Wilderness and mountain biking
Wilderness advocates recognize the importance and value of mountain biking to individuals, to communities, to our economies, and our lifestyles. To honor that commitment we are engaged in ongoing discussions with mountain bikers in Pitkin, Summit, Eagle and Gunnison counties, to make sure that important mountain bike trials are not impacted by wilderness designation.
Even though mountain biking isn’t allowed in designated wilderness, Senator Udall's proposal is a win-win for mountain bikers and wilderness lovers. The proposal has been crafted around established trails so we can have world class mountain biking side by side with protected wildlands. Imagine your favorite ride winding along the boundary of a newly protected wilderness area! Additionally Senator Udall, local mountain biking clubs and environmental organizations are in the process of determining whether companion areas could be added to Senator Udall's bill.
Significant boundary adjustments have been made to several proposal areas, with a total loss of roughly 100,000 acres, to preserve existing mountain bike trails. For example, in the Sloan Peak area (north of Woody Creek), 20,000 acres were removed to allow for the Arbaney-Kittle/Kobey Park/Rocky Fork network of trails. In Summit County we scaled back the Tenmile unit considerably to make sure the Peaks Wheeler trail systems are not impacted by the proposal. In Eagle County, the proposed Ptarmigan Hill Wilderness, on the west side of Vail Pass, was removed in part to preserve mountain bike use of the Wilder Gulch Trail. Additionally, the boundary of the Spraddle Creek area was redrawn to allow continued biking on the Son of Middle Creek Trail. In Gunnison County the boundary of the Whetstone proposal area was redrawn to allow continued access to all parts of the Wildcat, Green Lake, and Para Me Para Te Trails as well as open up a future opportunity for a trail in Baxter Gulch.
We are not, however, prepared to give up proposed wilderness for the sake of illegal trails, trails that are slated for closure, or trails that do not currently exist. In the White River National Forest, we take our cues from their Travel Management Plan (TMP), finalized in 2011.
The upside for mountain bikers – and for all of us* – is the assurance that much of the land around their trails will never be roaded, drilled, logged, mined or motorized, courtesy of wilderness designation. That’s a powerful net gain. It’s having your cake and eating it too – a clear win-win.
*Does anybody really buy the wilderness-advocates-vs.-mountain-bikers, us-vs.-them thing? Mountain bikers love wilderness too, and a lot of wilderness advocates love to mountain bike. We don’t have to choose between one or the other.