A new bill introduced in Congress this month would rescind the longstanding mountain biking ban in federally designated wilderness areas. The bill, brought forward by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., is similar to another bill that died in the previous Congressional session.
Currently, hiking, horseback riding, and backpacking are allowed in these areas, but mountain biking is banned. Proponents feel the bill will increase exposure to the wilderness areas. Opponents, however, say that it’s the beginning of a “slippery slope” that may slowly demolish the Wilderness Act of 1964, established to protect many scenic areas in the United States. Proponents argue that allowing mountain biking may affect wildlife in the areas.
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The bill, H.R. 1349, would allow for the use of bikes, strollers, wheelchairs, and game carts in federally protected areas. The original act protected 54 separate wilderness areas in 13 states, mainly throughout the western part of the country. Now, however, it affects a massive 109 million acres in 765 areas, or about 5 percent of the country.
Proponents argue that lifting the ban would not damage the affected areas. Federal land managers would still be entitled to ban biking in specific areas. It would simply eliminate a blanket ban that prohibits biking over millions of acres of our most scenic land.
Conservationists are up in arms, however, as they believe that allowing bikes and other mechanized vehicles into these protected areas may affect wildlife and the scenic nature of the areas.
It remains to be seen if this bill will pass, however it certainly has allowed for strong arguments on both sides. Whether it passes or not, it is an important step forward in promoting the rights of bikers across the United States of America.
At Kass and Moses, we believe that the discussion over the mountain biking ban is important, and we are interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter in the comments.