From our series of news from around the nation regarding Bill HR1349, pushing to change the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Ted Stroll, a bespectacled, balding, retired attorney whose remaining hair is short and white, doesn’t fit the stereotype of an extremist mountain biker. But his group, the Sustainable Trails Coalition, is challenging the mainstream mountain biking establishment by fighting to permit bikes in America’s wilderness areas. Photo credit: Leslie Kehmeier/IMBA
A new law could change the nature of wilderness travel.
Stroll’s crusade has sparked strong resistance, particularly from wilderness advocates and environmentalists. His alliance with notoriously environmentally unfriendly Republican congressmen, whom he has enlisted to push a bikes-in-wilderness bill, is particularly controversial. Stroll’s small group has alienated would-be allies in the mountain biking community, who are loath to ostracize the greater recreation and conservation communities, especially at a time when many feel public-lands protections are taking a back seat to extractive industries.
The original text of the 1964 Wilderness Act bans “mechanical transport” — and bicycles are clearly a form of mechanized transport. For the federal agencies tasked with enforcing the ban, however, the definition hasn’t always been clear-cut.
In 1966, in its first rule on the issue, the Forest Service banned only devices powered “by a nonliving power source.” That left the door open for bicycles. Mountain bikes did not yet exist, however, so neither the original framers of the law, nor the agencies interpreting it a couple of years later, even considered the possibility of bikes venturing into the mostly roadless areas and extremely rugged trails...
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