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IMBA Announces Strategy for Wilderness and Mountain Biking

Are current federal Wilderness regulations that prohibit mountain biking based on valid resource protection concerns?

From the International Mountain Bicycling Association

The blanket ban on bicycling in Wilderness Areas and its effect on future trail access continues to be a focus for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) in 2005. IMBA is pursuing a four-part strategy to protect access for mountain bicycling while preserving natural areas.

"IMBA will mobilize and lead its grassroots network to participate in local negotiations over Wilderness lands expansion."

IMBA believes mountain biking, a low-impact, muscle-powered recreation, is an appropriate use of trails on public lands and is consistent with the values of Wilderness land protection which includes recreation in natural landscapes.

When proposed Wilderness Areas include significant mountain biking opportunities, IMBA pursues boundary adjustments and alternative land designations that protect natural areas while preserving bicycle access. IMBA supports new Wilderness designations where they don't close singletrack bicycling opportunities. IMBA members highly value land conservation, clean water and clean air.

The first part of IMBA's strategy is to continue to build clout in the U.S. capital where IMBA staff, volunteer advocates and a prominent D.C. law firm are lobbying to influence proposed Wilderness legislation and protect bicycle access. This includes pending Wilderness bills that would close hundreds of miles of singletrack in California, Oregon, Virginia, Idaho and Washington. Mountain bikers are urged to attend IMBA's "24 Hours of D.C." April 6-7 for a targeted lobbying campaign. In 2004, bicycle advocates held 140 face-to-face meetings with government officials during IMBA's lobby day, championing key mountain biking and Wilderness issues.

Second, IMBA will mobilize and lead its grassroots network to participate in local negotiations over Wilderness lands expansion. It is essential that IMBA, cycling clubs and individuals speak strongly for mountain biking in the early stages of Wilderness discussions. Through education, outreach, community building, partnerships and media relations, mountain bikers can influence and support appropriate Wilderness bills.

- In Virginia, mountain biking leaders recently negotiated a compromise on a Wilderness proposal that protects lands and preserves bicycle access in the Jefferson National Forest by using a National Scenic Area designation.

- In northwest California, a Wilderness bill threatens to close more than 170 miles of trails to mountain biking. IMBA is committed to shaping a bill that is better for cycling and will continue negotiations.

- In Oregon, mountain bikers have answered a Wilderness proposal for the Mt.

Hood National Forest with an alternative that would maintain access to singletrack while protecting all the areas in the original plan. The alternative specifies some land parcels to be managed like Wilderness, but allow bicycling.

- In Idaho, access to 85 miles of singletrack near Sun Valley is threatened by proposed Wilderness. IMBA and local riders are working with government officials to preserve this important cycling destination.

IMBA's third focus is direct communication with key federal land agencies that manage recreation, set Wilderness regulations and oversee Wilderness Study Areas. IMBA continues to meet regularly with federal agency officials and develop strategies to manage trail use on public lands. IMBA recently challenged a BLM land management plan that would ban bicycling in a Wilderness Study Area.

Finally, IMBA will continue to evaluate the future of federal land protection and how each agency regulates bicycling in Wilderness Areas. IMBA believes current federal Wilderness regulations unnecessarily prohibit mountain biking and are not based on valid resource protection concerns.

Contributing to this debate is a recently published legal analysis of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Written by attorney Ted Stroll and published in the Penn State Environmental Law Review, the article investigates the Wilderness Act and argues that the current bicycle ban is inconsistent with Congress' original intention.

IMBA remains firmly dedicated to land conservation and believes that Wilderness designation is just one of many tools that may be employed to protect wild places.

IMBA's policy and position on Wilderness is determined by its nine-member board of directors with assistance from IMBA staff and consultants. To read more about IMBA's work on Wilderness visit:

Contact: Pete Webber, IMBA communications director, 303-545-9011

About IMBA

Founded in 1988, the International Mountain Bicycling Association is a nonprofit educational association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers worldwide by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trailwork, cooperation among different trail user groups and innovative trail management solutions. IMBA's worldwide network is comprised of individual members, bicycle clubs, corporate partners and bicycle retailers.

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