USFS, USNPS see eye-to-eye on mountain bike bans in potential wilderness areas

U.S. Forest Service managers in parts of Montana and Idaho are working to ban mountain bikes on landscapes that some day could merit wilderness designation, a move that isn't sitting well with the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Over at the National Park Service, meanwhile, officials have no intention of letting mountain bikers access lands eligible for wilderness designation.

“Existing lands that have been determined to be eligible for wilderness, they should not be considered for potential mountain bike trails at this point," says Garry Oye, the Park Service's wilderness and recreation chief. "We wouldn’t want to authorize a use if we’ve already determined that the lands should be considered for wilderness. We wouldn’t want to allow a use that would compromise that future designation. That’s consistent with our policies.”

Since 2005 at least IMBA has been working to expand mountain bike use in national parks. That year saw the organization and the Park Service sign off on a Memorandum of Understanding calling for a five-year pilot program that would explore mountain bike possibilities in the National Park System via pilot projects in three parks. Initially that MOU was aimed at opening more dirt roads and administrative roads to the cyclists, but not long afterward IMBA officials began talking of the need for single-track routes in the parks.

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