so it would seem ad hominem attacks and vitriol are OK when it’s you doing the attacking.
As for getting out and “sharing”, you seem to have me confused for a document entitled The Wilderness Act of 1964. See, I don’t have the authority to allow you mountain bikers into Wilderness. You seem to struggle with the democratic process of Law, so perhaps this might help you understand:
++Bikes don’t belong because they’re mechanical++
No. That is not a correct statement. Bikes don’t belong because they are “mechanical transport.” That is a term in the Wilderness Act.
An oarlock is a simple machine. Fulcrum actually. And, while it is a mechanical aid, it is a simple machine. Just as an axe is a simple machine, an incline or wedge. An ore lock’s use does not have the impact of a complex machine – a pedal, connected to a crank to a shaft with multiple toothed sprocket ring gears, to a chain, to yet another similar assembly which gives mechanical advantage to turn a wheel, which then leaves a track wherever it has rolled over soil. An oarlock doesn’t leave a track by the way.
There is an element of common sense which you seem to miss. I also offered this reading on Wilderness and “mechanical transport,” which refutes the assertion you and other advocates for mountain bikes in Wilderness seem compelled to make (springboarding of the cavalier, and some might say sloppy legal analysis of biking advocate Ted Stroll). It is a better analysis of what the law, and regulations promulgated under the law actually mean (including a mis-interpretation by the USFS, which it corrected).
There is a b
A ski is not transport?
A boat with oarlocks is not transport?
Again, we fall back on the “level of complexity” as though only reasonable point of departure is between bikes and anything below bikes on the complexity scale, ignoring that this is a fairly small difference relative to the jump from a bike to a motorized vehicle. Also ignoring the complexity of the much higher technology devices which are allowed in the Wilderness (i.e. electronics, GPS)
“An ore lock’s use does not have the impact of a complex machine”
Actually, it can–an oarlock can make the difference between being able to move upstream and not being able to move upstream at all. In this way, it actually has far more impact than a bike. Ditto the cross country ski; that pivoting toe piece makes all the difference in the world with regard to the added efficiency it provides its user. Try cross country skiing, especially uphill, with the foot completely affixed to the ski and no “mechanical advantage” and see how far you get.
“An oarlock doesn’t leave a track by the way.”
But a boot does. As does a hoof.
Again, the USFS “misinterpretation” as you put it, was in keeping with the original intent as evidenced by the original impetus behind the act and the testimony of Rep Aspinall et al as they defined in the hearings what they meant by unconfined recreation, mechanized, etc.
Even if the Act was completely unambiguous and fully meant to exclude bicycles, it was wrong and needs to be changed.
Hey, does anybody have some suggestions on where to go ride my oarlock?
This study of elk response to atv, bike, hiking, and horses found bikes second only to atv’s in level of disturbance response:
Behavioral Responses of North American Elk to Recreational Activity
LESLIE M. NAYLOR1,†,‡, MICHAEL J. WISDOM2 andROBERT G. ANTHONY3
Article first published online: 13 DEC 2010
2009 The Wildlife Society
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Volume 73, Issue 3, pages 328–338, April 2009
Doesn’t exactly support your assertion.
Did you read the whole study or are you just hanging your hat on the line in the conclusion which says: “should include careful management of off-road recreational activities, particularly ATV riding and mountain biking, which caused the largest reductions in feeding time and increases in travel time.”?
Because if you read the whole study, you’ll find that much of the text and analysis doesn’t support that statement. For instance, in two of the six replicates, Elk demonstrated less disturbance from biking than hiking. If you average all six replicates, the difference between the two activities is still within two standard deviations. The gap is much larger between ATVs and bikes than between bikes and hikers, so why draw the line there? The gap between hikers and nothing is greater yet, so why not just ban everybody? There was a significant gap between disturbance by hikers and disturbance by horses, with equestrian use being the least! So why not ban people unless they are on horseback! More thought needs to be put into where we draw the line and what level is significant and right for making policy decisions.
There is also one very large potential flaw in the methodology. It does not explicitly state in which order the four types of disturbance were applied. Throughout the study, types are discussed in the following order: ATV, MTB, Hike, Horse. If the disturbances were applied in this order then one could reasonably expect reaction to each disturbance to be less than the previous one given the potential for habituation provided by each human intrusion. If they were getting used to ATVs, then they would be less likely to be bothered by MTBs. If they had already been exposed to ATVs and MTBs, then they would be less concerned with hikers and lastly having encountered all the previous three, that would explain horseback riding leading to the least impact. The implication in the writing is that this is indeed the order, which would definitely impact results.
Also, from the study:
“The highest travel
response by elk was during ATV exposure and was followed by increased resting time. This type of recreational activity
may have forced elk to forgo foraging in favor of hiding until the disturbance ended. In contrast to this any disturbance
during the mountain biking and hiking treatments resulted in feeding activity increasing. It is possible that, being
quieter than the ATVs, mountain biking and hiking did not disturb elk once they moved away from the routes;”
So, in this case, they are equating bikes with hiking.
“Hypothesis 3, which postulated that time required for elk to return to predisturbance behavior varies with disturbance type, was not supported by our results.”
This is an important observation
“In contrast to horseback riding, elk travel time during mountain bike riding was above that of controls for each
year and was consistent among years. Thus, elk showed no evidence of habituation to mountain biking. Similarly, elk travel time in response to hiking was above that of control periods, with the exception of replicate 1 for 2003, suggesting a similar response by elk to each hiking disturbance (i.e., no habituation).”
Again, hiking likened to biking.
Most curious is the conclusion which I copy here in its entirety:
A comprehensive approach for managing human activities to meet elk objectives should include careful management of
off-road recreational activities, particularly ATV riding and mountain biking, which caused the largest reductions in feeding time and increases in travel time. Evidence of little
or no changes in travel by elk as a response to horseback riding can also be used by managers when planning access to areas where disturbance of elk is to be minimized. Such resource allocation trade-offs between management of elk and off-road recreation will become increasingly important as off-road recreation continues to increase on public lands.”
As noted before, the gap between ATVs and bikes is relatively large compared to the gap between bikes and hikers or even hikers and horses, so why make that specific statement? Even more curious is that hiking isn’t even mentioned in the conclusion. Is that because the text and analysis show that hiking did indeed have an impact and that it had a much closer significance to bikes than bikes did to ATVs?
Combine all that with the failure to fully explain the methodology and it appears this study was at best, flawed and, at worst, deliberately steered toward a predetermined conclusion. Even if this is all perfectly accurate, it still indicates that either all human activity be forbidden or that the line be drawn between motorized and nonmotoriezed activity as that’s where the most significant differences lie.
“and yet there’s no concern here for people penetrating more miles into the backcountry on a horse. ”
Bullshit, Mr. Fisch.
Then why are horses and other beasts of burden allowed so many places bikes are not?
The answer is pretty simple, really.
1. Historic use
2. Horses can go on trails a mountain bike cannot (really steep/roots/down trees, deep water crossings). Less trail maintenance.
3. Political pressure to not allow bikes, due to potential conflict.
I can imagine the scenario where a couple of horse riders are on a narrow trail on a steep slope going up (with no turnaround, and tremendous risk exposure in a mishap), and meeting a couple mountain bikes going 9-12 mph downhill, and maybe a blind corner. Somebody is going to be severely injured or killed in that scenario when some horse is startled by the bike – horses, riders and bikers tumbling down the hillside, and miles from any medical help.
It is a friggn’ recipe for disaster.
1. Historic use
Only partially relevant. Times change/things change. BTW, while not as widespread, there is historical precedent for off-road cycling going back almost as long as the bicycle itself, including in the American West.
2. Horses can go on trails a mountain bike cannot (really steep/roots/down trees, deep water crossings). Less trail maintenance.
Completely irrelevant. A cyclist can easily shoulder his bike to traverse those sections he can’t ride. If he can’t he simply won’t go there in the first place, so there’s no reason to ban him. As for less trail maintenance, that’s completely false since it is proven that equestrian use is far more impactful than cycling.
3. Political pressure to not allow bikes, due to potential conflict.
Relevant, but not necessarily right. A bike is an inanimate object until ridden by a human. It only does what the human tells it to do, nothing more, nothing less. The horse, on the other hand, has a mind of its own. Only one of these can be ridden completely in accordance with the wishes of its rider. I bike can not get “spooked.” When ridden correctly, only one of these means can be made completely safe and it ain’t the horse. I’m not trying to bash horses here, just pointing out that there is risk in all things and some risks are more manageable than others.
There are thousands of horse/bike encounters every day and few result in difficulty for either party. We can “imagine scenarios” all day, but that doesn’t make for good policy. Not only do these user groups often coexist, the even work together to maintain trails they are happy to share with each other. Equestrians use their stout beasts to haul chainsaws and other tools into the backcountry, hand these tools to cyclists who have ridden their bikes in who in turn do the grunt labor and then hand the tools back to the equestrians who haul them out. Inclusion beats exclusion every time, and everyone, including hikers, benefits.
And even if you cant abide the idea of these groups working/recreating together, why not consider a shared use schedule? These have been successful wherever employed. These schedules usually allow bikes only every other day and hikers/horses every day. It’s still unfair to bikers, but its a concession we are usually happy to make in the interest of conflict and risk reduction.
“Spending a week backpacking in remote backcountry is fraught with peril. It is by definition extreme. ”
Walking in the green world is not extreme, unless you are doing real mountaineering, or fiddling with glaciers – the folks that do that often are special, like mountain climbers. OK, there’s griz and cougar more places these days, but that’s just natural.
I heard a pathetic story on NPR a few months back where the son of two women wanted to get into Boy Scouts to be able to do “hiking, dangerous hiking”, not about wanting to perceive and understand anything. It need not be about challenge: I’m at home, I belong there, is most of what I feel. Some places like Frank Church are down-right comfortable.
I do think the tone of the letter was overdone (shrill, intimidation, cult, high levels of aggression, and such).
Near me we are permitting biking on several blocks of land in Waterloo/Pinckney rec areas, and it mostly ruins the enjoyment of those places for others. In return, the rest of us get approximately nothing. They’ve never acquired even one extra acre. They only volunteer to work on their own trails, or learn how to. So working together has been entirely negative for me so far.
Extreme hiking…funny, I never see shows featuring extreme hikers walking along trails in front of a camera to thrill all of us non-extreme hikers. Plenty of shows featuring extreme skiing and biking, no extreme hiking though. Too bad, sounds like a great show to put on for those nights of insomnia to help fall asleep.
You misunderstand my use of the word extreme, although you shouldn’t given that I was careful to explain it as being “fraught with peril.” (admittedly dramatic language, but still accurate)
A full week backpack in a remote area has many perils. Weather, hypothermia, injury, wildlife, running out of food/water, inadequate fitness, etc. Being prepared to meet all these challenges requires knowledge, skill and experience. Backpacking may not be “extreme” in the sense that one gets an adrenaline rush, but it is extreme in the sense that things can go very wrong.
Do a little research on how many SAR missions are called for backpackers vs. bikers and you’ll see what I mean.
SAR missions? Well, probably has something to do with the total number of hikers as compared to bikers in a given period of time, over which the number of SAR missions would be counted. So, what is the ratio of hikers to bikers on a given trail on a given day? Yours is not a meaningful claim unless you can answer that.
Your hyperbole is getting old. First you suggest a simple lever like an oarlock is mechanical transport to justify use of a complexly engineered and machined modern bicycle; now you’re suggesting backpacking is “fraught with peril” because of weather, fitness, and–and this one is my favorite–running out of food? Get real! Every single one of those things you mention–as silly as they are–are also elements that bikers are exposed to. Unless bikers are somehow shielded from the weather?
How about you research the per capita injury rate of hikers/backpackers vs. mountain bikers and come back and report along with your absurd rationalization as to why those numbers aren’t really a legitimate comparison.
“First you suggest a simple lever like an oarlock is mechanical transport to justify use of a complexly engineered and machined modern bicycle”
Try paddling a laden watercraft upstream without the use of a fixed oarlock. You will move veeeerrrry slowly, if at all, and you will fatigue quickly and make very little progress, if any. Ditto riding a ski without a mechanically pivoting toepiece vs. one with; the human body isn’t even built to make the motions required to move effectively on a fixed ski! Your percentage improvement in speed and reduction in fatigue will equal or more likely exceed that advantage given by a bicycle. If anything, the oarlocks are an even bigger advantage than a bike given that you may get nowhere at all without them.
And noting provides more assistance to the rider than a horse!
Funny how anti bike advocates always draw the line just on this side of bikes when there’s no rational justification for it. The real jump in assistance is when there’s a motor (or horse) doing all the work.
Labels are irrelevant–impact is relevant. All these devices provide significant assistance, regardless of their level of complexity. And if you’re concerned with complexity, there’s nothing more complex than a constellation of satellites orbiting the earth providing pinpoint accuracy of a hiker’s (or biker’s) location at any point on the globe. Bikes have evolved, but the level of technology remains relatively low compared to the space age, and much of the same technology can be found in the backpackers pack (ultralight aerospace titanium cookstoves and fossil fuels required to burn in them, tents with carbon fiber poles, etc.). Which is why it appears to those of us willing to share that those who aren’t, aren’t really concerned with “complexity,” “impact,” or anything else so much as they are concerned with perception. That very complex GPS can be stashed in the pack while the bike can not. You simply don’t want to *see* the bike.
“Try paddling a laden watercraft upstream without the use of a fixed oarlock.”
Are you serious? And you want to be my latex salesman 🙁 [yes folks, that’s a Seinfeld reference]
I thought of a few more things to add to your “asinine mechanical transport” items:
Shoe eyelets: provide mechanical leverage to tightens shoes; shoe eyelets allow you to travel much faster an account of your shoes not falling off your feet.
Belt: in addition to mechanical leverage (see Shoe eyelets), also incorporates holes and a metal machined prong to fasten around waste; belts allow you to travel much faster because your drawers don’t fall down around your ankles, causing you to trip and fall and experience the perils that backpacking is fraught with.
None of your ridiculous statements addresses the fact that a fixed oarlock may allow one to travel upstream when they otherwise could not. That’s a huge difference, from nothing to all, certainly more significant than going from an average pace of 3mp to 6mph.
And even if, for sake of argument, you were able to prove that there is more advantage provided by a bike than by a fixed oarlock or cross country ski with a pivoting toepiece, you have said nothing to indicate why that difference is more meaningful than going from nothing to something or going from a bike to a motorized vehicle. Why is it that you draw the line just just before the bike rather than just after the bike or at nothing at all? What makes this the key differential?
And the fact remains that the horse provides far more assistance than the bike. A horse can still carry a rider further/faster than a bike. over rough terrain.
Tell you what there Johnny, you get me a picture of a loaded boat traveling UP the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Unless on a lake, oars are for maneuvering, not getting somewhere faster. It’s clear you don’t have a clue about river travel. Also, your assertion that horses can travel further/faster than a mountain bike is just an outright lie. Without a pack, I can generally outwalk the average horse. And I sure as hell can’t outwalk a mountain bike. In other words, horseshit. Seriously, go apply for that used car job, you’d be good at it.
“Unless on a lake, oars are for maneuvering, not getting somewhere faster. It’s clear you don’t have a clue about river travel.”
Oars clearly do both. Having something to press against increases leverage dramatically–and on both sides if you have oarlocks.
Try telling all the college crews that those oars in fixed locks on each side of their skulls aren’t helping them go any faster!
“Without a pack, I can generally outwalk the average horse.”
IF the horse is walking at a leisurely pace. If the horse is galloping, or even trotting, not a chance. And the horse can keep up a trotting or galloping pace a lot longer than I can push myself on a bike. My father-in-law used to do endurance equestrian racing. There’s not a human alive who could match his times over those courses on a bike. Even Joe Weekend Equestrian will gallop his horses a good piece over a typical ride at which point he will, quite literally, have a bike eating his dust.
You think the fact that no bikes allowed in many of the places where backpackers need search-and-rescue might have something to do with S.A.R. rates in those “remote areas”? Or the fact that bikers are generally day-trippers closer to trailheads where SAR isn’t a necessity?
Seriously, you would make a good used car salesman.
1. Anti-bike advocates constantly say “there are plenty of places to ride,” so it makes no sense to say that cyclists have no opportunity to need SAR.
2. Even more to the point, anti-bike advocates always cite the increased speed of the bike and its corresponding ability to penetrate further into the backcountry as a reason cycles are incompatible with other trail uses. So if a bike can go further and has plenty of places to do so, it’s clear they have plenty of opportunity to require SAR if things go wrong.
Of course, all the above is really beside the core point. What the relative rates of SAR requirement per user or mile traveled or hour on the trail or whatever other measure you can think of wasn’t the thrust of my argument. The core point I was making was that backpacking does have inherent dangers as evidenced by SAR responses.
You’ve actually helped make my point for me–if cycles stay close to trailheads and come and go quickly within the confines of a single day while backpackers put themselves out there for days at a time, deeper in the backcountry, then the backpacker may well be exposing himself to greater risk than the cyclist.
It really doesn’t matter *why* backpackers require more SAR, the fact is that they do, proving my point that there is a significant element of risk to backpacking.
I think you do make a good point about the dangers. People have a tendency to ridicule the danger, and brush it aside and disregard it – and that’s when they make their first mistake, especially if they aren’t used to it. This can lead to getting lost, injury and worse, or wildlife having to be destroyed needlessly. There is the ‘extreme’ mindset, where only the challenge is important, not the full experience. People have a problem being humble sometimes, I think.
Thank you for that thoughtful post. It’s important that we all approach wild places with this kind of humble attitude.
++I do shout “Injustice!” because it is true and that claim is fully supportable.++
Just where is the “injustice?” You as a person are allowed the same access to designated Wilderness as ANYONE. No injustice there.
What you want is to be allowed to access designated Wilderness with new technology (mechanical transport in terms of the law), that did not exist when the Act was passed, and which conventional wisdom and the law will say is prohibited by law. And, to accomplish your selfish goal, you want to compromise wilderness values (as stated by Congress and in place for 50 or more years). You want to degrade the experience of wilderness for current users (you could be affected since you say you also hike/backpack).
And, as for the oversimplistic “oar lock” analogy. Do recall this simple device, a machine if you will, has been around in various forms for hundreds of years, and predates the Wilderness Act, and designated Wilderness areas, so was an existing use. Furthermore, its application is “de minimus” in the context of the law. Oar locks don’t leave trails in the dirt.
So we go a long with the Wilderness Act, in place with not too much conflict, and precious little discussion of using bikes in Wilderness for nearly 40 years, and all of a sudden the Wilderness Act needs to be re-interpreted because of new technology. This re-interpretation, of course, is based solely on the desire of a small user group who wants to use the new technology (ever-improving mechanical transport). Individuals in this same user group still have the ability to access the same places on foot )horseback or on water)just like the rest of us.
I’ll tell you where the “injustice” is, and it isn’t in the mountain biking crowd, should Congress ever take up the mantle of significant change of the Wilderness Act. It will have to change its purpose…significantly.
And, one more question for you, John Fisch.
The Wilderness Act states:
“…there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area”
The plain words of the statute list five categories of mechanical transportation and equipment, including
the use of motor vehicles and any other form of mechanical transport, and separately prohibit them all.
The canons of statutory construction require that distinct meaning be given to each item in a list of items,
and do not permit the assumption that when Congress chooses to use two different words or phrases it
intended these to have identical meaning. [legal cite omitted, but see Mechanization in Wilderness Areas: MOTORS, MOTORIZED EQUIPMENT, AND
OTHER FORMS OF MECHANICAL TRANSPORT by Doug Scott, Pew Trust Wilderness Project (April 2003).]
Tell us, John Fisch, what other possible category could Congress have been referring to if it wasn’t bicycles, carts, horse pulled wagons, game carriers and wheel-barrows, all of which are non-motorized and have wheels? Perhaps you can identify and name them for us.
We’ll wait for your answer.
“I’m usually not too emotional on this forum and try to seek the middle ground, as many will attest in my years of offering comments.”
You try to seek middle ground? You are taking a completely hard line here, insisting that it’s perfectly reasonable to exclude an equally low impact user group from as much as 85% of their most desired public lands. I suspect you would generally support new Wilderness, thus adding to that inequity.
By contrast, I have never said that bikes should be allowed on all trails. And for those trails where they are allowed, I have never said that they should be allowed all the time. Shared use schedules have proven very useful in potentially contentious areas. They usually allow bikes only at specified times but hikers remain free to use the same trails at any time. This is still an imbalance which caters to hikers, but it is a concession bikers are usually willing to make in the name of compromise. Are you so open-minded? What have you offered? What middle ground have you sought here?
“Well, I don’t know about all that, but I can assure your the Red Bull crowd will use the same trails you do.”
Based on what? Your intimate knowledge of mountain biking? The red bull crowd launches huge jumps off of huge man-made stunts, which do not, and will not, exist in the Wilderness. Backcountry trails are hard to access, require lots of pedaling and red bull type bikes are made to be ridden exclusively downhill, not pedaled across long distances, especially where climbing is mandatory. Backcountry trails simply do not offer the red bull experience.
Might there be somebody willing to push his heavy, inefficient downhill rig into the backcounty? Maybe, but they would be few and far between–just like the few PCT thru hikers who are looking to set new records and establish personal bests, never stopping to enjoy nature on its own terms either.
“So, candor being a virtue I am told, leave your fucking bike at home and we can all enjoy those wilderness qualities, unfettered.”
Gratuitous f-bomb aside, I’m not sure how being on a bike “fetters” my enjoyment of the backcountry. I can be every bit as contemplative with my feet going around in a circle as I can putting one foot in front of the other.
“A hiker’s experience is definitely degraded with mountain bikes on the trail.”
I became an avid backpacker at age 9 and didn’t get a bike until age 35. In those years, I never felt my experience had been degraded by encountering a bike on a backcountry trail. In fact, it was the many positive encounters I had which led me to consider adding cycling to my activities in the first place. There’s nothing inherently “degrading” about a bike. I grant that there are some cyclists who ride with disregard for other trail users, but bad behavior is not limited to cyclists. Crossing paths with a bike is far less degrading than seeing a fire ring which has left a permanent scar on the land, switchbacks which have been cut by hikers, walking (or riding) through the foul stench of some hikers burning ganja, or worse yet, traversing a massive burn scar resulting from a hiker who failed to fully extinguish his fire or threw his butt/roach in the bush. If your experience is degraded just because you have *gasp* seen a bicycle, than it is so because you have chosen to perceive it that way, not because the bike is inherently degrading.
“The core point I was making was that backpacking does have inherent dangers as evidenced by SAR responses.”
So does biking, and that will be reflected int the per capita injury rate comparison I suggested you look up between the two activities.
Exaggeration and hyperbole directed at hiking/backpacking to make your activity look more benign so as to change the wilderness law is why nobody will ever take you seriously. As a bike owner, I wouldn’t want you advocating for me if I was fighting for changing the wilderness law.
“So does biking, and that will be reflected int the per capita injury rate comparison I suggested you look up between the two activities.”
But lets be sure to compare apples to apples. There are many types of biking. The type of biking one does in the backcountry bears little resemblance to the type of biking one does at the local bike park or lift-served ski area in summer (in fact, I never have, nor do I wish/intend to do the latter).
I’ve made a few trips to the ER for stitches as the result of bike crashes–and they were always within a couple miles of the trailhead on a local trail. In all my long, far from the trailhead and even further from civilization backcountry treks on my bike, I’ve never had an injury.
Just as one who is a competitive trail runner may bring a different, more contemplative mindset to a longer backcountry trek on foot, so do I when I ride my bike in remote locations.
In fact, I have been passed by trail runners while riding my bike!
What hyperbole? Backpacking includes dangers–it’s a fact.
How was I trying to make my “activity look more benign?” I admit there are dangers there as well.
The relative rates, as I said before, aren’t the point. The point is that risks are present in both, and at a high enough rate to require outside support at times. It happens.
On the other hand, it’s all too common for anti bike advocates to label all cyclists as “extreme” (exactly what led me to initiate this part of the thread in the first place) in an attempt to discredit the whole lot. They think that if they say it enough, everyone will agree that all cyclists are nothing more than a bunch of adrenaline junkies out to destroy all that is holy. The last thing they want anybody to realize is that most backcountry cyclists have nothing in common with the Red Bull crowd and are out there seeking the exact same solitude and reflective, meditative experience as most hikers.
The only meaningful difference is one group is willing to share and the other isn’t.
I’m usually not too emotional on this forum and try to seek the middle ground, as many will attest in my years of offering comments. But, you have given me a good reason (actually several) on this and the related “Mountain biking is in appropriate in Wilderness thread” to get a bit worked up.
I’m going to use your own words here -“The last thing they want anybody to realize is that most backcountry cyclists have nothing in common with the Red Bull crowd and are out there seeking the exact same solitude and reflective, meditative experience as most hikers.”
Well, I don’t know about all that, but I can assure your the Red Bull crowd will use the same trails you do. So, candor being a virtue I am told, leave your fucking bike at home and we can all enjoy those wilderness qualities, unfettered. A hiker’s experience is definitely degraded with mountain bikes on the trail.
“The only meaningful difference is one group is willing to share and the other isn’t.”
Actually, there’s quite a bit of sharing going on. The difference as I see it is some bikers would be willing to cut the proverbial throat of wilderness out of spite because they can’t access one tiny bit of country that has been set for nature’s sake and where folks can get away from the modern conveniences.
There, Jay, you put forth a false dilemma in an attempt to mischaracterize your adversary.
Like most, you put forth the false dilemma that either there must be Wilderness (and Wilderness as currently administrated at that) or there will be wholesale loss of wild places. You state overtly, or at least imply that Wilderness as currently defined is the *only* way to protect our wild places.
My experience is that it’s the anti bike zealots pushing the “Wilderness or nothing” agenda.
There are numerous ways to protect our wild places. The USFS has many designations already at its disposal which preclude various forms of development. There are National Scenic Areas, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Trails, no travel zones, etc. In addition to such formal designations, the USFS has the power to restrict most any activity in any area simply by writing it in that area’s travel plan or management plan. In fact, many such restrictions are placed on bikes outside Wilderness areas! (thus further creating this indefensible inequity).
There are many was to protect our wild places without banning an equally low-impact user group (and strong ally if you ever chose to stop alienating them).
Bike groups do not simply say “No new Wilderness,” but rather go the extra mile to look for ways to save the places they hold every bit as dear as you do. It’s only the anti-bike zealots who cry “Wilderness or nothing” and do so at their own (and everybody’s) risk.
My thoughts are that the bike zealots like to demonize everyone that doesn’t go lock-step with them in their push to change a law that works just fine as it is.
Change the law. If you can’t, don’t cry to everyone that you’re a persecuted group being picked on by “anti bike zealots”. The victim card is getting old…
“My thoughts are that the bike zealots like to demonize everyone that doesn’t go lock-step with them in their push to change a law that works just fine as it is.”
1. The law “works just fine as it is” only for the privileged classes (hikers, equestrians).
2. I never seek to demonize anyone–just point out the falseness of false positions.
Anti-bike advocates say “Impact” and I show the studies that prove otherwise. If it seems that I am “demonizing” someone by pointing out that what they say and the facts are at odds, then whoever has that perception should reevaluate it in light of their own bias.
Ditto the wildlife argument
Ditto the mechanical argument
Ditto the assistance argument
Ditto the complexity argument
Ditto the speed argument
Ditto the safety argument
“Change the law. If you can’t, don’t cry to everyone that you’re a persecuted group being picked on by “anti bike zealots”. The victim card is getting old…”
I write, advocate, and attempt to influence where I can, just as do the others who disagree with me. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I do shout “Injustice!” because it is true and that claim is fully supportable. I will continue to do so as long as the injustice of excluding one low impact user group in favor of on equally low impact user group and one far more impactful user group, remains.
However, I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be a victim. I do my best to right wrongs and live with the results. I will continue to do so and not lose a wink of sleep regardless of the outcome.
Just as your perception of bikers as a whole is incorrect, so is your perception of me.
Idiot backpackers (and horse riders) exist, ergo cycling OK, at least for “true scotsman” type riders.
“I can assure your the Red Bull crowd will use the same trails you do.” Nice WM. Jay too.
If you think the Red Bull cyclists are bad, wait til you see the new generation of Red Bull oarlock riders: bunch if shreddin’ trail hoggin’ punks on their newfangled high tech oarlocks.
“Just where is the “injustice?” You as a person are allowed the same access to designated Wilderness as ANYONE. No injustice there.
The injustice lies in the fact that an equally low impact user group is excluded, at least in terms of being able to access those lands in an equally low-impact manner. Furthermore a higher impact group (equestrians) is included further showing the inconsistency and inequity. One only need consider what the uproar would be if hikers were excluded from 50-80% of their most desired public lands–or more to the point, told that they could only access those lands in a particular matter even though their manner is no more/less impactful than the one they are being limited to.
“What you want is to be allowed to access designated Wilderness with new technology (mechanical transport in terms of the law), that did not exist when the Act was passed,”
Actually, people were riding bikes in the back country even before 1900, more than a half century before the ACT. Furthermore, there is all kinds of new technology much more recent than the Act which nobody complains about–space age, electronic technology which is far higher on the technology scale than a bike.
“you want to compromise wilderness values”
Which Wilderness values do I want to compromise?
Untrammeled? A bike is proven to “trammel” no more than a boot and far less than a hoof.
“where man is a visitor and does not remain?
Bikepacking is rare but backpacking is common. It’s the people on foot who set up camp and establish a presence in the backcountry.
“where man’s works do not dominate the landscape”
How does a bike dominate the landscape? Wilderness is big and bikes are small. My bike takes up no more space than my tent. The bike passes through while the tent remains.
Wilderness values center around preservation, self reliance, and “unconfined recreation.” Bikes degrade preservation no more than hikers, bikers operate under their own power, and when asked to explain “unconfined recreation,” Rep Aspinall said “”it just simply means that there will not be any manmade structures about in order to embarrass and handicap the enjoyers of this particular area.” indicating yet again that the intent was to eliminate permanent development and infrastructure, not exclude human powered activity.
“You want to degrade the experience of wilderness for current users (you could be affected since you say you also hike/backpack).”
Indeed I do hike/backpack. I became an avid backpacker at age 9 and didn’t get a bike until age 35. In those years, I never felt my experience had been degraded by encountering a bike on a backcountry trail. In fact, it was the many positive encounters I had which led me to consider adding cycling to my activities in the first place. There’s nothing inherently “degrading” about a bike. I grant that there are some cyclists who ride with disregard for other trail users, but bad behavior is not limited to cyclists. Crossing paths with a bike is far less degrading than seeing a fire ring which has left a permanent scar on the land, switchbacks which have been cut by hikers, walking (or riding) through the foul stench of some hikers burning ganja, or worse yet, traversing a massive burn scar resulting from a hiker who failed to fully extinguish his fire or threw his butt/roach in the bush. If your experience is degraded just because you have *gasp* seen a bicycle, than it is so because you have chosen to perceive it that way, not because the bike is inherently degrading.
“And, as for the oversimplistic “oar lock” analogy. Do recall this simple device, a machine if you will, has been around in various forms for hundreds of years, and predates the Wilderness Act, and designated Wilderness areas, so was an existing use.”
Bikes also predate the Act by many years and there is no shortage of documentation of their use in backcountry areas.
“So we go a long with the Wilderness Act, in place with not too much conflict, and precious little discussion of using bikes in Wilderness for nearly 40 years,”
Don’t forget the reinterpretation that took place in 1986. The only reason that yielded no controversy was that mountain biking was a very small, and completely unorganized activity which was easily overwhelmed by the powerful lobbies who proactively sought to eliminate them before they could get organized. You make a strong point that this is in keeping with the black and white letter of the Act, but it is certainly not in keeping with the intent of the act which focused on the prevention of development or the establishment of infrastructure, neither of which is required to ride a bicycle.
As for “no other form of mechanical transport,” there are exceptions to this, which have been discussed at length already.
“But lets be sure to compare apples to apples. There are many types of biking. The type of biking one does in the backcountry bears little resemblance to the type of biking one does at the local bike park or lift-served ski area in summer (in fact, I never have, nor do I wish/intend to do the latter).”
Well I find this piece you wrote about a ride you did very fascinating taken in context of your above statement:
“Aside from the waterbars, the first thing we noted was how quickly we had transitioned from wide-open, high-alpine to a narrow, deep dark drainage. The trail quickly became narrower and quite twisty. It had been about 24 hours since the last rain, but the area really held moisture and the parts of the trail that weren’t rocky were slick with black mud. While the trail maintains a very consistent grade in the macro sense, it was frequently punctuated with sudden, sharp dips which, when slick, are more than a little sketchy. The first couple miles after departing the crest had a few obstacles here and there, but provided enough smooth spots to allow one to regain one’s wits, take a breath, and prepare for the next obstacle. After that, however, the trail becomes nothing short of relentless. It’s a serious onslaught of vicious rock gardens and drainage crossings, each one requiring the rider to be fully engaged (and skilled). Although the temperature was only in the sixties, and I was going downhill, I worked up quite a sweat throwing my rig around in a sometimes vain attempt to stay in a flowable line. Just when you think your arms are going to fall off and you can’t handle any more gnar, the rock gardens abate and the trail opens up a bit. The next couple miles are fast—really fast. There’s still some tech, but it’s all easily absorbed and the woods will become little more than a blur, like entering hyperspace,. After completing this section, Miniskibum decided this was either his favorite trail or at least tied for that honor. I couldn’t disagree. Shortly before this point, I came to the conclusion this was the most endless descent I’d ever encountered. I can think of no word other than “euphoria,” and even that doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of ripping down this trail.”
So is this the kind of backcountry riding that bears little resemblance to the other types you’re talking about John? Very interesting that you paint backpacking as “fraught with perils” in comparison to your little backcountry jaunt you describe here.
“There’s still some tech, but it’s all easily absorbed and the woods will become little more than a blur, like entering hyperspace,.”
That pretty much says it all.
Actually, I was most intrigued by this statement of John Fisch, the self-professed respectful mountain biker:
++ I can think of no word other than “euphoria,” and even that doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of ripping down this trail.”++
“…ripping…,” isn’t that just like “shredding?” Both are descriptors of going as fast as one can, dominating the terrain.
Ripping, shredding, and dominating, are interesting concepts for a human to use in designated Wilderness, if given the opportunity. This will surely be the case for the adventure rider – and mark my words- there will be adventure riders in designated Wilderness if it mountain biking were to be allowed(doesn’t even have to be you John, but any biker wanting the challenge) on any trails which physically permit a rider to press to the limits of their mechanical transport technology and skill.
Why? Well it is human nature. And, it is likely there is nobody there to stop them (kind of like a poacher), in most instances, unless it might be a frustrated backpacker with a hiking pole who has the gumption to stick it thru some wheel spokes.
And, John, if you are so certain of the legislative history and wording creating the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness Area Act of 1980, as you broadly assert on another thread here (and to which I replied telling you what I believe the law really says), maybe you and your buddies ought to engage in a little civil disobedience of your own.
Ride your mountain bike into the Rattlesnake Wilderness, maybe even tell the FS you are going to do it in advance, so an enforcement official is present. Let them write you up for riding there illegally (maybe even a destruction of federal property charge to make it interesting), in violation of federal law and their regulations, which YOU say are inapposite to the Act creating the Rattlesnake Wilderness, and the 1964 Wilderness Act, itself. Follow thru by contesting the citation(s) in federal District Court, in MT.
If you win, you make your point. If you lose, well now you have another data point, and maybe some legal fees and a fine to pay. But you can then appeal the ruling and you are on your way to proving your point, if you prevail. But remember if you don’t appeal, or lose again on appeal a federal misdemeanor/maybe a felony conviction will show up on some data base for the rest of your life. You may also be compelled to disclose when asked on a job application.
Come on, sport, you got the stones to follow your exceedingly verbose and strongly held (albeit legally weak in my opinion) assertions on this discussion forum? Or, are you just another loudmouth mountain biker, baselessly hoping to extract and extort more from designated Wilderness, hoping you won’t be called out?
And, I will leave you with a visual here. This video could be from any trail here in the Northwest, in or out of Wilderness (minus the ramps of course). All you need is a good downhill stretch. I’m wondering what it would be like to be on the trail with a 40 pound pack, and looking for the next step to place my foot, and see this coming at me, just before the lights go out.
I agree with EVERYTHING you say, however the video you have provided shows bikes that one probably would never encounter in wilderness/backcountry. Too big/ heavy; a bit like those giant Canadian Wolves.
If I’m riding up a trail on my horse that one of these speed demons is coming down, there’s a damn good chance I’m getting dumped and in need of medical attention. I’d be curious to see what our biking proponent thinks of the compatibility of his obstacle huckin’, trail rippin’ riding style with other wilderness users, many of who are horse riders, but my guess is he’ll respond with something akin to his “oarlock defense” (a.k.a, bullshit).
As a once avid mountain biker, I can attest that horses and mountain bikes are a bad mix!
Don’t I know…my horse doesn’t like them in the slightest. Pretty good with everything else–grouse blowing up from the side of the trail hardly raises a flinch, but a bike puts him on edge like he was looking at a sabertoothed tiger.
Nothing like a wilderness experience where you blow by it so fast it becomes a blur.
The trail is undergoing some work, which may change its character slightly
Speaking of landscape architecture, are rock gardens natural or ‘given a little help’ by man?
‘I usually don’t get distracted by scenery…’
Nature and wilderness don’t seem to be the draw, but challenging terrain only.
A blur is right Jay and WM – I can only hope the video you posted at 1:01, makes its way to all of those in charge of ever thinking this kind of “travel”, thru wilderness areas, should be allowed.
Count the times in the video where plants are covered in dust? Roots of trees exposed? And what small animal would even have the chance to get out of the way of this kind of madness on wheels?
You object to speed, and also express concern that such speed could lead to some reckless biker hitting you, but at no time was I or any of my fellow riders riding at a speed which would preclude us from stopping well in advance of any other trail user. In fact, we met no less than a half dozen hiking parties, sometimes in very tight quarters, on our descent with nary a problem. Not a one expressed any dismay at our presence, all were cheerful, friendly and we exchanged pleasantries in the most harmonious fashion. It was nothing less than a brotherhood of people who love the backcountry, regardless of mode of low-impact travel.
The Monarch Crest is a long and varied ride. The descent off the Crest on Greens Creek is but on leg of a very long trek. The first 8 miles are arduous, requiring a great deal of climbing, all above treeline. Over the course of any Crest ride, regardless of what descent one takes, there will be plenty of time for slow, contemplative, and moreover, very physically taxing riding.
Your assertion that there is only one way to enjoy the woods is elitist and just plain false. There are “peak baggers” who set records trying to check off all of Colorado’s 14ers in the fewest number of days and PCT thru hikers who set records jamming through all 2,600 miles as quickly as possible. Obviously, walking at a 2mph of lower pace and stopping to smell every wildflower or ponder every vista aren’t the only acceptable means of enjoying the backcountry. Will there be “adventure riders?” I’m sure there will as you say. Are they any different from these peak baggers? I don’t think so. Or how about rock climbers who use all manner of aids to scale difficult pitches, often scarring the rock in the process? Again the bike leaves no greater trace than the boot. Also, when the path turns downward, backcountry skiers can reach speeds as high as I can on my mountain bike.
Just like Congress’ use of the word “mechanized,” you misinterpret my use of the word “ripping” and falsely equate it with “dominting.” Again, I point you to the congressional testimony and what they meant by “dominating the landscape,” which is the fact that motorized vehicles need permanent roads and other infrastrucure/buildings. These are the things which dominate the landscape. My bike passes through with no more impact than your foot and far less than another’s hooves. A horse is larger, and leaves a greater impact, therefore dominates the landscape more than my bike. I have never pitched a tent from my bike, but do so often while on foot, thus establishing a presence and dominating the landscape more on foot than on bike. Hikers who build fire rings which leave scars on the land for years dominate the landscape far more than bikers.
You also seem to take issue with my use of the word “euphoria.” I’m guessing you’re implying that this is proof of my being some kind of an adrenaline junkie since this euphoria followed a rapid descent down a challenging trail. Funny thing, though, that euphoria feels the same to me as the “rush” I get when standing alone on an above treeline ridge, quietly and contemplatively soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness.
And as far as my supposedly legally weak opinion, it remains clear that the Rattlesnake Wilderness Act of 1980, which supersedes all that came before it explicitly declared cycling a legitimate Wilderness activity and included it. Unlike the 1964 Act with all it’s ambiguity, the 1980 Act is crystal clear. Have you found any wording in the 1980 Act to the contrary?
And the very title of the embedded video says it all. “This is Freeride Mountain Biking.” What I do, even on Greens Creek, is not freeride mountain biking.
++Unlike the 1964 [Wilderness] Act with all it’s ambiguity, the 1980 [Rattlesnake National Recreation/Wilderness] Act is crystal clear. Have you found any wording in the 1980 Act to the contrary?++
You still don’t get it. Section 1 of the Rattlesnake Act is a declaration of findings and policy. The one reference to bicycling applies to the Lolo National Forest generally, as a historic use there (wilderness here is a broad generic term and not all wilderness gets designated as such under the 1964 Act. Do keep that in mind). A policy/finding section, which many federal legislative bills have are used to identify the setting and what is to follow. It grants nothing. Let me say that again, it grants nothing. Section 2, which designates the Rattlesnake Wilderness acreage is where a grant to use bicycles in Wilderness would appear (as you see, there is no reference to bicycling here). The terms of the 1964 Wilderness Act govern what goes on in designated Wilderness, and it excludes bicycling per the language we have previously been discussing – no mechanical transport.
The section setting aside the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, is not bound by the legal restrictions of designated Wilderness. That is why bicycling is featured as a recreational feature here on nearly 28,000 acres, where the FS has identified specific trails and roads where bicycles may go.
…not about wanting to perceive and understand anything. It need not be about challenge: I’m at home, I belong there, is most of what I feel. Some places like Frank Church are down-right comfortable.
Very nicely stated, rork.
I find encountering fellow hikers/walkers/birders much more gentle than the very few times a biker has sped past me. Sure, there are some loud, bull-in-a-china-shop types, but generally people are friendly, ask what I’ve seen, ask for an identification, or point out something they saw that was interesting. All I spend my money on are good boots and binoculars. 🙂
“mountain bikers ….. are a behavioral cult that exhibits high levels of aggression, partly against the environment and partly against members of society who identify their activities as destructive.”
Geez, most my mountain bike friends care a great deal about the land and wildlife. Pretty much all of us hate cows and wish the grazing permits could be yanked down here in S.E. Idaho. Sure there are a few rebels putting in new trails where they shouldn’t be, but the Forest Service enforcement folks are spread so thin there really is very little they can do about this.
In my opinion you should try and pick your battles, calling mountain bikers as a whole,”a behavioral cult that exhibits high levels of aggression” serves no purpose and only alienates many of these folks who are actually on your side in most conservation issues.
Well stated, Scott. I often preach compromise in this forum, but to no avail.
“We all hate cows.”
Well, that’s a little short-sighted. If you eat beef and hate cows, that’s just one of the little human idiosyncratic inconsistencies, I guess.
I have to say the mountain biking supporters sound a lot like hunters – ‘sure, there are a few jerks out there, but we’re not all like that! There’s very little that we can do about them.”
You could try.
Mechanization doesn’t have to be a motor, no matter that 4 out of 5 surveyed don’t see it that way.
And what makes you think I don’t try & that I’m short-sighted?
I commented extensively on the Pocatello, Midnight, Michaud Grazing AMP Revisions and got lots of my friends to comment also. I wish like hell they wouldn’t have ended the comment period in January, as it is hard to get folks to comment when they are out skiing, and cows are far from their memory. Dave Delehanty Phd did a great job, sitting on that group that was considering revisions to the grazing plan – we will have to wait and see what finally comes of it all.
Now that cows are once again breaking into the West Fork of Mink Creek, I’m on the phone to Hans Bastian the USFS natural resource guy who in turn gets ahold of the range rider responsible for those cows, and getting my friends to do like wise.
What you don’t seem to realize is that you just can’t wave your magic wand and make mountain bikers disappear. I’m always trying to stop the building of rouge trails, I hike as much as I bike.
I publish and support the Portneuf Valley Audubon’s web site, and even with my limited skills, I try to get the message out.
Unfortunately your “holier than thou” attitude is counter productive in my opinion – and actually I don’t eat beef, but do eat some bison when available – not sure that is a whole lot better though.
Well, are you sincere about it or just trying to push your own agenda and trying to get in good with the enviros?
The problem is, I really don’t care enough about mountain bikers’ ‘plight’.
“I have to say the mountain biking supporters sound a lot like hunters – ‘sure, there are a few jerks out there, but we’re not all like that! There’s very little that we can do about them.””
Hmmm . . . . also sounds a lot like hikers. Establishing campsites and defecating near water sources, cutting switchbacks, building illegal fire rings that scar the land for years, smoking all manner of things in dry areas, etc.
Just one forest fire can have more impact (land destruction, loss of habitat, loss of life, both human and animal)than the sum total of all bike impact. To date, there is not a single documented instance of a fire started by someone on knobbies, but there are plenty started by those on foot.
The bottom line here is that no one user group has a monopoly on either virtue or vice. One can not logically seek to exclude one group without seeking to exclude all other groups which also have similar or greater impact.
Yes, trash, etc. – touché! 🙂
Normally horses have different trails at one of the places I go for local hikes, but one time I encountered a beautiful sorrel horse with no rider, and he or she didn’t seem in an approachable mood, so I steered clear. Sure enough, the rest of the group was further up the trail and this horse had thrown her rider.
“Wilderness is part of our country’s system of public lands–lands that are set aside for the public and managed by the public. Every citizen has a voice that affects wilderness through local or national government”
After spending time on this site its become more and more obvious (to me) that our species “wants and needs” will continue to out weigh any other species needs.
George, still afraid of dissenting opinions?
It’s why he never writes anything controversial these days.
“It’s why he never writes anything controversial these days.”
To specifically address the comments in the article by Brian Horejsi about Fish Creek Provincial Park.
The area that makes up the park, since the 1870s(1), has been impacted by human disturbances whether agricultural or recreational. Stewardship of the land, has rested with the provincial government since 1975. Since opening of the park, Calgary has grown around the park, bounding all sides, except for the very far west side. Because the park is completely enclosed, along with historically disturbed by human activity, this is far from the pristine wildlife oasis that Mr. Horejsi is trying to portray.
Most of the trails that Mr. Horejsi calls “off trail” have evolved from a cross country ski trail network as well as a horse trail network. The current official network of trails, as shown on the “extensive mtn bike roads on maps” are maintained and developed in a sustainable way. In the trail development and planning stages, it can be assumed the provincial government takes wildlife impacts into account before approval is given.
The wildlife interactions that occur are managed with deference to the wildlife (2).
An interesting read (by the biking community 🙂
Begs the question – are there any lands left, where wildlife, plants, etc. live free and untouched by our species?
+1 Begs the question – are there any lands left, where wildlife, plants, etc. live free and untouched by our species?
perhaps more significantly is there any place that humans deem worthy of being left alone without having to add trails, benches, interpretive signs, handicap access, roads, etc…
In North America, no place has “untouched by our species” for at least 13,000 years. Humans were on this continent and have shaped the ecosystems, as apex predators, at least since the last period of glaciation. “Wilderness” is a Euro-American literary invention, ignorant of the impact of the “Native” American. The idea was promoted by the second wave of Europeans, who found a continent with the original apex predators (human) exterminated by the first wave of Europeans, probably the worst genocide in recent human history. The concept of “wilderness” in North America is an insult to those who called it home for millennia. Please read “Wilderness and Political Ecology: Aboriginal Influence and the Original State of Nature,” Kay and Simmons, editors. It’s a collection of papers written by PhDs, so it can be boring, but the conclusions upset the usual romantic notions about “wilderness.” The presence of the European American as a whole has far more influence on wildlife than a small subset of them riding bicycles.
I have seen downed trees across trails (which support more lifeform than living trees!) be sawed into logs and absolutely cleared for mountain bike purpose. A hiker or equestrian could easily navigate over such a thing A biker could too, by carrying the bike but it would mess up their thrill of rapid decent.
Do they care about the protected or endangered plants they are destroying to make slopes around curves? Do they bother with bells or other warning devices? Do they claim to be responsible but in reality we see otherwise?
We cross streams carefully but bikers just plow through them, destroying frog and toad eggs and other reptiles that need that environment. If you want to view wildlife, you learn to walk lightly and then not move if you want to view living creatures. Just one biker racing down a hill destroys birding opportunities for an hour or more, but of course the reverse isn’t the case.
I found this comment in the link below interesting. I said something very similar and got shouted down.
“An active maintenance program that removes tree falls and maintains a stable and predictable tread also encourages visitors to remain on the intended narrow tread. A variety of maintenance actions can discourage trail widening, such as only cutting a narrow section out of trees that fall across the trail, limiting the width of vegetation trimming, and defining trail borders with logs, rocks, or other objects that won’t impede drainage.”
From the link Nancy posted.
see and that is a point. In a “wilderness” there should not be Maintained trails or maintained anything else; for anyone’s benefit.
Industry reports are always going to interpret results to their favor, it can’t be helped. The common thread through all of the articles is that there are not very many studies done on the environmental impact of biking, and any trail upkeep should be as minimal as possible IMO. It can’t be as minimal with anything on wheels.
Sure, there are a few careless people who hike – but I don’t think it’s a ‘manifesto’ the way it is with mountain biking? The tone of the articles are challenge, being a rebel, one-sided personal gain and achievement, boredom when a trail has been completed, and to conquer a new one. A kind of ‘hit it and quit it’ mindset.
I agree there is definitely a different mindset, hikers tend to respect where they are while many Mountain bikers (not all MBs) are just exercise jocks competing to see who can go the fastest or make the biggest splash when crashing through or worse riding up the center of a creek. They can do almost anything an ATV can do. I’ve seen their trails and the streams they cross badly degraded first hand.
And I’ve seen trails which see exclusively or almost exclusively bike traffic which show no degradation while I’ve also seen trails which have never seen a knobby tire which show horrible degradation.
Trails should be evaluated individually for suitability for cycling. There are many variables which impact sustainability of which user type is only one, and with regard to user type, it has been independently and scientifically proven cycling is equivalent to hiking and far less than equestrian use regardless of anybody’s anecdotal “well, I’ve seen . . . ” comments.
Something to think about John Fisch, regarding our dialog on this thread and the other one:
H.R. 3172 (101st Cong., 1st Sess.). This bill consisted of one sentence: “Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)) is amended by striking ‘mechanical transport,’ and inserting ‘mechanical transport (except for nonmotorized bicycles)’.” The purpose of this bill, cosponsored by more than a dozen Republican representatives, was to encourage mountain bikers to ally with conservatives and adopt their views on wilderness.
This legislation died in committee.
It is my understanding no bill has been introduced addressing bicycle use in wilderness since 1989.
So, if you are looking for “new” Congressional history on mountain biking in designated Wilderness, maybe you will add this to your talking points.
There may have been a number of reasons for this.
It may have died in committee of a democratically controlled Congress, Democrats being allied with the most powerful, well organized and well funded anti-bike lobbies.
Setting aside any conspiracy theories, it may have died since it was unnecessary–the history and wording of the 1964 Act, subsequently reinforced unambiguously by the 1980 act, should make any additional clarification unnecessary–per congressional direction, bikes should have already been in. I suspect congress had what they considered to be much bigger issues on their plate.
Your ability to rationalize continues to amaze me.
I asked you once before, but received no answer, so in case you missed it, I will ask again.
Do you have any learned legal authority for your belief that bicycles are allowed in Wilderness under the 1964 Act, or specifically in the Rattlesnake Wilderness pursuant to the 1980 RNRA/Wilderness Act other than the article Ted Stroll did some years back and which appears in the Penn Env. Law Review?
I would like to learn something from this dialog, and if there is any legal treatise, paper or law review article in agreement with his view, it would serve an educational purpose, and possibly lend weight to his position. It would also give your opinion credibility (which it does not have so far). Just answer the question and provide a cite to the paper(s), if there any.
By the way, do you have any legal training?
I gather by your lack of reply to my twice-asked questions, you have neither.
Also noted is the statement of the IMBA from its website:
++Is IMBA Trying to Get Bicycles in Wilderness?
No, IMBA respects the federal land agencies’ regulation that bicycles are not allowed in existing Wilderness. When proposed Wilderness legislation impacts significant mountain bicycling trails, IMBA suggests alternative designations, non-Wilderness corridors or cherry stems and boundary adjustments that will protect the land and allow our use to continue.++
Support for new Wilderness or alternatives to designation is a slippery slope for everyone. It is a separate but related issue.
I thought I’d addressed your question earlier, but I’ll try to do better this time.
1. I am not a lawyer, so I can not claim to have any “learned legal authority.”
2. Ted Stroll, regardless of what you think of his motives, is a graduate of a top-10 law school, and at the time of the review, was a member of the staff of the California Supreme Court. While I won’t claim that makes him infallible or free of bias, it does give him some level of credibility. How do your credentials stack up?
3. I have expressed a number of rational arguments as to why I believe what I do, some of which are my own thought and were not taken from Stroll’s paper. Most notably:
a) From the 1964 verbiage–“. . . no other form of mechanical transport.” Why not just say “No Mechanical Transport” plain and simple as that? The authors put a short laundry list before that phrase, all of which were motorized, indicating the focus on precluding motorized vehicles. This is also supported by the congressional testimony, all of which focused in preventing the establishment of infrastructure and the desire to get Americans out under their own power rather than in automobiles (yes, as also explained by Stroll, but still relevant). This is also supported by the fact that forms of mechanical transport are allowed, so clearly the intent wasn’t to ban ALL mechanical transport. The question is where to draw the line and all supporting documentation leads to the conclusion that the line was to be drawn at motorized vehicles–Stroll makes a strong case for this, but I have added points not covered by Stroll.
b) While Stroll points to the Rattlesnake Wilderness Act of 1980, he didn’t go into great depth and you took that as a flaw in his analysis. Again, my own thought regarding that act, not Stroll’s, was presented as a counter. You say that the appearance of bikes in section 1 “grants nothing,” which may be technically true, but it certainly implies intent. Congress has acknowledged that this wilderness (small ‘w’) has been home for mountain biking, and that it still has Wilderness characteristics making it suitable for designated Wilderness. While it may “grant nothing” it is clear Congress is making the point that this activity is compatible with Wilderness designation.
When you combine that with the congressional testimony leading to the creation of the original Act, the clear indication of the desire to preclude motor vehicles, the desire to get Americans out under their own power, and the testimonially given definition of “unconfined recreation” along with the 1980s declaring cycling as a “primitive form of recreation,” the evidence stacks high as to the applicability of cycling. The only thing countering it is a narrow interpretation of one phrase, which can only be made by ignoring every bit of context in which it is provided.
To this day we still have tremendous disagreement as to the most basic laws which define our very civilization in our Constitution, whether they be tests of the limits of free speech, the right to bear arms, or any other of the most core of our laws. To date, even the best legal minds, far more learned than you, I, or Ted Stroll, still can’t reach agreement on the legal bounds of these things. I doubt we will on something which, truth be told, is far less significant in the big scheme of things, than whether or not people can ride their bikes in the Wilderness. To me, it’s much easier to see that the original Act, and its subsequent additions did not intend to preclude bikes than whether or not I should be allowed to possess an automatic rifle with a high volume magazine.
And, yet, in 10 years since Stroll wrote his initial piece (and he has periodically written op-ed pieces catapulting from its premise – that Congress did not intend to exclude biking in designated Wilderness), I have yet to see a concurring view from any lawyer or legal scholar in a writing ANYWHERE, confirming that his views are plausible. So, I will leave the query open.
Apparently, he no longer uses his affiliation with his employer in the article byline, probably because, as even you infer, it has the appearance of lending legitimacy of his views. I would go so far as to suggest his employer may have even had a conversation with him about the ethics or appropriateness of such a reference.
And, John, you should know there are lots of folks with legal “pedigrees” equal to Mr. Stroll practicing law or opining on issues in the natural resources field. There are some very good ones in some of the wilderness NGO advocacy groups, who also know how to read and interpret Congressional legislative history and bill drafting, and have also commented on the biking in Wilderness topic. They are by far the stronger and apparently more legally authoritative voice.
What does that say about the strength of your view?
“No, IMBA respects the federal land agencies’ regulation that bicycles are not allowed in existing Wilderness. When proposed Wilderness legislation impacts significant mountain bicycling trails, IMBA suggests alternative designations, non-Wilderness corridors or cherry stems and boundary adjustments that will protect the land and allow our use to continue.”
That’s because IMBA is an inherently political organization and, like any political organization, they try to focus limited resources on issues they might actually have a chance of influencing.
Even then, they/we automatically lose. For instance, the USFS established a number of Wilderness Study Areas in Montana (among other places). Subsequently, anti-bike forces brought suit that enough wasn’t being done enough to preserve the “Wilderness character” of these areas, so a federal judge ruled that bikes be banned from these areas. This is an egregious fault on two counts, one practical and one legal.
1. As previously noted, past mountain bike use has never prevented an area from having the Wilderness Character, so there was there is no need to ban bikes. The most recent additions to Wilderness have banned bikes from traditional, and in some cases, popular cycling routes. Despite that popularity, the area was still suitable for designated Wilderness.
2. Wilderness is created by the legal process originating in Congress–no Legislative branch, no Wilderness (at least not legally). Now, we have part of the Executive branch (USFS)establishing a WSA and the Judicial branch (a federal judge) creating de facto Wilderness. It is, for all intents and purpose, Wilderness, with all the associated restrictions.
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
Except when you huckin’ obstacles, seekin’ out the gnar, and rippin’ down the trail until the scenery becomes a blur, dude.
“Except when you huckin’ obstacles, seekin’ out the gnar, and rippin’ down the trail until the scenery becomes a blur, dude.”
Really? You really have no realization whatsoever about what I see/smell/hear/feel when I’m on the bike.
And while I may travel fast at times, I travel slow a lot more (what goes down must first go up, which takes a lot more effort and time). Not only do you have the selfish view that your way is the only way to enjoy the outdoors, you expect everyone to do it your way every last step of the way.
What does it matter that I came down a hill fast if I did it safely and with less impact than a horse or backpacker? And, by your standard, how much does a trail runner or galloping horseman see?
You have no concept of what I see/hear/smell when I’m on my bike.
And, while I may go fast at times, I go slow a lot more–after all, it takes much more effort . . . and time . . . to go uphill and what goes down must first go up! Unlike your vision of mountain biking with armor clad adrenaline junkies hammering down prepares slopes fed by ski lifts, I earn all my turns.
And even if I do go fast, so what, if I do so safely and leave less impact than the average backpacker or equestrian?
Not only do you think there is only one way to properly enjoy the outdoors–your way or the highway–you expect everyone to do it your way every last step of the way. Very open-minded indeed.
“And even if I do go fast, so what, if I do so safely and leave less impact than the average backpacker or equestrian?”
John, I’m glad you have places to ride, and frankly, I don’t care how you enjoy the outdoors–if you want to blow through scenery so you can “rip” and “huck” and hunt for “gnar” on bike-legal trails, more power to you (and yes, I’ve got an idea of what you see/hear/smell on your bike, because I also own a mountain bike). That said, I want a place where I can ride my horse without having to have my head on a swivel looking out for speed demon bikers. Now you can give me one of those “I’ve seen” statements that you hypocritically admonish others here for (you’ve got a few on here yourself), but you have no idea what it’s like to be on a 1200 lb. animal that’s a hair’s edge from putting you in a hospital bed (or dead) because of a bike zooming at you–unless you’ve been on the horseman’s side of the encounter, all your “I’ve seen” stories don’t count for a hill of beans. You can call me selfish, but I think it’s the other way around–you won’t be satisfied until you can take your bike wherever you want, regardless of how that impacts other users or their safety. You can misrepresent in your posts here about how you respectfully ride along at a few miles an hour, but your writings on the singletrack blog completely contradicts those assertions. Your activities have functionally excluded my activity on bike-busy trails, now you’re going after the few places I can go. Who’s the selfish one here?
By the way John, I can find numerous articles on the internet about horse riders injured due to being spooked by bikes. Oddly, I can’t find stories of bikers injured that were spooked by horses. Weird, huh?
“Your activities have functionally excluded my activity on bike-busy trails, now you’re going after the few places I can go. Who’s the selfish one here?”
You have excluded yourself. Here in Colorado Springs, we have a wonderful preserve in the middle of the city, Palmer Park, which is one of the most popular and heavily used mountain bike destinations anywhere. And yet, the equestrians still ride there (and the hikers still hike there, and the trail runners still run there, and the families with small children and the dog walkers have not shied away either).
” you have no idea what it’s like to be on a 1200 lb. animal that’s a hair’s edge from putting you in a hospital bed”
False. I was an equestrian for years before I got my first bike. I ran a stable where we took totally green tourists out on challenging backcountry trails. I am fully aware of all the dangers equestrians face. There are hundreds of things which can spook a horse, of which a cyclist is but one.
I have shared examples of cyclists and equestrians working together for the betterment of all, yet you remain intractably glued to your negative perception that the two can not peacefully coexist.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are correct and the two should never be on the same trail at the same time. Tying this to your assertion of selfishness, I again ask your opinion of shared use schedules. These generally allow hiking/equestrian use every day and cycling only every other day.
Fair and unselfish would be everyone having equal access. That would mean all are allowed always or each is excluded a similar amount of time in deference to the other.
The most selfish setup would be one group getting 100% access and the other getting 0% access. This appears to be your solution for many trails.
The shared use schedule above, which most cyclists support in contentious areas sets thing up like this:
Hikers/Equestrians get —
50% of the time exactly how they want it (no sharing)
On the other hand, cyclists get —
0% exclusive access
Despite this being heavily weighted toward hikers/equestrians, cyclists are usually willing to make this meeting well over half way compromise. Hikers, on the other hand, usually oppose such a setup because they want it all, all the time, and all to themselves.
Time to reevaluate your criteria for selfishness.
Regardless of this quote, I’d give 20/1 odds Edward Abbey would view mountain biking -especially as characterized today- as being inconsistent with the purposes of the Wilderness Act. And, he would likely shake his head in disgust at what places like Moab have become. Can’t even imagine his thoughts about the advocacy for mountain bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. Maybe Heyduke and crew have a new mission.
If you are going to quote “Desert Solitaire,” maybe you should have some knowledge and context on Abbey’s view of wilderness. He wrote the book in 1968, long before there ever were technology rich “mountain bikes,” or the thought of putting that “mechanical transport” advantage to work on wilderness landscapes.
If only Abbey were here to give his sarcastic and humorous view of the incipient creeping technology of the gleaming metal blur of mountain bikes on otherwise mostly wild landscapes, with an emphasis on the “attitude” of some of their brightly colored skin-tight spandex laden riders with shiney plastic helmets – especially in the sandstone country of the Southwest. I think he would find present-day Moab, what passed for the rural town epicenter of Desert Solitaire, downright repulsive. If only someone with an acerbic wit would take up where Abbey left off, and update us from the days of his rememberance of Arches/Canyonlands and surrounds, until today. Don’t forget there is a chapter called “Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks,” an indictment of what these primitive special places are likely to become with increased visitation, and more wheel-capable surfaces (had he only known what mountain bikes are capable of today).
Here is a little from his friend Doug Peacock, who was with him in his final hours, and who buried the man.
Thank you WM, for posting this interview. Surprised at the few hits it garnished on YouTube.
What I took away from Peacock’s conversation? We humans do want to “cherish” wilderness…. but few want to “champion, go to bat or go the extra mile” because our species has become too conditioned to the remnants of wilderness.
You make a good point about increased visitation–but this is also not bike dependent. I won’t even go into most parts of Rocky Mountain National Park nowadays, at least not in the summer– And there’s not a bike in sight!
And you worry about the gleaming blur of whizzing biked–without decrying all the tech hikers carry in. So it seems its all about appearances rather than actual violation of some Wilderness ideal. A GPS is much higher tech than a bike. A backpacker is the one who will burn fossil fuels in the backcountry. What about the scars left by illegal fire rings built by hikers?
The only answer to any of the above dilemmas seems to be limiting access–a concept which does not disturb me. I can see making some areas off limits to all human intrusion. I can see limiting the numbers allowed in other areas. In fact, we already have this in some Wilderness areas where access is only by permit and a limited number of permits are granted.
In such a case, however, all equally low impact users should have equal opportunity to acquire such permits.
Wm yes thanks for posting, I had never seen this. It was a great interview. There is no one like Edward Abbey, yet if I could think of a writer who has written/railed against development and used with and even absurdity sometimes it would be Carl Hiassen and his writing about Florida. I just recently read an interview with him that asked what book he would recommend the president read, he responded the monkey wrench gang. Anyhow thanks for posting.
WM, I think Mr. Fisch is probably right, their own Marketing is their worst enemy. That video you posted has just the wrong attitude (the tree roots!) I usually step lightly over them.
You make an excellent point about increased visitation. Unfortunately, this is not bike specific or even bike centric.
I won’t even go into most parts of Rocky Mountain National Park these days, especially in the summer–and nary a knobby in sight.
And Moab was overrun with jeeps before bikes even appeared on the scene.
I have no problem with the notion that some areas should be off limits to all humans. I also have no problem with limiting access to areas where humans are allowed–in fact we already do this–there are Wilderness areas for which a permit is required to enter and there are a limited number of permits granted.
I have no problem prohibiting bikes from areas where their use is not safe or sustainable. In areas where bike use is can be safe and sustainable, I have no problem limiting bike useage to certain periods, thus providing hikers a bike-free experience, although I don’t really understand it, given that in all my years of hiking and backpacking, I’ve never once had my experience degraded by a bike.
The problem is with these broad blanket bans which grab so many trails for which cycling is perfectly suited.
“although I don’t really understand it, given that in all my years of hiking and backpacking, I’ve never once had my experience degraded by a bike.”
Dirt bikers and folks with water sleds say this too. Their personal anecdotes trump the experiences of other people.
“Their personal anecdotes trump the experiences of other people.”
Great point, Rork, no matter how sarcastically made. Everyone has different perceptions and expectations. Is anybody’s personal experience any more or less valid than any others’? That’s why it’s most important to give precedence to actual impact rather than perceived impact.
Id also be wiling to bet Abbey would be disgusted by the way that national parks and wilderness areas have been eroded by multiple uses. I’d guess he would want to see it as untrammeled as possible and that back in 1968 the use of mountain bikes, atvs, snowmobiles etc were not as invasive as they are now. I’d also bet he’d like to see less human footprint in wilderness, even hikers… too many people, too much impact….
“Id also be wiling to bet Abbey would be disgusted by the way that national parks and wilderness areas have been eroded by multiple uses. I’d guess he would want to see it as untrammeled as possible and that back in 1968 the use of mountain bikes, atvs, snowmobiles etc were not as invasive as they are now.”
Mountain bikes are no more pervasive in National Parks today than in 1968 as they remain banned from all backcountry trails and only allowed on certain roads.
As for the desire for less human footprint overall, I’m sure most would agree. It seems simply calling an are a National Park brings in people in hordes. The desire to preserve via this particular designation backfires as often as it helps.
IF WILDERNESS IS OUTLAWED…..
Not yet visible but coming closer minute by minute were the bull-dozers, the front-end loaders, the dump trucks, the road graders. Dim in the distance sounded the vast electrical uproar of the walking dragline: the G.E.M.OF Arizona: GOLIATH.
….ONLY OUTLAWS CAN SAVE WILDERNESS. /Edward Abbey
gotta know Nancy; did you offer that quote from memory, or do you have a copy of the text? It took me back many years. You read the words and you can feel the earth rumble. Thanks for the look back.
skyrim – from text, I have a few of Abbey’s books. He’s a favorite 🙂
“Not yet visible but coming closer minute by minute were the bull-dozers, the front-end loaders, the dump trucks, the road graders.”
The good news is that a mountain bike requires none of this. It requires no more infrastructure than the same type of trail hikers need.