Bikes have never been legal in wilderness

  As a former wilderness manager for the feds, I’d like to speak to the issue of bikes in wilderness areas (HCN, 3/3/03: Get off and walk — wilderness is for wildlife).

Bicycles were never permitted in the National Wilderness Preservation System by the 1964 Wilderness Act or any subsequent designation legislation. It’s understandable, however, why there is some confusion on the issue.

On March 9, 1982, the Forest Service — under pressure from the nascent mountain bike community, I suspect — sent direction to wilderness managers to suspend the enforcement of the federal rule — 36 CFR 261.16(b) — which prohibits "possessing or using a hang glider or bicycle" in wilderness areas. "During the last CFR revisions we intended to remove ‘or bicycle’ but the change did not get effected," wrote Associate Deputy Chief J. B. Hilmon.

The "or bicycle" language was never removed, however. On the 17th of February, 1984, Hilmon again wrote to Wilderness Managers: "After careful examination of the Wilderness Act and its legislative history, we are certain that Congress intended that bicycles be excluded from wilderness.

"Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act, (Public Law 88-577), states, ‘There shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.’ … The legislative history of the Act indicates Congress intended that travel within these special areas be by primitive means, i.e., foot, horse, or canoe, except when otherwise permitted by specific legislation. Based on the law, bicycles have always been prohibited in National Forest Wilderness units."

Hopefully, this will end this particular bit of mythology on the part of my mountain-biking buddies.

Woody Hesselbarth
Fort Collins, Colorado
High Country News Classifieds
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING IN TAOS, NEW MEXICO www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.
  • ACREAGE WITH HOME, SHOP, BARN FOR SALE!
    Must see for sng/extd fam or corp retreat in pines! $1,030,000
  • WESTERN REGIONAL MANAGER
    The American Forest Foundation seeks a smart and highly motivated candidate to join our Western conservation team. The Regional Manager supports the Regional Director to...
  • TRANSPORTATION PLANNER
    Exciting opportunity to lead the charge on meeting the future transportation demands of our community! This position will develop, coordinate, and implement the Integrated Transportation...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING INSTITUTE (EWI)
    with Robert Michael Pyle September 26-30, 2018, in Missoula MT.
  • REPORTING FELLOW - BOISE, ID
    Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Reporting Fellow as part of a new nationwide collaborative, Guns & America. Based in the state capitol, Boise...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Rifle, CO.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RIVERSEDGE WEST (FORMERLY TAMARISK COALITION)
    RiversEdge West is seeking an entrepreneurial leader with solid nonprofit management skills to lead our high functioning team and help us make an impact on...
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR WITH WRA
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a talented, organized person with great people skills, who is passionate about protection of the natural environment to work...
  • DIRECTOR OF REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
    The Wilderness Society is recruiting for an experienced Communicator for our Northwest Region. This position is located in Seattle, WA. For more information please visit...
  • SALMON RIVER IDAHO WILDERNESS RETREAT HOME
    Here is an opportunity to have a piece of self-sufficient paradise on Idaho's Main Salmon River adjacent to the largest Forest Service wilderness area in...
  • RAMMED EARTH SOLAR COTTAGE
    in 5-home conservation community & botanical sanctuary on 20 acres.
  • MEMBERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation is looking for an enthusiastic and innovative Membership and Engagement Coordinator to help grow and maintain our grassroots voice for wildife,...
  • SR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is excited to announce a Sr Environmental Planner position within the Natural Areas Department. This position will be housed within...
  • HISTORICAL VACATION CABIN
    on beautiful Snow Angel Ranch located within San Juan National Forest near Pagosa Springs, CO. Lakes, fly-fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, horse trails, horse accommodations...
  • FIVE-ACRE VIEW LOT WITH WELL
    5 acres, well. Abuts Carson NF; hike fish ski; deer turkey elk.