Stop locking bikes out

  Although mountain bikers are essentially silent, as well as not motorized, not polluting, muscle-powered, and most importantly, appreciative of Nature and wild places, environmentalists like HCN Editor Greg Hanscom have from the beginning thumbed their noses at us. In his Sept. 18 editorial, Hanscom says we "should stay out of wilderness politics," because there ought to be places with "real solitude" where people only go slowly. I guess we cyclists just don’t pray right.

Bikes have been banned from 150 to 200 million acres of public land: 105 million acres of wilderness, nearly all of the backcountry of the National Park Service, about half of the national wildlife refuges, and a bevy of local and state parks, forests, and wildlife areas.

Looking forward, most wilderness activists want all 55 million acres of Forest Service roadless lands to become wilderness. We face the loss of 700 miles of trail access through forest plans in Montana, a couple hundred miles through the bill for the Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho, major losses in the Mount Hood National Forest on top of the five wilderness areas already there, another 787,000 acres in the proposed "Mountains To Mesas" plan for the GMUG National Forest. Two hundred miles and more than a quarter million acres of bike access will disappear when Rep. Thompson’s bill for Northern California passes this fall. Add the BLM’s wilderness study areas and potential wilderness proposed by activists, and it’s clear that this is no "postage stamp."

From the beginning, International Mountain Bicycling Association leaders have tried to demonstrate our environmental values. We distributed the "Environmental Bill of Rights" promoted by Sierra Club in the mid-’90s. We did not support Utah Rep. James Hansen’s bill to allow bikes in wilderness because we knew his real goal was bulldozers. Today we repeatedly support the protection of ALL roadless places.

We have always stated we’re OK with seeing some trails go to hiking-only designations for the Hanscoms of the world. But there have been no moves in kind by the environmental movement. We are knocking at your door and you are pushing us away. Meanwhile, the motorized community actively courts us. It’s telling that we nonetheless try to remain in your camp.

It’s time for the environmental movement to transcend its feelings about personal experience and start thinking about really building the constituency for conservation.

Gary Sprung
Denver, Colorado