Today, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing on a bill (H.R. 1349) that would rewrite the Wilderness Act to allow “motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheel-chairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.”
In advance of today’s hearing, the Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) sent a letter to Congressman Greg Gianforte outlining our opposition to this unnecessary and divisive bill. We support mountain biking along with other recreational activities on public lands. However, wilderness areas — which make up only about 12 percent of Montana’s public lands — are supposed to be places that are free of mechanized transportation, along with resource extraction and commercial activity. These areas provide secure habitat for wildlife and backcountry hunting and angling opportunity.
When conflicts between bicycling and other uses do occur, they are generally not the result of wilderness designation, but rather local planning processes.
“Instead of a top-down rewrite of the Wilderness Act, the best way to balance competing public land uses is through local collaboration that brings stakeholders together to identify areas appropriate for more intensive recreation, areas that need active forest management, and areas that should be designated wilderness,” MWF wrote. “At a time when Americans should be coming together to find common ground on land management, H.R. 1349 is an unnecessary and divisive distraction.”
You can read MWF’s full letter here.