Sunday, December 10, 2017

Conservation Groups To Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

A coalition of 133 conservation and wilderness organizations from across America, including Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, has asked Congress “to reject an unprecedented call to amend the Wilderness Act to allow for the use of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness.”

The sign-on letter from the 133 organizations was prepared ahead of a December 7th hearing in the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands on a Republican-sponsored bill (H.R. 1349), which would open America’s 110-million acres of Wilderness to mountain bikes and wheeled contraptions.

Designated wilderness comprises 17% of all federal lands.

Bicycles have been banned in Wilderness areas since the 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) declared: “[T]here shall be…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.”

1990 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allowed wheelchairs in designated Wilderness.

Both the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park State Land Master Plans define Wilderness like the federal Wilderness Act and prohibit bicycling there.

The letter can be found here.

Photo courtesy DEC.

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26 Responses

  1. Larry Roth says:

    The bicycle fanatics are like the Borg – resistance is futile.

    Seriously, it’s like mice – let them in anywhere and you can’t keep them out.

  2. Jim S. says:

    83% of federal land is not wilderness.

  3. John says:

    There are plenty of places to ride bikes. There are fewer and fewer places in which to be quiet. Let’s keep ’em.

    • Paul says:


      The amount of land designated Wilderness in the US (as in the Adirondack Park) is at its highest levels ever and continues to grow:

      “When the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, 54 areas (9.1 million acres) in 13 states were designated as wilderness. This law established these areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Since 1964, the NWPS has grown almost every year and now includes 765 areas (109,142,230 acres) in 44 states and Puerto Rico. In 1980, the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) added over 56 million acres of wilderness to the system, the largest addition in a single year. 1984 marks the year when the most new wilderness areas were added.”

  4. Joe Hansen says:

    This is more about Orin Hatch and his cronies wanting to weaken federal protections for land use than a push by mountain bikers. The mountain bikers I associate with are conservation minded and are not looking for riding access everywhere. It is easy to degrade wilderness protection if you pit outdoor lovers against each other. Wake up America and realize who your natural allies are and who is trying to play you.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree. Sure looks like Trojan Horse legislation to me.

      • rmcgovern says:

        The proposed legislation is not a Trojan horse and saying so is deliberately inflammatory, misleading and downright false. This is a grass roots push by the mountain biking community to regain access to Wilderness areas that were arbitrarily closed to mountain bikers in 1986. The bill seeks to restore Congress’s vision for Wilderness travel, not undermine it. In the Wilderness Act of 1964, Congress said visitors are not allowed to operate “motor vehicles” or “motorized equipment.” According to the original regulation that was enacted in 1966 to support the Wilderness Act “Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water, on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device”. It is clear from this regulation that bikes were originally allowed, and should never have been banned. The bill does not change the Wilderness Act; it simply eliminates the blanket ban and allows local land managers to determine appropriate non-motorized uses on a case-by-case basis. The mountain biking community is full of passionate people that care very deeply about the environment who simply wish to enjoy Wilderness areas in a responsible manner just like hikers, hunters, skiers and equestrians.

        • Boreas says:

          “The proposed legislation is not a Trojan horse and saying so is deliberately inflammatory, misleading and downright false.”

          The legislative process can be quite ugly. A simple, innocuous bill generated to allow a specific mode of transportation in a specific area is one thing. How a bill finally is presented for vote after it has passed through numerous legislators with differing agendas is another matter entirely. As you must know, there is a lot of pressure on legislators to open up federal lands for resource acquisition. If the original bill gets shot down, how can it be sweetened? It is these artificial sweeteners that can be ultimately toxic. If the FINAL bill submitted for vote contains no riders, or amendments loosening other restrictions, I would be surprised and guilty of inflaming the topic – and I apologize in advance.

          I also have issues with “local land managers” determining appropriate uses on federal lands. They are federal lands for a reason – they belong to ALL US citizens, not just locals. What may be deemed appropriate by local people may not be deemed appropriate or in the best interest of citizens across the nation.

  5. kathy says:

    Are canoe carts considered mechanical transport?

  6. Dick Carlson says:

    Wilderness indeed… “the grazing of livestock, where established prior to the
    effective date of this Act, shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable regulations as
    are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture.”
    They just don’t want the bikes running into cows!

  7. Mick Finn says:

    If I’m understanding this correctly, the Federal Government owns over 647 million acres.

    • Charlie S says:

      Yes and look who’s in charge Mick. Extreme right wing ideologue nut jobs who don’t like much of anything and who would sell their souls for a dollar. Theirs is a very narrow view of the world.There is no stopping their backward motion. Their arrogance is so plain to see yet look at all of the support they get. We and every thing alive on this earth are but particles in the mass to them. Their base are but particles in the mass to them yet they do not know it. They have closed eyes and closed ears and are ignorant to all that is good for the common man and what is best for this earth and future generations. They live by a blind faith and you watch how tensions will continue to rise not only here in this country but around the world now that we have these idiot right wing nut jobs in control. They are despicable and it’s a shame how we have stooped so low.

      They want to take 1.1 million acres away from Bears Ears National Monument (which is 85% of the site) they want to chop it into little bits. Also they want to gut Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to half its size, take away over a million precious acres! Why? Probably because broccoli grows there what else could it be?

      Truly I believe in karma and what goes around will come around for these arrogant fools under our billionaire idiot in chief.

      • Mick Finn says:

        The land should not be owned by the Federal Government, according to our nation’s constitution.

        Federal lands should not exceed 100 square miles plus forts and ports.

  8. Josh Wilson says:

    In written testimony submitted in advance of a congressional hearing on December 8, International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) says, “As we gain ground in these efforts, we feel it is unwise to amend the Wilderness Act—one of the nation’s most important conservation laws—when the outcome mountain bikers desire can be reached through on-the-ground collaborative efforts.” They also unequivocally state, “IMBA is not supporting H.R. 1349.”

    Read more here:

  9. Curt Austin says:

    All simply-stated rules (as quoted here) require reasonable interpretations by authorities. If wheelchairs were once banned, someone didn’t make a reasonable interpretation. If someone decides that canoe carts must be prohibited, that would also be unreasonable. Some think it unreasonable to prohibit bicycles on existing roads through Wilderness. I tend to think that for that situation, it’s reasonable to go either way, depending on the road and circumstances.

    I shall define “reasonable” as something consistent with an agreed-upon meaning of life. That may seem facetious, but I’m serious about taking that ultimate unknown into account.

    That said, everyone is entitled to quiet enjoyment of the outdoors, so a rule against squealing brakes must be rigorously enforced.

    • Boreas says:

      “Some think it unreasonable to prohibit bicycles on existing roads through Wilderness.”


      All good points. I am sure there are people who feel this way (quote above), but by both federal and NYS standards, working roads shouldn’t really exist in areas classified as “wilderness”. Exceptions exist for wheelchairs as it is likely the only means of locomotion available to some, but “wheelchairing” isn’t a sport enjoyed by otherwise ambulatory people, whereas bicycling is. So I don’t see specifically banning bicycles from designated wilderness areas as a problem.

      As far as canoe carts are concerned, as long as they aren’t motorized, noisy, or dangerous to others, I see it as just an easier way to portage a heavy/unwieldy object – same as pulling a sled in winter as many people do. Some people simply drag their canoe – is that better since it has no wheels? So I feel as long as it is OK to portage a vessel on a trail, I would say it is OK to use a cart. Not that my opinion really matters.

      • Paul says:

        “As far as canoe carts are concerned, as long as they aren’t motorized, noisy, or dangerous to others, I see it as just an easier way to portage a heavy/unwieldy object – same as pulling a sled in winter as many people do.” I guess you could pretty much make the same argument for bikes. In this case the object being the person riding the bike.

        I would say there is not much of a reason to allow this. Lots of great National Forest land to ride on who needs the Wilderness areas? Also, if they are wild enough nobody would probably even notice you riding your bike there. This sounds like more of fundraising ploy for all the special interest groups involved.

        Should all the other high tech gadgets that are allowed in Wilderness areas be allowed? That’s another debate.

        • Boreas says:

          I don’t see a bike and a cart as the same, unless you are riding on the cart traveling 3 times as fast as you can walk. This is the basic difference between a conveyance and a convenience. I think most people understand this. I doubt if canoes or canoe carts are much of an issue in the debate.

  10. Robert Tebo II says:

    I see this every day it is time to change the park. Set up in 1964 does not speak for today changes and what people really like to do. You must under stand that the park was set up for every one not just a select number of groups of people TIME FOR A CHANGE

  11. Andrea J Webb says:

    I wonder maybe, if you did allow non motorized bikes to traverse the Park, there would be more people who could see and appreciate our beautiful outdoors. Rules of course must be made clear and enforced. I know that there would always be some few who are slobs; but even those might learn. It is similar to the great contributions of zoos. Caging animals is sad, but if well cared for,( and a lot of them are unable to return to their natural surroundings because of injuries, for example)I these animals become emissaries and teach visitors. If you have some knowledge of the amazing animals on the earth, you are more prone to learn about and support efforts to preserve them—same with the forest and wild areas of our country.

  12. Timothy Kinch says:

    Why not let everyone enjoy the outdoors. Some people need to wake up. This land is for all. Grow up n wake up. Use it or lose it. Don’t like it stay home n hug your tree in your back yard.

    • Boreas says:


      Who is suggesting anything other than enjoying the outdoors? No one is trying to keep anyone out of anywhere. Is there a problem with simply walking in a wilderness area? Can’t one enjoy a wilderness area without being on a bicycle? I can, and most people do. All the Wilderness Act does is keep BIKES out of certain lands designated as Wilderness Areas, not people. There is a difference between designated wilderness areas and federal lands in general. Wilderness areas are set aside for Nature and wilderness pursuits. If you can’t enjoy the wilderness for what it is, it isn’t the federal government’s fault.

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