From Evergreen Trail Guide
Wilderness is a tough issue for mountain bikers in Washington State. While we strongly support the protection of our open areas and mountains, the Forest Service has banned bicycles from Wilderness.
As an organization we take a very narrow view on Wilderness. We only take official positions on particular Wilderness areas or propsals as they specifically impact the access of mountain bikes to our trails. We may take a non-position on certain Wilderness proposals if they don't impact mountain bike access, or oppose a Wilderness designation if it could result in the loss of trails. It is our hope that by working with Wilderness groups ahead of time we can help craft a Wilderness bill that actually results in the increase in mountain bike trails.
Even the conservation community is split over mountain bike access to Wilderness areas. Mountain bikes are quiet, clean and have a much lower impact on trails and the environment than horses, which are allowed in Wilderness areas.
When attending public meetings in support of mountain bike access, IMBA suggests the following talking points.
- Mountain bikers support land preservation that allows bicycling to continue.
- Areas with important mountain biking trails may be better suited for protection as Backcountry Area, Wild Lands, or other administrative designations.
- Please partner with local mountain bikers to identify important trails that should be preserved.
- Formal Wilderness is not the only option for lasting land preservation. Congress may also enact National Scenic Areas, Protection Areas and other designations that protect valuable natural resources and allow our existing use to continue.
- IMBA's Wilderness resources. IMBA is leading the campign for mountain bike-friendly Wilderness at the national level. This site contains excellent general information about how Wilderness relates to mountain biking.
- Roadless areas in Washington from the Forest Service.
- The Wilderness Society's information about Washington State.
- Wilderness Trails Association's pamphlet about Forest Planning.
Proposed Wilderness in Washington State
The Wild Sky Wilderness bill has been re-introced to Congress and is likely to pass. This Wilderness area will be North of Highway 2 in the area around Index and Skykomish. BBTC has taken an official non-position on this proposed Wilderness since it will have very little impact on existing mountain bike trails.
Dark Divide is a roadless area in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest roughly between Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams and bounded by the Cispus River to the North and the Lewis River to the South. Dark Divide has been proposed for designation as Wilderness. There are several excellent mountain biking trails in the area that could be lost without our action.
The Eastern Washington Cascades Provincial Advisory Committee and the Yakima Provincial Advisory Committee will meet to discuss which Forest Service roadless areas will become Recommended Wilderness, a precursor to possible formal Wilderness designation.
This area contains some of the best mountain biking in the state, including the Mad River and Klone Peak areas. BBTC and IMBA are working together to protect the riding in this area.
Congressman David Reichert will be introducing legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness into the Mid Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt River valleys. This Pratt Wilderness is supported by BBTC since an agreement we signed in 2001 opened the Mid Fork Trail back up to bikes while we agreed to support the future Wilderness Bill.
Articles of Interest
Bill Schneider summarizes Theodore Stroll's research on the Wilderness Act (Stroll's paper is linked in the article and on the IMBA resources page.)
"Time for a new backcountry coalition of MPVs: muscle-powered vehicles" Bill Schneider argues that creating a new "Wilderness Lite" designation for land protection can unite mountain bikers with hikers on land preservation topics.