Bicycles Don’t Belong in Wilderness Areas

Congress’ most vehement anti-public lands members wrote HR-1349

By Jim Watson

The Wilderness Act of 1964 preserves vestiges of America from intrusion by the modern world. In his support for HR-1349, Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte asserts that the bill would “restore the original intent” of the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles. Those who helped write the act stand firm in their conviction that the law means what it says: no mechanical transport, including bicycles.

Gianforte claims that the bill would allow wheelchair access for veterans. In fact, wheelchairs have been allowed in wilderness areas since 1990, per the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wilderness areas are managed by the Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All but the USFS banned bicycles in 1964; initially silent on bicycles, the USFS followed suit in 1977. Today all four agencies oppose HR-1349.

Congress’ most vehement anti-public lands members wrote HR-1349. It has little to do with bicycles or wilderness access; the bicycle community is but a pawn in a game intended to damage the Wilderness Act. HR-1349 originated in the same House committee that is currently shrinking our national monuments. Aggressively working to dispose of your public lands, they intend to undermine public land conservation and are doing so by pitting user groups against each other. HR-1349 helps them gain a foothold in their anti-conservation goals. I am dismayed that our lone representative is participating in this ill-conceived game.

Thousands of miles of old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) trails have been abandoned due to lack of funding. Rather than spending fortunes attempting to open wilderness areas to bicycles, why not use that money and energy to open trails on non-wilderness portions of our public lands, per the policy of the International Mountain Biking Association?

Call Gianforte’s office and ask him to reverse his support of this onerous bill.

Jim Watson