Opinion

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Guest Column

No Mountain Bikes in Wilderness

A plea from an avid mountain biker

This is a response to the Mountain-Bicycles-in-Wilderness effort. First, a bit about me – I have four bikes; a Specialized Allez road bike, an old Specialized Stump Jumper mountain bike, a Surly Pugsley fat tire bike, and a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike. I ride them all at various times. I live 30-plus miles from the nearest telephone pole. North of Polebridge, there is no electric grid. Part of each year, I spend several months living on top of a mountain as a forest fire lookout looking for fire. I write all of this to define what forms my thoughts.   

I love to ride my fat tire bike back in the woods/mountains where I’m allowed, and where I’m not allowed – I respect the rules of Wilderness. I love knowing Wilderness is there and is a constant sanctuary left the way it was and I hope that it always stays as it is. The attitude of the Sustainable Trails Organization http://www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org and The International Mountain Bicycling Association https://www.imba.com/ remind me of a petulant child – one who is sitting in a supermarket cart full of nutritious food, who leans towards the candy display and screams “I want that.” A temper tantrum focusing not on what they have, only what they don’t have.   

I say no bikes in existing Wilderness. There are so many more acres to ride bikes than designated wilderness – BLM Lands, national forest lands and state lands. Where I live, there is a coalition of folks who gathered together to find common ground on national forest land use. They are called the Whitefish Range Partnership and this partnership consists of a diverse group of snowmobilers, loggers, mountain bikers, wilderness advocates, backcountry horsemen, private landowners and other special interest groups. They have collaborated to come to a mutual multi-use land plan for the Whitefish Range that satisfies each of the groups. This agreement was reached by consensus … unanimous agreement. Then, it was submitted as a proposal to the Flathead National Forest in its planning process. No one got exactly what they wanted, but they came to an agreement that they could all live with and enjoy. I feel that future Wilderness designations will come about as a result of collaborative efforts and contain compromises to satisfy the various land use interests.   

I’m hoping that the various mountain bike groups here in Montana realize what a precious place our Wilderness Areas are and that they work to lead the way for other mountain bicycle groups to leave them alone. And, that they also lead the way to create new trails through collaboration with other groups. But I don’t want existing wilderness rules to change.

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