Exclusive: Gathering Storm

We just lost some of the best trails in America: Thank You, Wilderness Act

What the hell is this video about? Well, hopefully it speaks for itself–it's both about the recent loss of some of the best riding in the western United States and about the larger issue of why mountain biking in wilderness areas is illegal. Or to put it simply, this is a video about why you should give a damn about a topic you may not have thought much about before.

What we've created is, I'll readily admit, a fairly short video about an amazingly complex subject. That's because The Golden Rule of Video says something along the lines of "Thou shalt not bore the crap out of the audience." We tried to toe that line while still giving you enough grist to form your own opinion.

That said, if you're itching for more background on the ban on bikes–how it happened, why it happened, and the rationale for it—check out this story here.

Want to see those studies I refer to, which show that bikes have no more negative effect on trails and wildlife than hiking? Read this summary of the science.

What's happening in Montana with the trail closures? Check this out.

But rest assured, you'll also be seeing a full-length feature story on this subject in Bike's print and digital magazine in the near future and it will, I promise, go in-depth with members of the Sierra Club, IMBA and the emerging Sustainable Trails Coalition—a group which is aiming to go at the bike ban from a different angle than IMBA.

We're just getting started here.

This right here? It's now off limits to mountain bikes, courtesy of the Wilderness Act. Photo by Leslie Kehmeler, courtesy of IMBA
This right here? It’s now off limits to mountain bikes, courtesy of the Wilderness Act. Photo by Leslie Kehmeler, courtesy of IMBA

THE BACK STORY

About a month ago we went to Idaho, at the invitation of IMBA, to ride some trails that would be closed to mountain biking forever by a potential wilderness designation. The primary goal, however, was to help draw attention to the fact that there was also an alternative to that closure on the table–a national monument proposal that would have protected nearly twice as much (591,800 acres, to be precise) land as the Wilderness bill without banning bikes.

The smart money said that the proposed wilderness bill wasn't going anywhere. The bill's sponsor, Idaho Senator Mike Simpson, had been trotting the thing through the halls of Congress for about 15 years and no one had bit on it yet. This, after all, is a Congress that can't agree on damn near anything–the idea that a majority of both the House and Senate would agree to create a new wilderness? It seemed implausible.

But shit happens.

Within a couple of weeks of returning home, Simpson's bill blew right through both houses and–presto–we got a new Wilderness, which is great, but we consequently lost some of the best mountain biking access known to man, which sucks.

Check out the video above. It shows everything I'm saying, but in a way that's vastly more entertaining.

I want to say thanks to everyone who was willing to stick their necks out there and appear in the video–and I'm extending that to both the people I agree with and the people I find myself at odds with.

Our goal at Bike wasn't to create a video that simply regurgitated one writer's personal opinion. I'm not hiding the fact that I think the ban is poor public policy founded on prejudice rather than science. That said, there are a lot of people whom I respect and who either support this ban on bikes or believe in fighting it in ways I have trouble making peace with. Ultimately, we wanted to capture the thoughts of all these people so that you walk away from the Internet today better informed and aware of what is truly at stake here.

Cheers.

Vernon Felton