There’s a new push in Congress to allow mountain bikers access to wilderness areas.
Last week, a house committee approved a measure that would amend the Wilderness Act. The bill would allow mountain bikes in wilderness areas, setting up another legislative battle about shared use on public lands.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 has allowed the protection of millions of acres across the United States. Idaho has several areas within its borders, earning it the title of “the wilderness state.”
But to Craig Gehrke with the Wilderness Society, letting mountain bikers recreate in these areas could erode the purpose of the 53-year-old law.
“These are places we set aside for their primitive nature," says Gehrke. "And for people to go in and experience them not in a mechanical way but basically on foot or on horseback, kind of a preservation of the first experiences pioneers had in these places.”
Gehrke points out that the law explicitly bars “mechanical transport.”
But some Idaho groups are cheering the bill. The Idaho Statesman reports the president of the Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association says the measure would bring younger mountain bikers into the conservation movement.
It’s not clear when the bill may come up for a vote on the House floor, but Gehrke says the Wilderness Society will lobby Congressman Mike Simpson to vote against it.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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