133 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

By December 6, 2017 Lands Protection, Species
Picture high in the Weminuche Wilderness

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”

Edward Abbey

 

It seems so obvious that we should preserve at least some small part of this planet to remain relatively untouched by humans and our destructive machines. The Wilderness Act, which recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary, empowered the United States to do just that. We have set aside some of our magnificent landscapes to remain wild, available for humans to roam only in the most primitive of ways to experience solitude and wildness.

And yet, Congress is attacking the very idea of wilderness with its latest bill to allow bikes and other mechanized travel in Wilderness Areas. The Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee is having a hearing on H.R. 1349, which would open ALL Wilderness to bikes. Representative Tipton serves on that committee and we are calling on him to oppose the bill and any other bills that undermine the Wilderness Act.

Wilderness is already accessible by wheelchair. In Colorado, 85% of our public lands are open to mountain biking. There is simply no reason to open these special places to the ecological damage mechanized devices would cause.

 

Call Representative Tipton

202-225-4761
or
970-259-1490

Ask him to oppose H.R. 1349, which would  remove protections for Wilderness Areas by allowing numerous forms of mechanized travel in designated wilderness.

 

See full press release below.


For Release: December 6, 2017

133 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

U.S. House hearing on GOP bill opening all Wilderness areas to bikes and other wheeled devices is Thursday, December 7th

 

A broad coalition of 133 conservation and Wilderness organizations from across America have 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 up all of America’s 110-million acres of Wilderness to mountain bikes and other wheeled devices.

“For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected wilderness areas from mechanization and mechanical transport, even if no motors were involved with such activities. This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of mechanization and mechanical transport,” the 133 organizations wrote Congress in a sign-on letter for the December 7th hearing.

A copy of the letter to Congress signed by 133 conservation groups can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2AU0ume

“We see this for what it is: an assault on the very idea of Wilderness and the values of the Wilderness Act,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “At a time when wilderness and wildlife are under increasing pressures from increasing populations, growing mechanization, and a rapidly changing climate, the last thing Wilderness needs is to be invaded by mountain bikes and other machines.”

“We call on Representative Tipton, who supported the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act adding 37,000 acres of Wilderness in his district, to oppose this bill and any other legislation that would undermine the Wilderness Act,” says Mark Pearson, Executive Director of San Juan Citizens Alliance.

In the letter to Congress, the 133 conservation groups point out:

“In a seemingly cynical attempt to use people with disabilities as a justification for the bill, the legislation lists ‘motorized wheelchairs’ and ‘non-motorized wheelchairs’ as the first uses to be authorized in the bill (even prior to the listing of ‘bicycles’), despite the fact that the 1990 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have allowed wheelchairs in designated Wilderness for more than a quarter-century.”

HR 1349 supporters erroneously claim that mountain bikes were allowed in Wilderness until 1984, but then banned administratively by the U.S. Forest Service. This claim is simply not true.

“The 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) banned all types of mechanized transport, including bicycles, in designated Wilderness. Section 4(c) of that act states, “[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.” (italics added)

“Wilderness preserves and protects a small percentage of our public lands to remain truly wild, largely untouched by humans and our machines. And, once it is gone, we cannot get it back. In Colorado, 85% of our public lands are already open to mountain biking. There is simply no need to take this irreversible and indefensible action,” says Jimbo Buickerood, Lands and Forest Protection Program Manager with San Juan Citizens Alliance.

“Mountain bikes are exactly the kind of mechanical devices and mechanical transport that Congress intended to keep out of Wilderness in passing the Wilderness Act. Bicycles have their place, but that place is not inside Wilderness areas,” explained Kevin Proescholdt, Conservation Director of Wilderness Watch.

“We believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the ‘benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness’ would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas,” the 133 conservation and Wilderness protection organizations wrote Congress.

 

Media Contacts:
Jimbo Buickerood, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 970-259-3583 ext. 2 jimbo@sanjuancitizens.org

Mark Pearson, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 970-259-3583 ext. 1, mark@sanjuancitizens.org

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