On January 11, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a mammoth public lands omnibus bill (S. 22) that would permanently protect more than two million acres in nine states. The bill, which International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) supports, stalled in the previous congress, but now heads to the House of Representatives before landing on the president's desk.
IMBA has tracked pertinent sections of the legislation for several years. In many cases, IMBA and local mountain bike advocates have worked with other stakeholders to create strong land protection bills that protect traditional bicycle trails. These include:
- The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act, which includes more than 10,000 acres of National Scenic Area, where continued mountain biking will be allowed. The bill also stipulates reconstruction of a critical bicycle trail.
- The Mount Hood Wilderness Act, Oregon, which protects traditional bicycling trails under a strong National Recreation Area designation.
- The Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act, Colorado, where a slight boundary adjustment makes possible the completion of a 16-mile shared-use trail along the park's western boundary.
- The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area Act, Colorado, where the bike-friendly National Conservation Area designation encompasses a smaller Wilderness core.
- In developing the Riverside Wilderness Act, California, local mountain bike advocates were able to preserve most traditional bicycle trails and support the bill.
- The National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) Act will provide greater recognition for 26-million acres of the Bureau of Land Management's best lands. The NLCS includes many trails important to mountain biking, including those near Fruita, Colorado.
"Unfortunately, some bills could have protected more riding opportunities without compromising natural resource protection," said Drew Vankat, IMBA Policy Analyst. "In California, several important trails will be lost to Wilderness designation, despite efforts of IMBA and local riders to protect them with a bike-friendly designation. On the whole, though, mountain bikers were able to influence most of these bills and their concerns are being heard at the national level."
According to Vankat, IMBA members highly value land conservation, clean water and clean air. The vast majority of mountain bicyclists enjoy riding in natural areas on narrow trails, away from roads, development and resource extraction.
"Our activity brings us closer to nature and fosters a desire for environmental protection," he added. "Backcountry travel by bicycle is demanding, yet highly rewarding, and cyclists wish to protect these experiences."