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4/1/2015 4:54 PM
 

I just had this long ass argument on FB with some guys who want land managers to be able to allow MTBs in wilderness areas on a case by case basis:
https://www.facebook.com/WildernessB/...

Please don't jump on the FB discussion and get involved. Too much brain damage. But I would like to hear from anyone who has a different perspective on the topic than I do. Ned? Dave C?

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/2/2015 10:42 AM
 

Morning Evan.  It's a question near to my heart and one I enjoy thinking and talking about, but I've gotten pretty jaded lately because too often the discussion becomes ideological and nasty.  Pretty sure that won't be the case here, so what follows are my thoughts.

I'm fairly convinced that the trail damage argument is a red herring provided that one compares equal numbers of bikes and hikers.  What usually happens of course is that bikers discover and popularize a trail which was previously hiked only occasionally,making an immediately apparent visual impact.  There is a very limited number of empirical studies which taken as a whole support my assertion, but they are very limited as far as sample size of generalizability to different soil types.  The modern style of downhilling on big bikes which has embraced skidding to corner more tightly is probably an exception to this. 

Therefore the crux of the argument is not based on resource damage.  Plenty of trails currently off-limtis to bikes would need to be rebuilt to be sustainable, but they'd need to be rebuilt in a similar fashion to sustainable a similar volume of foot traffic anyway.  Funding is obviously problematic but frankly that's an entirely different discussion.  I also think that the "mechanized travel" language in the Wilderness Act could easily be interpreted to not be applicable to bikes.  There's a lot of history which suggests as much.  The Rattlesnake Wilderness north of Missoula has a documented history of mountain biking before a mid-80s FS rule classified them as mechanized.  I'd also submit that skis aren't categorically different from bikes insofar as mechanization is concerned, but for reasons I've never had well explained a lot of folks are resistant to this point.

Which brings up your point Evan, that bikes degrade the lower case wilderness quality of Wilderness areas.  In my mind this is an almost axiomatic point.  With so many roads, outside winter Wilderness in the lower 48 is defined more than anything by the time it takes to get into.  The oft-lauded most remote spot in the lower 48 (measured by straight line radius from roads) in the Thorofare in Yellowstone would be a 3-4 hour bike ride on horse trails during summer conditions.  The Bob would be traversable in the day from the N Fork Blackfoot to Spotted Bear.  And so on and so forth. 

In an ideal world I'd like to see a case-by-case discussion of bike access to trails in Wilderness areas and national parks.  I'd also like to see horse access curtailed, and roads closed.  None of these seem likely to happen any time soon, and for that reason I prefer to put my advocacy energy towards other topics.

 
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4/6/2015 8:35 AM
 
I was on the fence about thiss same issue this last summer. Now I am ok with the prohibition. I planned a 140 mile bike trip through the Kalmiopsis Wildernes laseSeptember and the day before I left home I discovered the no bike rule. I was disapointed, but replanned it to be a 40 mile trip skirting the wilderness boundaries so we could hike into certain spots. I believe that if this rule were lifted, in many wilderness areas that are fairly easy to traverse off-trail, there would be new trails made by those few MTBres that would want to explore off trail.
 
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4/6/2015 7:24 PM
 
This whole thing has me feeling like my friend who virtually quit hunting once he became a wildlife officer. Seeing all of the jackassery that is the norm for hunters which he couldn't ignore once he did it for a living made any association with that group somewhat odious to him. I'm kind of feeling the same way about mountain biking right now. I started out talking with those guys thinking we shared the same religion - that of the importance and sanctity of wilderness. And then the discussion is only about whether allowing mountain bikes violates that or not. Then I realized that the majority of voices - or at least the loud one that was most representative of my perception of mountain bikers as a group - didn't even understand that concept let alone subscribe to it. He just wanted a bigger playground. We were talking past each other. Pointless.

Cole - I remember your disappointment. Spend some time on the trails around Bend or the Mackenzie River trail or Oakridge and I think you'll come away with nothing but horror at the prospect of any of the Cascades wildernesses being opened to mountain biking. I'm glad you ended up having a good trip.

Dave - your post unfortunately got clipped. I've been eagerly waiting to see what the rest of it has to hold. I've also been continuing to think about this topic. I think now there is more than one question to ask, and they can be framed better than "bikes in wilderness areas or not".

First, I've always believed that one mountain biker causes the same impact as one hiker. That matches everything I've seen with the exception of powersliding around switchbacks. But it never seems to be one MTBer, it is 20. I don't know if that is because I've been in mountain biking meccas, or there isn't a whole lot of terrain that hits the sweet spot for being good mountain biking so there are greater concentrations or it is an activity on the rise or what. Heck, 2 days ago I observed several completely new thoroughly beaten in trails in a little desert basin where a few months ago they didn't exist. That is lots of traffic. So that's my first question - why do mountain biker concentrations always seem so high?

Second, I realized mountain biking being legalized in wilderness areas is pretty much a moot point. It's never going to happen. But that's a legal question anyway. The more important question is this (assuming we share the same religion) -- Is mountain biking *ever* a wilderness appropriate activity, and if so under what circumstances? I've got some thoughts on the matter, but I'm short time and don't want to skew responses too much.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/6/2015 10:12 PM
 
evanhill wrote:
This whole thing has me feeling like my friend who virtually quit hunting once he became a wildlife officer. Seeing all of the jackassery that is the norm for hunters which he couldn't ignore once he did it for a living made any association with that group somewhat odious to him. I'm kind of feeling the same way about mountain biking right now. I started out talking with those guys thinking we shared the same religion - that of the importance and sanctity of wilderness. And then the discussion is only about whether allowing mountain bikes violates that or not. Then I realized that the majority of voices - or at least the loud one that was most representative of my perception of mountain bikers as a group - didn't even understand that concept let alone subscribe to it. He just wanted a bigger playground. We were talking past each other. Pointless.

 

This does seem to be the case, and I imagine down in the Junction area you're more in the thick of it than most.  

To digress somewhat, the last few Outdoor Retailer state-of-the-industry reports have concluded with gleeful myopic-ness that participation in outdoor activities has been growing substantially in recent years.  Parse their data and you'll quickly see that running and cycling are almost solely responsible for this.  When I'm feeling cynical and willing to indulge in stereotyping, I see this as indicative of a divide between the perhaps stagnant side of the industry/culture which is concerned with wilderness experience, and the growing side which merely consists of exercising outdoors.  Obviously people cannot and should not be so easily categorized, but I don't think the generalization is entirely without merit.  I've certainly been pretty far out into the woods on mountain bike rides or even during organized ultramarathons with folks who were darn good athletes but had no navigation or general self-preservation skills whatsoever.  That's not to say that they shouldn't be there, but it does seem like they're putting the cart before the horse and missing out on a lot of reward which is inherent in the process.  But many get there eventually.

My own evolution has certainly gone from questions of can it be done to should it be done.  There are plenty of places I've come to know in recent years where I'd like to think I wouldn't take my bike, even if I were legally permitted to do so.  But it would be very tempting.

 
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4/7/2015 10:06 AM
 
First a disclaimer. Since my back operation I can no long ride "bent over" so any mountain biking is over for me. This may mean that I have a slant or bias against but I don't see that. I view this as a selfishness/laziness issue. It is very easy to see what someone else may have and want the same and or more. Why not have all the regular stuff and get the wilderness to? This to me is kinda selfish IMO. I also believe that for most it is easier to take something that already exists than create it for yourself. The wilderness exists and already has trails so move on that as opposed to get the gov. to create some more stuff available to mountain bikers (could be a hard road). Why can't wilderness exist without corruption and mountain bikers be afforded someplace where they can do their thing? It will not be wilderness however. Wilderness should exist in its present form and without rule changes and I will feel that way even when I am no longer able to utilize it.
 
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4/7/2015 8:48 PM
 
It's an interesting take, but isn't it also selfish to have something someone else doesn't, and want to keep it for yourself?
 
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4/7/2015 9:33 PM
 
It is not about saying someone can't use it. It is that everyone can experience it the way it was, now and forever. It is about protection of a perishable resource for everyone's enjoyment. Protection from uses that could cause it to perish. That trust is one passed to us from the founders of wilderness. We are but the temporary custodians and stewards. It is a trust for our children's children. I personally don't agree with a movement that I feel will lead to damage, perhaps irreparable. For me it is not a question of personal enjoyment, though I selfishly cherish every moment of wilderness time, but rather a question of how do we protect that which is precious so it is not lost.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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4/7/2015 9:48 PM
 
Amen and well said.
 
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4/8/2015 11:39 AM
 
praharin wrote:
It's an interesting take, but isn't it also selfish to have something someone else doesn't, and want to keep it for yourself?

 Got Marxism?  Much?

 I'll weigh in and say no to wheels, powered or not, in wilderness areas.

 
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4/8/2015 1:28 PM
 
We are facing a possible wilderness designation being placed onto a section of the northern Whitefish Mountain Range that my wife and I have biked through for many years. Beautiful loops that utilize both open and closed FS roads and trails on which we leave, basically, zero impact. If the designation happens we're screwed for biking and with very few trails in existence, access is pretty much shot for 90% of the area since off trail travel would give the Cascades a run for it's money. (And when the FS comes in and rips the roads out, you'd be hard pressed to convince deer and elk to use whats left of the mess).

I'm in favor of equal apportionment in the public sector. That being the case, if the main emphasis of this thread is protecting designated wilderness from unwanted damage to the environment then its overtime we boot all live stock out as well, Forest Service pack strings included. I've spent enough time in the Bob Marshall wilderness to experience the effects of livestock, both private/commercial and publicly operated. Slopping through foot deep ditches 4' wide with the stench of horse manure and buzzing flies for miles isn't what some would call "wilderness". I know a young college student who works trail crew for the FS and last year spent most of her summer break spraying herbicides deep in the "Bob" trying to abate the noxious weeds brought in by "weed free" hay.

If we consider bikes not fitting into the wilderness "ethic", then possibly a ban on all mechanical devices including but not limited to all forms of cooking stoves, hand saws, axes, nylon tents, firearms, any man made accoutrements etc etc be enforced as well...and some would go so far as to banning humans altogether.

I don't have a definitive answer but as I said, apportionment should be followed in all aspects of the public sector, including our public lands, regardless of designated usage.









http://www.skookumbushtool.com | sig added by Evan. Go check out Rod's work.
 
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4/8/2015 5:37 PM
 

RD, I've not considered that.  Here's where I'm coming from, I don't want to see what few large wilderness areas we now have, turned into mega-MTB meets in addition to the traffic they now sustain.  IE Bob Marshall.

Where I live in the SE, there is a pretty strong consensus against anymore designated wilderness areas, especially by hunters and state game managers, due to lack of access for both recreation and land and wildlife management.

I can't state what current legislation dictates but past acts have grandfathered some mechanized access, IE bushplanes in certain ID wilderness areas.  That is a reasonable compromise for future areas, IMO.

 
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4/8/2015 6:46 PM
 
Finally chiming in here! My background is primarily from the cycling side of things. Also 10+ years racing bikes, primarily in the gravity oriented disciplines. Having ridden and raced all over CO and northern NM I've seen both the good and bad of riding in woods.

I've seen what happens to a piece of narrow single track that when taped out for a race quickly becomes a highway. Obviously a race setting you're putting a concentrated number of riders on one trail with the only rule being "keep it between the tape". Alternate lines form quickly and ruts and braking bumps along with them. Races in the downhill discipline are always on trails you'd never consider for a leisurely hike and are usually purpose built and some only used for that weekend then closed off to the public. It does however give an expedited look into what bikers can do to a piece of trail.

Back to the topic of access for bikes in wilderness for the vast majority of it I'd say no. Most wilderness areas don't have the infrastructure to support heavy regular use by any user group really, especially bikes. Having spent 4 days hiking through the Zirkel's last fall none of those trails would be all that great for biking anyway. I was amazed that near the easier to access areas even with only foot traffic how much the trails were worn in. Any current wilderness should remain off limits to mechanized travel. The only exception I could see is future areas that are being considered for wilderness designation if there's already roads and sustainable trails in the area possibly allowing bikes in those areas. Obviously it would have to be done on a case by case basis. Or if there's roads limit bikes to just those, and foot traffic only on any single track.

"Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."
 
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4/9/2015 6:44 AM
 
Take-a-knee wrote:
praharin wrote:
It's an interesting take, but isn't it also selfish to have something someone else doesn't, and want to keep it for yourself?

 Got Marxism?  Much?

 I'll weigh in and say no to wheels, powered or not, in wilderness areas.

 

That may be fair, but in my opinion, we're not talking about something earned. Hikers didn't do something that bikers didn't, they just have access because it's deemed less injurious to the wilderness (rightly so in many cases). Wilderness areas were designated by the government as areas to be left in their natural state. Any use by man is going to alter that at some rate, some faster than others. To give it an analogy, if the Governor of your state was going around giving a fresh $100 bill to everyone in the state who has a SSN which ends in an even number would it be selfish of me to lobby that he do the same for those who's number, like me, is odd? 

 
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4/9/2015 9:02 AM
 
You can't legally change your SSN, a person fit enough to ride a mountain bike can walk.  There is no "denial" taking place, except to the unfit or the handicapped.
 
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4/9/2015 12:12 PM
 
Take-a-knee wrote:
You can't legally change your SSN, a person fit enough to ride a mountain bike can walk.  There is no "denial" taking place, except to the unfit or the handicapped.

 

Biking is a unique recreational activity, not simply a mode of transportation. 

 
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4/10/2015 8:25 AM
 
praharin wrote:

Biking is a unique recreational activity, not simply a mode of transportation. 

 

I'm having a hard time following here. Could you clarify?

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/10/2015 2:18 PM
 
I have spent time on both sides of this issue on public land. I spent many years on and around Mt. Tamalpais, one of the birthplaces of mountain biking as an avid cyclist, ranger, and trailworker. As much as I would like to see unfettered access for everyone and their activities, one would be deceiving themselves horribly to believe that mountain bikes affect a trail the same as hikers. True, one conscientious cyclist can minimize their impact, but on mass scale there is no comparison, and the impact increases tremendously if the soil is at all moist or muddy. It's also been my experience that as a mass group, myself included, cyclists carry themselves through a landscape in a very different way than someone on foot - this intangible may be more important than the actual physical impact. I am a liberty loving and rule hating individual, and my concept of wilderness includes human presence, but I think it is OK to have areas set aside with the intent of minimizing the impact of civilization.
Wilderness, whether designated or not, transcends a recreational playground and should be the place where we have opportunity to make some of the deepest connections with our self as an element and citizen of nature, not separated from it. We must protect it as such. I fall in the camp of no bikes in the wilderness.
 
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4/13/2015 1:43 PM
 
Spotfire, outstanding way of putting it. This in particular gets at something important:

Quote:
as a mass group, myself included, cyclists carry themselves through a landscape in a very different way than someone on foot - this intangible may be more important than the actual physical impact.


I've got a little time right now to expand on my thinking, so here it is --

Hopefully most here share the same religion as regards wilderness and what it is for. I suspect a significant chunk (probably the majority) of mountain bikers don't. They're athletes who happen to be bombing down a trail instead of a city street with little more awareness of one than the other. But, once you're on the same page of what wilderness is about, I still think that there's a place for bicycle and even motorized travel in a wilderness context.

It's all about the scale of the landscape. Moving back home to Colorado (and Western Colorado in particular) really highlighted this. In some places you can travel by motorcycle or 4wd all day long and not see another person. That's still wilderness. The human impact is negligible. In that day, maybe you've covered 100 miles. The landscape is large enough to accommodate that kind of distance. Now do the same thing on mountain bikes. Instead of a one day trip, it is a 4-5 day trip. You just made the country a lot larger - for you and anyone else who might be out there including animals. Now walk that same chunk of country. It just became a 10 day trip and the same section of country is ten times as big as it was when you did it on a motorcycle. But maybe water sources are so far between that you can't even walk it because you can't carry enough water other than by bicycle or motorized transport. In that case, mountain biking is well matched to the scale of the landscape.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/13/2015 4:20 PM
 
Well said Spotfire and Evan. I agree, particularly on matching the mode of transport to the scale of the land.

I also think that for quite a few mountain biking ends up being their introduction to wilderness, and thus hate to see the two entites put up as adversaries.
 
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