The inevitable bike legalization of the JMT
Dec 3, 2014 at 8:43 am #2153736
I will admit that the intransigence on the mechanized question has surprised me, and I still struggle to not find the suggestion that skis and bikes are in this respect categorically different just ridiculous. Tom, you have my word that I will keep trying to see both sides here.
Regardless, as I mentioned a little while ago there is more than enough legislative evidence to make the interpretation of bikes as definitively mechanized for this purpose an ambiguous affair. That bikes are outright allowed in some Alaskan Wilderness area is another example which has yet to be mentioned. All of which brings us to your questions about the values-driven reasons why we might want bike access (and paraglider use, for that matter) in various legally protected wild places.
My first goal always has been to get more folks to admit that this question should be considered on a case by case basis. The JMT will remain a great catalyst for discussion because the management issues it faces are so egregious. If principles will work there, they'll probably work anywhere.
Let me use the Glacier/Bob Marshall area as an example, both because I know it well and because the Bob is somewhat unique amongst the larger, older Wilderness Areas in that it has a lot of relatively low elevation, gentle terrain.
There are almost no trails in the greater area which would be bikeable December through April due to snow.
There are some trails, chiefly in the park, which when snow-free are too crowded for mountain biking to be practical. Perhaps trails like the Highline and Siyeh Pass could be open to biking only in the late fall during the very narrow (and often non-existent) window when the road is closed to cars but the trails are still free enough of snow and ice to ride.
There are many trails, chiefly on the western side of the Continental Divide, which are very muddy well into July. Biking on these would be a bad idea, though even if they were open year round the mud is such that you'd get few takers. Keeping them closed to bikes through July 20th might be a practical compromise. Naturally, stock can go on these whenever they please, and if it weren't for this the mud wouldn't be so bad.
There are a large number of mid and high altitude trails, which get varied use volumes, which are sufficiently brushy well into August that riding a bike would be rather challenging. Indeed, as with the mud very few would elect to ride these if they could. This vegatation gets knocked down by a combination of summer heat and late August frost, and is typically mostly gone by September 1st. In Glacier in particular, I'd have no quarrel with the bike season on many/most trails being limited to a two month window in September and October (and perhaps November, snow permitting).
There are a few trails in the park, and a lot in the Bob, which have a rocky tread which drains well, and are not heavily used. These should be open to bikes year-round. On a handfull of these conflict with stock could be an issue. Two management provisions would be necessary here: a rule which would limit the number of pack stock per guest for outfitters to 2 or 3 (I've seen pack-in raft trips which had 50 mules for 5-8 guests), and a strong message from the various FS offices to said outfitters to get over it. This last is all but inconceivable at the moment, but rolling back the power stock-based outfitters have in the Bob is vital regardless of whether bikes are a part of the conversation or not.
There'd be lawsuits about the potential effects on Grizzlies and moose, and the whole affair might even lead to a productive conversation. Eventually.Dec 3, 2014 at 9:52 am #2153757Dave @ OwareBPL Member
@bivysack-comLocale: East Washington
Come august around lake tahoe you can tell the difference between the PCT (non bikes) and the paralleling trails for Mtn bikes.
The Mtn Bike trails have ankle deep moon dust.
After ski season, no tracks are left.Dec 3, 2014 at 10:20 am #2153768Peter JSpectator
@northoaklandLocale: Temescal Creek
I have yet to understand from this lengthy discussion why bicycles need access to wilderness. There are tremendously fun places to ride on federal, state, and local lands, without even needing to open up wilderness areas. Yes, we can debate the impacts to visitor's safety, sense of solitude, and the environmental impacts of adding another use to this limited amount of public land. But, I think this misses the overall point of trying to find more places to ride.
If we are to campaign for more access for mountain biking we ought to be looking directly at the millions of acres of privately owned timber property in the western United States. In CA the minimum rotation, how frequently you are allowed to harvest the timber, is usually 50 years. Mountain biking has just barely been around for 40 years so any trails constructed would have great potential. The largest hurdle is often a concern over liability. To address that nearly every state has a 'recreational use statute' that protects private landowners from most liability. Not to mention the long track record of shared public/private use in many parts of Europe.
We should focus on opening up larger areas instead of fighting over the relatively small amount of designated wilderness.Dec 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm #2153818jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Peter: I made this point in a previous thread, though perhaps obliquely. Mountain bikers aren't going begging for trails; there are thousands of miles of forest service/logging roads/etc. available to them. That's why it's a bit annoying when bikers want it all, the rest of us be damned. I mentioned snowmobiles–some separation of user trails in winter works fine and everyone seems happy. sort of like divorced couples going to separate houses on thanksgiving; it just works better.
but beyond this the effect of erosion from mt. biking is undeniable.Dec 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm #2153919AnonymousInactive
"I will admit that the intransigence on the mechanized question has surprised me, and I still struggle to not find the suggestion that skis and bikes are in this respect categorically different just ridiculous."
Probably best to just let this one go. If we can't agree on the definitions of mechanical and machine after all the previous back and forth, I'd say we've reached an impasse. In any case, that particular issue will likely be resolved in the courts at some point, not here. Maybe best to get down to the nuts and bolts issues and leave this one to the lawyers?
"Tom, you have my word that I will keep trying to see both sides here."
I believe you, Dave. I'll do my best as well.
"All of which brings us to your questions about the values-driven reasons why we might want bike access (and paraglider use, for that matter) in various legally protected wild places."
You've mentioned a closer connection with the wilderness in a previous post as one reason, and also the ability to cover more ground. Do you have others to add to the discussion? My own set of values centers around immersing myself in a totally natural environment uncluttered by the artifacts of civilization, beyond my relatively simple kit, that is. Part of that includes enjoying watching things unfold at a natural pace and becoming a part of the flow. From my experiences with MTB's, things unfold at a decidedly unnatural pace that disrupts the usual serenity of the mountains that I have come to cherish down thru the years, to include the kinds of frightening incidents mentioned by others and frightening wildlife. Not to mention disturbing my own sense of equanimity in an existential sort of way. Then there is the inevitable damage to trails and fragile off trail vegetation when an MTB'er decides to do a little exploring. As you and Craig have mentioned, a skilled MTB'er will probably leave very little trace of their passage, dependent on the condition of the trail surface of course; but almost by definition they represent a small fraction of the MTB cohort. Skill level also does not address the restraint/judgment required to complement the requisite technical skill set. A disturbingly high percentage of MTB'ers I have encountered have acted in a way that causes me to question their judgment/restraint; their skills have varied all over the place. So, I hope you will understand why I might be concerned about turning them loose on some of the most beautiful places we have left in this country.
The resolution of competing value sets is problematic and ultimately not amenable to compromise, which is why I suggested on addressing nuts and bolts issues like how, when, and where to allow access. I agree that accommodations can probably be made on, as you say, a case by case basis, but am extremely wary of a legislative solution that would grant access across the board. I disagree strongly, however, that the JMT would be a good place to start. It would almost certainly be a non starter for the vast majority of hikers, climbers, environmentalists, etc. and even if ordered by legislative/administrative fiat, would inevitably lead to a great deal of trouble. It is the Holy of Holies to many who frequent the mountains. I will freely admit here that MTB access to any of the great NP's of the West, but most especially those of the Sierra and Cascades, would cross my personal red line, and that I would fight it tooth and nail. The same goes for some of the truly magnificent wilderness areas, like Glacier Peak. Beyond that, there is a lot of room for negotiation, at least for me. As a practical matter, maybe better to start with some of the easier nuts to crack, and once a certain amount of trust has been established thru results based on good faith negotiations and compromise, move on to more difficult issues?
"There are a few trails in the park, and a lot in the Bob, which have a rocky tread which drains well, and are not heavily used. These should be open to bikes year-round. On a handful of these conflict with stock could be an issue."
Conflict with hikers could, and would, also be an issue. I don't have much use for stock in the high country, but I think you'd be faced with an unholy alliance of convenience between packers and hikers on this issue, and end up on the losing end of the argument. But for sure, you have illuminated a critical issue, that of shared use trails vs. separate trails. It is clear from numerous posts to this thread, that
the danger posed by the different rates of speed for bikers and hikers is not one that can be solved on shared use trails, at least in the opinion of the majority of those who have posted, myself included. Add in the potential consequences of bikers spooking horses, and things start to go much further downhill very rapidly. How would you propose to resolve this issue?
"Two management provisions would be necessary here: a rule which would limit the number of pack stock per guest for outfitters to 2 or 3 (I've seen pack-in raft trips which had 50 mules for 5-8 guests), and a strong message from the various FS offices to said outfitters to get over it. This last is all but inconceivable at the moment, but rolling back the power stock-based outfitters have in the Bob is vital regardless of whether bikes are a part of the conversation or not."
A huge, heartfelt +100 to the idea of diminishing the presence of stock in the backcountry. Everywhere! Unfortunately, as you said, it is all but inconceivable under present political conditions. They've got a lot of Congressmen/women in their hip pocket. I've seen it up close in conversations with NP personnel on numerous occasions, as I'm sure you have as well.Dec 4, 2014 at 10:23 am #2154046Dave @ OwareBPL Member
@bivysack-comLocale: East Washington
Montana getting too exciting?Dec 4, 2014 at 11:35 am #2154063
Thinking about this brought to mind a much-discussed-at-the-time rule from the last months of the Bush 43 presidency which I haven't heard anything about since; an executive rule which gave the authority to prohibit or allow mountain biking into the hands of the individual National Parks. Based on a 10 minute gander on the net I can't tell if it was reversed, or if not, if anything changed as a result. Those parks with congressional designation Wilderness areas within them (not just the substantial areas of parks which are "managed as Wilderness") would I assume be limited by said legislation.
I'd like to see something similar happen with Wilderness areas. There are some places where, due to crowds and terrain, bikes will never be tenable, and other places where allowing them would require no changes at all. And of couse loads of places in between. It would take a long time and be a messy public process, but would I hope in the end be productive.
I suppose that in the end I can't see any compelling reasons for a blanket prohibition on bikes in Wilderness, so I think it should be changed. Then individual discussions can be had in each area based on local conditions.Dec 4, 2014 at 11:40 am #2154065
Vid link busted, homeslice.
Hunting season is over and the snowpack is shallow and unstable. Gotta do something before it stitches itself back together.Dec 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm #2154089Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
That video looks faaaaake.Dec 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm #2154112Jack MMember
That video was proved to be fake.
This one on the other hand is not..what a lucky guy.Dec 4, 2014 at 3:41 pm #2154119AnonymousInactive
"Given that experience I would also have some concern with how you keep bikes off hiking trails once access is gained. I have had more than enough experiences with bikes on both the AT and PCT to know that there are enough bad apples in the MTB to make this a potential issue. (I know that 99% of MTB would follow the rules.)"
When it comes to actually implementing any sharing scheme, I share your impressions and concerns, Greg. Especially given the lack of adequate funding to support a robust enforcement staff. I think in reality things would go downhill pretty fast.
Still, it is an interesting exercise to see if we can at least narrow the differences here among ourselves. The conversation has to begin somewhere if we're going to coexist in an increasingly crowded future. My own personal preference would be the designation of new wilderness/national recreation areas as primarily for MTB's, with lesser access privileges for other users, simply because I do not believe the two groups can safely share trails. I also do not believe truly pristine areas would remain that way very long if MTB's have access to them. So, for me, the problem becomes how to provide adequate resources to meet the needs of both groups without sacrificing the core interests of either, and do believe expanded resources is the most preferable solution, not equal access to such treasures as Yosemite, SEKI, North Cascades NP, GNP, Yellowstone NP, to mention the major ones.Dec 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm #2154121AnonymousInactive
"The impact argument is questionable; a skilled MTB rider will cause very little damage whereas careless hikers can quickly destroy trail systems but cutting switchbacks."
Perhaps an apples to apples comparison would be skilled biker:skilled hiker vs. careless biker:careless hiker. Might that shift the disparity a bit?Dec 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm #2154131AnonymousInactive
"Thinking about this brought to mind a much-discussed-at-the-time rule from the last months of the Bush 43 presidency which I haven't heard anything about since; an executive rule which gave the authority to prohibit or allow mountain biking into the hands of the individual National Parks."
One more reason he'll go down as the worst president this country ever had. Do you have an links to the executive rule? It would save me some time. I have yet to hear of any NP out West that has allowed them.
"I'd like to see something similar happen with Wilderness areas."
I think that is already the case, in practice. Witness the Rattlesnake Mtn. regulations which specifically permit MTB's vs the Frank Church W.A., where they are prohibited. It will get messier if and when MTB advocates push for access to really high quality wilderness areas, e.g. Glacier Peak, John Muir. That will bring some very influential wilderness groups with deep pockets into the fray, resulting in a likely setback for the MTB cause across the board. Maybe better to settle for access to relatively uncontroversial areas like Rattlesnake, and expanded designation of areas in national forests and BLM land? Perhaps even, as Peter suggested, above, arrangements with private land owners?Dec 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm #2154134AnonymousInactive
"This one on the other hand is not..what a lucky guy."
If you're going to share the trails with stock, I guess you have to take 'em as they come. I wonder who'd be tougher to deal with, a griz with cubs or a packer after you spooked one of his animals and it rolled down a steep slope and had to be put down? ;0)Dec 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm #2154136Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Tom, I think it would be easier if you just get Dave nominated for the Supreme Court.
–B.G.–Dec 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm #2154141Billy RaySpectator
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
Tom, I think it would be easier if you just get Dave nominated for the Supreme Court."
And easier on the rest of us if he were thus engaged! :)
billyDec 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm #2154154
"I think that is already the case, in practice. Witness the Rattlesnake Mtn. regulations which specifically permit MTB's vs the Frank Church W.A., where they are prohibited."
Evidently I was unclear earlier. The Rattlesnake allowed bikes for the four years between its creation and the FS rule. Since '84 all FS Wilderness areas have banned bikes.
I can't find the Bush rule text. If memory serves it was stuck into a spending omnibus of one kind or another. A bit more research this evening leads me to believe little has changed as a result of said rule.Dec 4, 2014 at 6:18 pm #2154169AnonymousInactive
"Tom, I think it would be easier if you just get Dave nominated for the Supreme Court."
No way, Bob. Dave is an honorable man. I think he would be insulted, and rightly so, IMO.Dec 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm #2154171Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Tom, just draft him. It would be a lot easier.
–B.G.–Dec 4, 2014 at 6:23 pm #2154172rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The CascadesDec 4, 2014 at 6:32 pm #2154177AnonymousInactive
"Evidently I was unclear earlier. The Rattlesnake allowed bikes for the four years between its creation and the FS rule. Since '84 all FS Wilderness areas have banned bikes."
Or, equally likely, I was imprecise in my reading of your post. ;0))
Thanks for clearing the matter up. So as of now, you guys are sort of dead in the water, pending a possible, even likely, Republican President in 2016. Does that make lobbying for adding new areas with a less stringent definition than "wilderness" sound like a more productive approach? It sure would lower the temperature of the conversation a bit. You might even get support from the environmental and hiking communities for something as reasonable as that.
"I can't find the Bush rule text. If memory serves it was stuck into a spending omnibus of one kind or another. A bit more research this evening leads me to believe little has changed as a result of said rule."
That tends to be the standard way of passing highly controversial bits of legislation. AS your research seems to confirm, little has changed where the rubber meets the road. I can easily see where horse packers, who have a lot of influence over NP decisions regarding access, mainly theirs, might make a few friendly phone calls to oppose MTB access to NP's. Add in the hiking and environmental communities, and it turns out to be a far bigger headache than any park superintendent would want to get himself into.Dec 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm #2154183AnonymousInactive
Great find, Doug! The MTB'ers are closer to achieving their goal than I thought, although I have still not seen any bikes on any trail I would call a backcountry trail.
I wonder what is the current status of the Interior Department proposed rule? What I found most interesting were the post article comments. They are quite similar to the discussion we are having.
Dave C. I think you'll find some interesting reading via this link.Dec 4, 2014 at 7:03 pm #2154189Robert BleanBPL Member
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Note that is a Dec 2008 article from GWBush time.
–MVDec 4, 2014 at 7:06 pm #2154191rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
"Note that is a Dec 2008 article from GWBush time.
Yes, sorry, I was responding to Dave's note about not being able to find the rule text. Didn't mean to make it seem like a current article.Dec 5, 2014 at 10:29 am #2154334
From the PDF of the rule attached to the article Doug cited:
SUMMARY: This rule proposes to amend
current regulations for designating
bicycle use on National Park Service
(NPS) lands. The proposed rule
authorizes park superintendents to open
existing trails to bicycle use within park
units in accordance with appropriate
park plans and compliance documents
under the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic
Preservation Act, the NPS Organic Act,
and the park’s enabling legislation, and
other applicable law. The proposed rule
continues to require promulgation of a
special regulation to build a new trail
for bicycle use outside developed areas,
or to open an existing trail to bicycle use
if such action triggers one of the existing
regulatory criteria requiring rulemaking
in Section 1.5 of Title 36 of the Code of
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