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Mountain bikers bristle at Blumenauer’s latest Mt. Hood proposal

Posted by on June 25th, 2008 at 10:07 am

“This has left many in the mountain biking community very frustrated.”
–Shane Gould, Portland United Mountain Pedalers

Mountain bikers throughout Oregon, with support from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance (ORMBA), are miffed at a recent proposal by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to ban mountain bikes from the Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes areas near Mt. Hood.

They say Blumenauer’s ‘Oregon Treasures’ proposal (which is also backed by his Oregon congressional colleagues Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, and David Wu) will close 123 miles of highly desired singletrack trails currently open for mountain bike use.

Blumenauer’s move is the latest in a legislative effort to re-draw the Mt. Hood Wilderness that has dragged on for over five years. The challenge of that effort is to strike the delicate balance between recreational access and natural area protection.

Shane Gould with the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP), a Portland-based mountain bike club, expressed to me via email that, “With every new iteration of Mount Hood Wilderness legislation there has been an increased amount of land that has been closed off to mountain bike access. This has left many in the mountain biking community very frustrated.”

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-8.jpg

Blumenauer during a visit to Portland
back in January.
(Photos © J. Maus)

When word of Blumenauer’s proposal first spread back in May, an action alert was sent out by IMBA encouraging their members to contact Rep. Blumenauer and write letters to newspapers expressing their disdain for the proposal. In that alert, IMBA wrote:

“We hope Mr. Blumenauer will revise his current proposal to include bicycle-friendly protection for the Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes areas. This is extremely important to the bicycling community and will not compromise the integrity of these natural areas…

Blumenauer’s comprehensive plan for Mount Hood would close the beloved Boulder Lake area to bicycling. This important detail is a key divergence from the proposed Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, which the mountain biking community supports…

Because our activity is a quiet, low-impact, human-powered use compatible with backcountry settings, we are asking Mr. Blumenauer to protect Boulder Lake and allow bicycling to continue.”

Blumenauer’s legislative assistant working on this issue, Hillary Barbur, says she he has met with representatives from IMBA and from PUMP on this issue and that she recognizes the importance of mountain biking in Oregon.

In a recent telephone conversation she said, “We know they care deeply about these places… but one of the things that we’ve always tried to achieve when it comes to public lands protection is a balanced bill.”

A rare piece of singletrack
in Forest Park.

That “balance”, according to Barbur, is a bill that supports recreational opportunities and places that “deserve the highest protection.”

Barbur says part of the issue is timing and working with the Senate to reach agreement on the bill. “We really want to get a bill passed this year.”

As for the Boulder Lake bike trail closure, Barbur says she wants to be clear that they put it on the table because, “we think there are some important things about it and it may be worthy of wilderness designation… we don’t know if it will stay in [the bill] or come out, but we think it’s a discussion worth having right now.”

Barbur told me their office has heard loud and clear from environmental groups that protection of natural areas is very important to them.

This issue strikes at the heart of how advocates with different interests and the political machine can pose challenges to lawmakers.

According to Barbur, Blumenauer is, “trying to strike a balance between the Senate, environmental groups, and mountain bike groups.”

She also expressed concern that talks between mountain bike advocates and environmental protection groups have broken down recently.

“This isn’t just about Boulder Lake,” she said, “There will continue to be increasing recreational pressure on our public lands and the more these groups can work to find common ground, the better.”

———

Learn more:
Blumenauer’s ‘Oregon Treasures’ proposal
Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007 (S.674)
Action Alert posted on the Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance website.

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67 Comments
  • Avatar
    Coaster June 25, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Are we trying to protect these places FROM recreation or FOR recreation? It seams to me we want to allow these areas to be preserved so that we can enjoy them in a wild and natural state, meaning without destructive industries like logging and mining. But if we restrict them so far as to prevent recreation, who is to benefit? These are amazing places that should be kept amazing, but accessible for enjoyment.

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    Oliver June 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Thanks to the Sierra Club, the only way to ban forests from development is to ban mountain biking. Backpacking in the Salmon-Huckleberry wilderness last weekend, I saw a sign about 10 miles in that said \”Closed to MOTORIZED transport\” …ahh the good old days.

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    Moo June 25, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Two wheels bring the same destructive force to our natural habitats, whether on a motocross or mountain bike, and there shouldn\’t be any exceptions. Get off your bikes already and try hiking in for once.

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    Paul June 25, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Its been a long time since the Wilderness Act was signed into law back in 1964. But we have to remember the spirit and intent of that law is to place the value of the natural state of the land above all other concerns. This creates a situation where even some trail maintenance options are off the table in wilderness areas, such as the use of chainsaws or heavy equipment to clear trails.

    While I love biking, and mountain biking was how I was really introduced to cycling as a kid in Alaska, I would hate to see the Wilderness Act standards watered down.

    The spirit of wilderness is the peace and quiet of natural areas. Just remember the defining statement of the Wilderness Act:

    \”[Wilderness is] an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.\”

    Not something you see in every US law.

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    a.O June 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

    \”Two wheels bring the same destructive force to our natural habitats, whether on a motocross or mountain bike…\”

    I can\’t imagine how this statement could be made by anyone who had seen motorcross and mountain bike trails side-by-side, as one can at several places in Oregon, most notably Brown\’s/Lee\’s camp in the Coast Range. There simply is no comparison between the erosion caused by the two modes – they are quantitatively and qualitatively different.

    And as far as preservation of areas designated as wilderness, use by equestrians in these areas is at least as destructive as motorized vehicles, yet it is allowed. As such, the standards imposed by the Act are artificial designations that do not actually accomplish the preservation goal.

    Mountain biking is quiet, non-motorized, compatible with other trail uses (at least as much as equestrian use), and comparable to hiking in its impact to trails when properly seasonally restricted.

    And the statements here show clearly that we mountain bikers are going to have to fight against ignorance and intolerance for the right to continue sharing our natural resources.

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    Coaster June 25, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I agree with the sentiment of the wilderness act, but it is my understanding that the law itself does not prevent mt biking, but only the recent re-interpretation of the law. studies have proven the effect of cycling on trails has no more impact than hiking, perhaps less. So why do they allow equestians into wilderness? If we are truely trying to keep these areas \’untrammeled by man\’, why horses and not bikes? Horses cause massive damage and erosion to trails, filling creeks and rivers with silt and destoying natural systems.

    If we wanted to preserve the “wilderness character of the area\” then we should work to remove trails and roads entirely. But allowing some users (who do massive damage) and not others (who do not), based on historical precedent is absurd. It\’s like using coal to heat your house, because of it\’s nostalgia.

    Either protect it, or don\’t. But this is a double standard.

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    steve June 25, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I agree with a.O

    They should ban equestrians and mountain bikes from wilderness areas.

    The better solution would be to create a car/motor free buffer zone around all wilderness areas. Say 20 miles or so on all sides. Most people would be far to lazy to pedal their asses in, problem solved.

    You do drive your bike up there, right? How cute.

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    Jeff June 25, 2008 at 11:10 am

    \”Two wheels bring the same destructive force to our natural habitats, whether on a motocross or mountain bike…\”

    Yeah, that\’s nuts. Responsible mountain biking (no skidding, keeping off wet trails, etc.) doesn\’t do any damage that decent trailwork can\’t fix.

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    Coaster June 25, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Steve,
    Unless your amish (which can\’t be, given your use of a computer, Some one had to use an internal-combustion engine to get you your bike, it\’s materials, and/or components.

    You are no less guilty than anyone else here.

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    Brad June 25, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Jeff #8 – there is the problem. How can the powers that be insure that all mountain bike riders will be responsible? Who is going to pay for and do the trailwork to repair damage done by the irresponsible riders?

    I agree with most here that banning bikes seems silly but without an enforcement / mitigation plan in these areas, it is easier (and cheaper) to close them off to all but hikers.

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    Evan June 25, 2008 at 11:35 am

    \”…Say 20 miles or so on all sides. Most people would be far to lazy to pedal their asses in, problem solved.\”

    So if most people are too lazy, why should we ban the ones who aren\’t? If there are really so few people who are willing to ride 20-50 miles into the wild, how much harm will they really cause? And even if you only count the lazy ones, there really aren\’t that many people who will drive out to those places ot ride, even today.

    And therein lies the problem. Not many people actually ride that far out from the major metropolitan areas, so there is not much of an organized group to mount an opposition to this silly ban on bikes.

    By all means, ban those motorcycles and ATVs that have no mufflers nor emissions equipment. You should not need a motor to experience nature. But two wheels and pedals can get you places your feet alone never will. Hiking is fine and all, but not what I would call \”fun.\”

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    Jayce June 25, 2008 at 11:38 am

    this is silly. the people who are fighting over this land are like little children fighting for a toy. as long as the amount of people continues to grow the wilderness will be lost. weather you destroy it by walking on it or riding on it. So lets all get out there and lower the population a little!

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    Icarus Falling June 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    If I remember correctly, the whole reason Mt bikes were going to be banned from parts of the Mt Hood forest in the first place is because they are considered by the federal government to be in the same user group as a motorcycle/ atv/ snowmobile when it comes to trail use.

    I believe the separation between the motorized and unmotorized was already tried and failed a number of years back when this mess started.

    I also believe unless there is a specific difference in the wording of this, which goes way beyond the riding areas mentioned here, MT bikes will be banned from a large chunk of Mt Hood.

    I recall spending a some winter time in Yellowstone, postholeing (punching through the snow past your thighs with every step)and snowshoeing a long way through the snow to fishing spots, only to be buzzed by snowmobiles far from the trails. Yet the defenders of this say that there is no environmental impact to Yellowstone from snowmobiling.

    Ludicrous to say the least.

    I agree that motorized off road vehicles should be banned from these areas. And MT biking access should be seasonal, and even more so, cut off during periods of heavy or extended rains.
    Along with a moratorium on building more roads through these areas. I recall something about new roads being put in for more access to these areas at the same time that non hiking users are going to be kicked out.

    Sadly, I also agree that if the status of mt biking, in regards to it\’s lumping together with motorcycles, is not going to be changed, it will still be worth saving our forests, and having off road vehicles banned.

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    SkidMark June 25, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    That\’s what we need, less trail access in Oregon.

    I would be glad to demonstrate the difference between the damage a mountain bike does and the damage a 2-stroke dirt bike does, but I could not with a clear conscience crack open the throttle on an RM250 and lay waste to the environment like that. A 45hp 200 lb. machine could destroy a trail in no time, if ridden with reckless abandon.

    The irony of this is just yesterday Blumenauer was on NPR talking about bike commuting in Washington DC, and now he is trying to get bikes out of parks.

    TRAIL ACCESS NOW!

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    k. June 25, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I hate to see two progressive, generally environmentally friendly interests go up against each other like this. But as someone who participates in both activities, ie. wilderness hiking and camping AND biking…it seems like there\’s enough land for both. I mostly agree with the sentiment that Wilderness areas are pretty special and should be protected fully. I can find plenty of other places to ride my mountain bike.

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    Chilly Willy June 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    We already have a ton of great places to Mountain Bike in the area- if there\’s a good ecological reason for such a ban, then so be it. We really are blessed and should be grateful for all the things we have, not what we don\’t have.

    Everyone has to work together to end the mentality that sacrifices are always for the other guy.

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    SkidMark June 25, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    There is not much singletrack to be had within city limits, it is almost all hiking trails, but that is a seperate issue.

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    Jeff June 25, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    No, no, no… Coaster got it right…

    The horse and hiker lobbies are behind this. I can almost guarantee it. Someone just has to dig a little further to find the connections. Perhaps Blumenauer\’s contributor lists.

    This same thing happened on Mt. Tam in the SF Bay Area years ago. The horse riders and hikers didn\’t like the mountain bikers so they trumped up some BS about the destruction to the trails. Despite, the overwhelming evidence that horses caused as much or MORE damage to trails than bikes, the horses were green lighted and the bikes lost the fight…

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    Fritz June 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Coaster,

    Steve may be less guilty. Just because you drive doesn\’t make you bad. But driving to the top of natural area to bike down has vastly different environmental impact that a hiker or horse rider don\’t have. I think they should allow MTBs on trails but make car access difficult so getting there and riding takes some work and appreciation for the trails. I do think we should understand that regardless of natural impact a 200+ lb. hunk of man/metal coming down a slope towards you is a little more scary than a walking horse or hiker. I don\’t think the environmental impact is overly negative but it can be to other users of the area.

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    SkidMark June 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Wait, don\’t people drive to the trail to hike on it? Should they walk there? What about the pickup and trailer used to transport the horse?

    And why isn\’t the \”scoop law\” applicable to horses?

    Not everyone who rides a mountain bike off-roan is bombing hills a high speed and ignoring hikers. I generally ride trails at a pace that is a little faster than a jogger, and I yield to hikers. Most responsible mountain bikers do.

    I do find a walking horse a bit scary. Something could spook it, and I may be in the way of 2000lbs. of domesticated animal with a human on top of it.

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    Spanky June 25, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Hiking in or biking in, wilderness designation means many trails will be lost due to lack of maintenance due to the increased expense entailed in maintaining trail in wilderness. Why? Because no chainsaws or other mechanized equipment can be used to clear trail in wilderness areas. Check out the trails in the Bull of the Woods or in the three wilderness areas in the Ochocos and you will see what I mean. They are choked with annual winter blowdown. There is not enough money budgeted for the person power it takes to clear these trails by crosscut saw.

    These trails mean access, and many of them are a part of our history. They represent a large investment of time and effort and are a historical artifact from a different time. They should be preserved for use.

    The solution is easy: a very limited exception that would allow the USFS and BLM to use chainsaws once a year to clear foot trails of blowdown in wilderness areas.

    If only Blumenauer would listen.

    Decommissioned roads are an interesting issues. Many roadless advocates think they are the greastest thing since sliced bread. However, walking a decomissioned road is difficult and riding a Mt. Bike on one would be dangerous and difficult if not impossible. Decomissioned roads do not become walking trails. They mean tough access to old trail heads formerly reached more easily by all users.

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    Icarus Falling June 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Horses are scary, and much, much more unpredictable than a Mt. Biker, no matter who is handling the horse.

    Living out here at the end of the road in the east hills of the \”Couv, (where the trails are shared use hiking/equestrian/Mt. biking, and having had horrible, mud and horse crap infested rides on the Tarbell Trail, I can also attest to the fact that a horse will do and does do, much, much more damage to a trail than a MT. Bike ever could.
    This is a fact. A horse and rider far outweigh a mt biker and bike, or even a motorcycle and rider. And equestrians are not exactly very careful as to how they use the trails.

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    Dave June 25, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I\’ve hiked, I ride MTBs, and I grew up with horses. I love \’em, but horses are incredibly destructive, especially in the trains you usually see in wilderness areas or along the PCT. There may be some careless MTBers out there skidding around corners, but there are plenty of thoughtless hikers stomping shortcuts through switchbacks and crapping in wetlands, too. Neither of them can top a bored Appaloosa on a picket.

    I\’d be all for seasonal restrictions, maybe some form of permitting that includes basic training on trail preservation, etc. But only if its based on something other than the irrational hatred some hikers seem to have for anyone who dares not hoof it.

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    psyclist June 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    From what I undestand, one of the issues is making land off limits to logging and motorized use pretty much requires a Wilderness designation. From what I have been told there is no designation that bans logging and motorized access BY LAW, but will aloow bikers and hikers. You can desingate areas as National Recreation Areas, but I beleive these can be opened to motorized use by land managers. So aside form creating a new ladn designation by an act of congress (would never happen), the only way to truly protect land is a Wilderness designation.

    As a Mt Biker and hiker who loves wilderness I definitely find myself torn on these issues. That being said, There are more trails for hiking than I could ever hike in my lifetime, yet I could bike almost all of the Mt Biek trails in a year. I would really liek to see MORE trails, not less.

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    Paul June 25, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    For real information on mtn biking effects of trails, there is an excellent comparative study here:

    http://www.imba.com/resources/science/white_et_al_study.pdf

    The conclusions reached by the authors are consistent with previous trail research that suggest the impacts of mountain biking are similar or less than other trail use.

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    bjorn June 25, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Everytime I see someone riding a horse on a trail and especially when I see one using the trail as a bathroom I think of that saturday night sketch with will ferrell sketch where he says you wouldn\’t let a person do this in your yard and then it shows some guy squatting down in a yard…

    I don\’t mind if people want to ride horses on trails, but put a diaper on it or bring a shovel.

    Bjorn

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    Coaster June 25, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I lived in the bay area for a number of years, and it\’s true. the reason Mt.Tam has no legal singletrack is on accounct of the Equestrian lobby. Wanna know why there is so little singletrack in Forest Park? Think \’Birdwatchers\’. But the reality, as any Ornthologist knows, is that birdwatchers cause mental and emotional stress to birds. Imagine being stalked and bothered by humans for hours on end, while you are protecting your young? They claim Mt.bikes scare off the birds, but in reality, bikes pass through quickly and the birds get back to business right away. Where as birdwatchers can actually prevent procreation and cause birds to abandon new hatches.

    The point is that all users put stress on an environment, but to limit access without a full understanding of each users impact isn\’t fair. Lumping Mt.Bikes in with motorcycles is laziness on the part of politicians.

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    a.O June 25, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Equestrians are definitely the most inconsiderate trail users everywhere. Horse sh!t just all over the trail after they come through, without even any pretense that they are responsible or should pick it up. Imagine the uproar if mountain bikers or hikers did something like that?

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    Fred June 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I agree with a.0 and the other posters who have pointed out the destruction caused by equestrians. It is mainly the cowboy lobby, and it\’s deep connections to American myth, that keeps horses, mules etc. in wilderness. Once I had a job hiking the same trail into the Eastern Sierra for 10 straight days. Even though it is located between the huge urban centers of LA and SF, equestrians, including guide outfits, are allowed in the John Muir Wilderness. I saw first hand the incredible destruction caused by equestrians; giant mud bogs full of shit, ruts deepened by an inch or more EVERY DAY. It was really eye-opening. Needless to say, bikes are not allowed in this area. Ridiculously hypocritical. Wilderness should be for all non-motorized users.
    It really saddens me that the Sierra Club and others have fallen into the \”divide and conquer\” strategy that pits user groups against each other. Bikers, riders and hikers should be sharing the resources and presenting a united front against motorized recreation and extractive industry in OUR wilderness areas.

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    bjorn June 25, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Yesterday while riding on powell butte we met up with 4 horse riders who thought it was really funny that their horse was dumping all over the trail right in front of us. We had stopped and pulled our bikes off the trail so the horses could pass and then the dump happened and the lady just thought it was hilarious. It is not that expensive to keep the trails clean. If you can afford a horse you can afford a bun-bag.

    http://www.bunbag.com/

    The bun bag or a similar device should be required equipment especially in a high traffic city park like Powell Butte.

    bjorn

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    Geddy June 25, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I\’ve looked over the maps on Blumenauer\’s site, and checked to see if my usual trails were in it or not. It looks like all the main trails like Surveryor\’s Ridge, the east fork, Pioneer Bridle are not going to be affected. I\’m fine giving up biking this obscure trail at Boulder Lake if it means we get to protect our water sources and a few shreds of old growth forests.
    Everyone needs to calm down, look at the maps and come to a rational opinion on this issue. As the article states, this bill has been around for years and there has likely been a considerable amount of compromise from the tree huggers to the loggers to the biking community. If no one claims the final version is perfect then it\’s probably \”just right\”. I have sympathy for Blumenauer who had to corral the cats on this one.

    Geddy
    Geddy

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    Coho June 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Wilderness designation is about preserving places in a wild state for the sake of having a few wild places left, forever. Recreation allowed in Wilderness areas should be to the extent compatible with that goal.

    Wilderness areas are not playgrounds for any particular kind of recreation.

    100 years from now no one is going to care how much angst IMBA or anyone else had over not being allowed to bomb down trails in a Mount Hood Wilderness area. But they will thank us for setting a few wild places aside and protecting them forever. Whether it is bike ruts and washouts or horse poo and mud puddles, neither belong in Wilderness.

    Places like Mount Tabor and Forest Park should be managed with recreation in mind. The few truly pristine wild areas left on Mount Hood ought to be managed for nature and wildlife, with recreation allowed to the point it doesn\’t interfere with those values.

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    Jill June 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Unfortunately, this debate has nothing to do with whether bikes cause more harm to the environment than horses, or any other user (let the science speak, rather than anecdotal accounts- it\’s definitely in our favor). Wilderness folks don\’t have it all against us mountain bikers. They simply want more Wilderness acres, that bikes aren\’t allowed isn\’t really their concern. That it cannot be logged, mined or otherwise trammeled is. And, there is something tied up in the word \”Wilderness\” that speaks more than the actual land on the ground.
    And we all want to ride in \”wilderness\” worthy places- that\’s why the areas on Mt Hood like Roaring River (we agreed to give up over 40 miles of pristine backcounty trails and support the proposed Wilderness), Twin Lakes and Bonney Meadows (we again agreed to give up another 20 miles of backcountry trail to support the proposed wilderness)- all told, we have agreed to give up over 100 miles of trails currently open to bicycles because we also care about the land and our partnerships with the environmental organizations, who have in turn left many popular trails out of the bills. However, we keep being asked to give up more special places (this is the 4th round- now up to 120 miles), when we feel that we can create as strong a protection, and allow continued stewardship (mountain bikers do more trail work than any other user group, hands down).
    The problem is that \”Wilderness\” is seen as the only lasting protection, and it was interpreted in 1984 that bicycles did not belong. It doesn\’t limit mechanized transport, just bikes. Skis are mechanized, climbing gear (ever use a cam?), even trekking poles now have springs and shock absorbers. Snowboarders , a 1500lb horse, a hiker with a satellite phone- okay, but no bikes.
    We are frustrated that we have limited opportunity to offer other designations that offer the same perceived level of protection. Wild and Scenic River is one such strong designation that allows bikes, but, as you can imagine, has limited application.
    Changing the interpretation of the Wilderness Act might not happen, but what about adding another designation? One that allows all muscle-powered recreation? Seems like Oregon is just the place to try something this innovative!

    If you want to talk about watering down Wilderness by adding bikes, I encourage you to look at some of the marginal lands being designated, and also as some of the activities currently allowed (existing cattle grazing,powerlines, motorboats). There is too much tied up in the name \”Wilderness\” and not enough real talk about protecting the land FOR future generations. We care about the lands when we get out into them, not from our living rooms. Best reason to bike in the woods? I heard it from a father last week- \”dad, please don\’t make us hike.\” They went mountain biking instead.

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    btodd June 25, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Should I just take up playing basketball, again?

    Too much hatred in Portland.

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    Cøyøte June 25, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Horses are an abomination in wilderness areas. They bring trail destruction, invasive weeds, and a bunch of shit that no one wants to deal with.

    MTB\’s in wilderness areas are only slightly better. Somewhere between motorbikes and dogs.

    As far as bikes go, Earl, you got this one right! Somebody needs to have a level headed stare at the horse people and get them out of wilderness areas.

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    Crash N. Burns June 25, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Moot point.

    Mt Hood is the new Mt St. Helens. Better get lahar insurance 🙂

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    Icarus Falling June 25, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Not to mention the clear cutting, and heavy abuse to Mt. Hood under the name of ski areas. (I love to snowboard, and used to telemark, but prefer to hike in and backcountry)

    The truth of the matter on a volcano is that above the tree line, the landscape is more fragile by far than below.

    The recommendation for hiking/spending time on a volcano above tree line is to stay on the trail, so as not to disturb the plants that sometimes barely cling to life on the fragile soil.

    A foot step on a volcano shows itself for a very long time

    Unless you run a ski area on a volcano.
    It is then ok to tear up everything, add to erosion (a vital aspect) allow people to run amuck wherever they want. Hell, who needs wildflowers anyway?

    If they really want to designate wilderness, and kick out some users, they should take a look at who is doing the real damage…….Equestrian users, motorized users, and ski corporations.

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    JR June 25, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Can\’t we leave one fucking piece of land alone? or must we, as humans (not necessarily bicyclists) trample every square inch??

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    wsbob June 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    I\’m concerned about the following, introductory statement from the lead article to this thread:

    \”Mountain bikers throughout Oregon, with support from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance (ORMBA), are miffed at a recent proposal by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to ban mountain bikes from the Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes areas near Mt. Hood.\” Jonathan Maus/bikeportland.org

    I\’m concerned because it seems to have mislead some readers into thinking that Congressman Earl Blumenthal\’s deliberately sought to ban mountain bikes from the specified, when that\’s probably not the case at all. Go to the Blumenauer website statement about this proposal via the following link, also supplied in the lead article:

    \’Oregon Treasures\’ proposal

    Go there and read what it says. There\’s nothing in that statement that suggests Blumenauer\’s proposal was created for the purpose of banning mountain bikes from Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes.

    Judging by their comments, some readers do understand Blumenauer had no such specific intention, but that still leaves a lot of people misled and confused about the congressman\’s work related to this issue. This seems to me, unfortunate. Although he may not be universally admired for everything he\’s done, he does seem to have tried to do some things to sustain and improve natural and recreational resources. It\’s important that people don\’t lose sight of this fact.

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    Brad June 26, 2008 at 8:04 am

    This is likely to become a moot point as not many will be willing to pony up the $40-50 in gas to drive to and from those trails anyway.

    Wouldn\’t it be far more effective to ask IMBA to let this pass and aim their efforts at local officials to fund more MTB trails in urban / suburban areas where many could actually use them? Case in point, help secure funding for the proposed Gateway Green bike park. Why not work with the city to get more dedicated single track in Forest Park?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 26, 2008 at 9:11 am

    \”it seems to have mislead some readers into thinking that Congressman Earl Blumenthal\’s deliberately sought to ban mountain bikes\”

    wsbob,

    i understand your concerns and it was not my intention to mislead anyone.

    in my understanding, Blumenauer\’s proposal seeks to add Wilderness protection status to those areas…which in essence means that mountain bikes would not be allowed in them .. which is the same thing as being banned… isn\’t it?

    thanks for the feedback and i\’m open to hearing more (from you and anyone else).

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    Jill June 26, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Some great points about the tone of the article.
    The mountain biking community has worked for over 4 years with Congressmen Blumenauer and Walden and Senators Wyden and Smith, as well as with the environmental community and other stakeholders, on various versions of the bill and are very thankful to have had a seat at the table. The Congressmen and Senators have listened to our concerns and invited us back for feedback each time. It should be noted that the mountain biking community has supported three other versions of a Mt Hood Wilderness bill, even testifying before the Senate (twice) and sending out alerts to members to support the bill. Throughout, we have steadfastly maintained the importance of preserving some primitive backcountry trail access for bicycles on Mt Hood, in particular the trails around Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes.
    Likewise, IMBA, PUMP, and others continue to work on urban trail access too- IMBA was a consultant to the proposal for Gateway Green. And PUMP continues its steadfast work on trails in Forest Park and around the City. We would all love to see more trail access in the Portland area, so we can ride to ride. This is still a priority!
    But that doesn\’t replace the experience one can get in the primitive backcountry. It\’s not for everyone and shouldn\’t be, but it is an exceptional experience to be preserved.

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    a.O June 26, 2008 at 9:33 am

    wsbob, \”deliberately [seeking] to ban mountain bikes\” and creating a proposel \”for the purpose of banning mountain bikes\” aren\’t the same thing. Blumenauer knows very well that adding Wilderness protection will result in a ban on mountain bike use there. Thus, it is a deliberate ban.

    The *purpose* of the proposal is protection. The mountain bike ban is an intended consequence.

    The *problem* is that Wilderness status is a joke and does not offer the protection is purports to. It is gutted by continuing to allow equestrian use, for example. And it is hypocritical and unfair for excluding a less impactful use.

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    Mark E June 26, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Anyone who is interested in learning more about IMBA\’s approach to land protection bills (including ones that include Wilderness) should check out this online resource:

    http://www.imba.com/resources/land_protection/index.html

    In short, IMBA works with conservation and recreation groups to help shape bills that will both protect the land and allow access for bikes. We do not think that those goals are contradictory.

    We don\’t think that every trail needs to be a shared-use trail, but where bike access already exists we insist on discussing why it might be banned in each particular instance that someone suggests such a restriction.

    Blumenauer\’s aide says, “we think … it may be worthy of wilderness designation… we don’t know if it will stay in [the bill] or come out, but we think it’s a discussion worth having right now.”

    That\’s a pretty clear signal that mountain bikers can shape the forms of land protection that will be enacted.

    Cyclists need to speak out, we need to show strength in membership and in our political leadership, and we need to support our local clubs. That\’s what IMBA tries to do every day (okay, I\’ll admit that was a shameless plug from IMBA\’s communications guy).

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    SkidMark June 26, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I don\’t think every trail should be shared-use trail either, I think some trails should be Mountain Bike only! Why not? There are hiking only trails.

    There is a similar issue with skateparks, in that many skaters don\’t want BMX bikes in the park, and because the lines they choose may be different it can create a dangerous situation. Some parks have handled this by having bikes on one day and skateboards on another. This sort of approach could work on singletrack trails as well, bikes one day, hikers another day.

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    wsbob June 26, 2008 at 11:58 am

    As noted in my earlier post, #39, I feel as though this thread\’s opening statement, perhaps inadvertently, implies that Congressman Blumenauer personally believes that mountain bikes have no place in designated wilderness areas, and so, has worked with other people to put together this proposal to ban them from those areas.

    Is Blumenauer\’s personal position about mountain bikes in designated wilderness areas known? Before such a statement is made, it should be known, because the cost of leaving people with an erroneous impression about Blumenauer\’s and other people\’s efforts in designating wilderness status could be huge.

    a.O, even though people riding bikes aren\’t allowed access to wilderness areas as people riding are, I\’d really hope that people wouldn\’t write off protection that wilderness status offers wilderness areas, as \’a joke\’.

    As I understand it, over the years, many different people have had to fight tooth and nail to designate certain areas as wilderness; so these areas could escape being raped and pillaged, i.e. commercially logged, mined, doo-dah resort/second \’home\’ developed, and so on. In a simple word: \’destroyed\’.

    If people that want to ride their mountain bikes through designated wilderness areas don\’t believe they\’re being treated fairly, then perhaps they should be making a better, more convincing argument to help correct that situation. As they work to do this, they should also work to avoid damaging efforts to grant wilderness status to the limited wilderness area inventory left in the country.

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    uzi June 26, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    As a someone who enjoys mountain biking, it is extremely frustrating living in Portland. Really wish we had a dirt jump park in town (perhaps next to / part of one of the skateparks). Really wish we had some singletrack (sorry, a couple hundred yards in forest park does not count). I\’d gladly give up part of that platinum award hanging on the wall for some close-in dirt.

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    Paul Vincent June 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    If I could get one wilderness wish granted, it would be to exclude non-human powered modes of transportation in wilderness areas. The USFS is very up-front about the fact that mountain bikes have about the same impact as hikers, and in some instances – areas of heavy trail use, backpack camping, or off-trail dispersed use in fragile environments – considerably less.

    If you want to see just how much damage off-trail use by dispersed hikers can do, visit Jefferson Park with a biologist sometime and have them point out the trampled vegetation created by all the \”low-impact hiking and backpacking\” advocates. The simple fact is that MTBs tend to stick to the trail.

    And don\’t even get me started on horses in wilderness areas. Well, OK, I\’ll get myself started anyway: MTBs do MUCH less damage than horses, even though horse usage per capita is a fraction of mountain bike usage. Horses are just simply abhorrent to anyone who values wilderness. They foul water sources for both humans and wildlife; they ntroduce invasive foreign plant species, viruses, and bacteria; they trample and foul entire meadows, both dry and wet; and, they destroy otherwise low impact trails on which MTBs have minimal impact.

    And for the record, I dont ride mountain bikes now and haven\’t for years. I hike and backpack, but I\’m honest about my usage. I do as much damage on a backpack trip as a typical MTB does in a day\’s outing. Even with low-impact methods there is really no such thing as a leave no trace trip to the wilderness.

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    Rodney June 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    The biggest problem I\’ve seen in and around Mt Hood is improperly built trails, and that has nothing to do with who uses the trails.

    I\’ve worked with IMBA on trail building and their methods produce trails that require minimal maintenance. Whenever I see those rubber water diverters on the trails I cringe. A properly built trail does not need help shedding water.

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    J June 26, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    As many others have said, horses are possibly the biggest problem of all.

    The fact that equestrians are continually exempt from these bans bugs me to no end.

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    joel June 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I fully agree with all of the comments which illustrate the HUGE inequity between mtn bikers and equestrians. I grew up and lived in Bend and was an avid Mtn biker for about five years, and i can not only say but can prove that horses are vastly more destructive to the environment than bicycles are. There used to be a great trail from the west side of mt bachelor to lava lake which is now mostly too sandy, bumpy and totally un-fun to ride on due to horses and the erosion that they cause. Come on Earl you do so much great stuff for cyclists please don\’t take these trails off line.

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    Patrick June 26, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Chilly WIlly wrote: \”We already have a ton of great places to Mountain Bike in the area\”

    Please enlighten us Chilly where are the \”tons\” you speak of?

    I think the one of the majority points here: There are very limited placed to ride in the Metro area, taking away places we already have to drive makes no sense.

    It\’s sad that places like Redding, CA and Boise, ID have better trail access within their town than we do.

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    wsbob June 26, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Following, is text from the Wilderness Act that explains in part, the purpose of proposals made under it for wilderness designation of wilderness areas:

    \”Section 2(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby
    recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man
    himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an
    area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent
    improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions
    and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of
    man\’s work substantially unnoticeable;\”

    The Wilderness act doesn\’t ban mountain bikes from designated wilderness areas. In fact, bicycles are not specifically mentioned in the Wilderness Act. Rather, it\’s language indirectly suggests that they are not compatible with the goals and objectives of wilderness as recognized and defined by the people that authorized the Wilderness Act. There\’s a difference.

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    uzi June 26, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    If the motto is \”leave no trace\” then there should be no such thing as trail maintenance (including hand tools), much less a trail to maintain in the first place. If these areas are to truly be called WILDERNESS, I think the existing trails should be removed, so that the area is reclaimed and is as close as possible to it\’s original state.

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    a.O June 26, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    wsbob, if you\’re going to cite that language (@ #53) from the Wilderness Act as suggesting that mountain biking is not compatible with wilderness, then you have to admit that it \”suggests\” the same about hiking or camping.

    The language says wilderness areas are to be \”without permanent improvements or human habitation\” and \”with the imprint of man\’s work substantially unnoticeable.\” Neither of those things are true of trails used by hikers or equestrians, or of campgrounds, all of which are permitted in wilderness areas.

    So, how do we arrive at a ban on mountain biking but allowing those other uses? The ban comes from regulations promulgated by the agencies that administer the various wilderness areas, the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, and Bureau of Land Management.

    Those regulations implement the Wilderness Act. In other words, they are enacted under the authority granted by that Act. The regulations are constitutionally required to only implement the Act and do nothing beyond it. So, legally, the Wilderness Act does ban mountain bikes – under the agencies\’ interpretation of it – even though it doesn\’t directly say so.

    So, these agencies have interpreted the Act as requiring a banning mountain biking but allowing riding horses, hiking, and camping in wilderness areas. Have they interpreted it fairly and correctly? I respectfully suggest that no, they have not. And I think your excerpt aptly demonstrates their failure to capture the mandate of the Act.

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    Tankagnolo Bob June 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    If you could put a five mile parimeter around a \”wilderness area\” and allow no cars, then one would have to go five miles on foot or mountain bike to even get into the \”wilderness area\”.

    This would eliminate 90% of all folks going in. The type of mountain biker that would skid and tear up trails would be worn out before they got in.

    So just put the trail heads and parking lots five miles from the parimiter of the \”wilderness area\”, have a bunch of crazy trails near the parking lot, and the yahoo cyclists will just hang around the parking lot and do jumps. The few going in five miles to START a wilderness ride will be and much mellower.

    It is true in Yellowstone Park, if you can walk a mile from your car, you begin to have the place to yourself. 90% dont go more than a half mile from their car.

    Tanko Bob

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    David June 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    \”Get off your bikes already and try hiking in for once.\”

    Moo:
    I used to be a hiker and back packer. I used to hike in wilderness areas. I no longer go on extended hikes because of knee pain experienced when I hike downhill. I now use a mountain bike to enjoy a backcountry/wilderness type experience. That is the only way I can get to places like the Plains of Abraham.
    Should I file a discrimination lawsuit against wilderness areas so I can keep enjoying the wilderness experience??

    The proposal for these areas could be modified in such a manner to allow the continued use of the trails that mountain bikers currently enjoy. Period. No ifs ands or butts. It was done with the Badger Creek Wilderness, because the last I knew there was a road running right thru it to Badger Lake. the same can be done at Boulder Lakes, or the same area could be designated a Recreation Area which would still give the area a \’development free\’ protection.

    Hikers, unless they go bare foot and do not use walking sticks, will have an equal impact on a trail than does a mountain bike. A mountain bike tire will roll over the surface of a trail whereas the hiking shoe sole and walking stick will dig up a trail. So maybe, hiking should be banned from wilderness areas, unless you\’re barefooted.

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    wsbob June 26, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    re; my last comment, #53, in citing the Wilderness Act language, I\’m not anxious to suggest one way or another, the compatibility of mountain bikes in designated wilderness areas. What I am trying to do is understand the purpose of this legislation as written by people that created and approved it. The language of the Wilderness Act seems to suggest that, in general, use of mountain bikes in designated wilderness areas probably isn\’t consistent with the Wilderness Act\’s objectives.

    Having said that, I\’ll say \’no\’ I don\’t think the Wilderness Act bars hiking or camping (the latter with certain conditions) from designated wilderness areas, because access is part of the reason for the Wilderness Act.

    At present, I\’m not knowledgeable about the reasons equestrian use is allowed in wilderness areas. Horses aren\’t mentioned in the Wilderness Act either, so perhaps their use in designated wilderness areas is as a.O. suggests, a result of \”…regulations promulgated by the agencies that administer the various wilderness areas,…\”. If this use is simply interpreted from the Wilderness Act and allowed, that seems as though it would be incompatible with the Wilderness Act\’s purpose. This might be a contradictory use that Blumenauer should be reminded of.

    David in comment #57 raises a worthy point about exceptions that might be rightly made to the language of the Wilderness Act if accessibility is one of its fundamental principles. Maybe for persons that can\’t hike into a wilderness area, an exception might be made to the Wilderness Act that, under certain conditions, would allow them to ride a bike or horse in if they are able to do that.

    The argument I hear some people making, that, with the Wilderness Act in mind, doesn\’t make sense to me, is the one that says something on the order of, \’hikers and birdwatchers get access to wilderness areas….even smelly, destructive horses are allowed there, so it\’s only right that mountain bikes should be allowed there too\’.

    As I read the language of the Wilderness Act, it says people ought to be as unobtrusive as possible in designated wilderness areas. To me, that means, if they can walk, they should walk. Period. If they can only get there on a bike, then allow some use of that means of transport for them. For the same reason, horses as well, equipped as Bjorn suggests, comment #30, with \”…a bun-bag.\”).

    Note: (The version of the Wilderness Act I found online isn\’t very lengthy; only 8 pages. Is there a more complex, specific version I haven\’t read, that spells out exactly what uses are allowed and what aren\’t?)

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    a.O June 27, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I already explained that the restrictions on uses are in the implementing regulations of the agencies. Blumenauer already knows about all agencies\’ interpretations that equestrian use is compatible with wilderness because it is non-motorized. Too bad basic fairness doesn\’t make sense to you as an argument, but it\’s pretty clear that the exclusion of mountain bikes and the inclusion of equestrians is not about the text or about a reasonable interpretation of the Act, but about politics driven by the equestrian lobby. That\’s what\’s bothering us.

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    fly on the wall June 27, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Having actively participated in every one of the Mt Hood bills introduced in the last few years, I have a different take on this whole process. Ultimately it is politics that is driving this process not necessarily protection however protection does come with wilderness designation. If you have not read the Wilderness Act I encourage you to do so as it appears many posters have not. The act clearly sights recreation as one of the goals. The act clearly says that all wilderness areas are totally unique and INDEPENDENT of one another and can be managed as such. That is why in some places air planes can land or even jet boats and other historic access can be allowed. The Pro wilderness environmental community wants you to think (believe) that all wilderness is exactly the same and that any W bill is the only way to permanately protect land from resourse extraction and other highly degrading activities. That is simply NOT TRUE it is a lie and we have offered many alternative designations that would protect the land permanately the same as wilderness except allowing for historic bicycle use to continue. In fact even Senator Wyden understood this and boldly proposed a bill that included the Hood PDX which would have allowed a demonstration wilderness that would allow bikes. As I said before it comes down to politics as the Pro W community beat that idea into submission even though the Wilderness act clearly allows for each wilderness area to be managed independently.

    If you read the Wilderness act you will understand that some of the proposed areas don\’t even meet the qualities of Wilderness as defined by the act again it is simply a political tool and Congress and the Senate choose to overlook these facts for political gain.

    Now don\’t get me wrong! I think most of the areas in question do deserve permanent congressional protection from extractive and other high impact uses but it doesn\’t need to be wilderness, that part is a sham on the public by virtual propaganda devised by the pro wilderness community.

    The 120+ miles of trail that would be closed to wilderness is not wilderness now and has not been ruined by bikes from a scientific or biological point of view. These trails we\’re talking about have historic bicycle use of over 20 years just as the boats, planes, historic mining claims and other uses that have been allowed continuation of historic use in other wilderness areas. These are facts! Please look them up.

    No matter which side of this you are on POLITICALLY please try to understand the issues from a broad historic perspective and don\’t just look at one side of the issue. Understand your rights and duties as an American and maintain your rights by doing your duty. Seek the truth.

    The mountainbike community wants more than anything to be part of the solution. It is in my opinion the pro wilderness community is the one that has been totally inflexible in exploring alternatives and truly working together to find mutually supportable solutions to protection of these wild and wonderful places. The division of these political forces is coming from the pro W community not the other way around.

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    TWD953 June 27, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Personally, I\’ve spent a lot of years mountain biking, backpacking, camping snowshoing, backcountry skiing, backcountry snowboarding etc… and I think all of these recreattional activities have their place.

    Frankly, many of the wilderness trails I\’ve hiked and backpacked I wouldn\’t even consider riding if they WERE legal for bikes. Whether it is becuase of poor trail design or lack of maintenance and blowdown many just wouldn\’t be that fun to ride.

    We could go around arguing back and forth all day about whether bicycles should be allowed in Wilderness areas and get nowhere. Personally, the arguments I\’ve seen put forward to ban bicycle use are laughable considering what behavior and activities are allowed by other groups. Don\’t let the facts confuse the issue, this is politics we\’re dealing with.

    Hiking, biking, and horseback riding aren\’t incompatible activities, it\’s that they are practiced by a subset of people with incompatible attitudes. In most cases, it\’s the few bad apples that ruin it for all, whether it\’s an equestrian with an overfed and out of control horse, the \”skidiot\” mountian biker with neither the skill nor the common sense to ride in control, or the activist hiker that strings piano wire across the trail and places pungee sticks to puncture tires(haha and feet…I\’ve been there, seen that, caught them in the act).

    What about another solution? I think a wilderness designation that prohibits logging, mining (does Wilderness designation really over-ride mineral rights?…I\’ve heard it doesn\’t), resorts etc.. is great. If you\’re going to overlay that designation on areas where certain \”incompatible\” recreational uses would be displaced, then fine.

    BUT, we want to be compensated for that loss. How about a mile for mile replacement. They close 120 miles of trail to bikes, give us approval to build 120 miles of new \”Bicycle Only\” single track. Heck, the Forest service
    doesn\’t even need to build it. Frankly, I\’d prefer they didn\’t. Approve a general area, turn the design over to IMBA or regional mountain bike organizations (see COTA or Blackrock for great examples), agree upon route selection criteria and trail design specifications, then let us build our own trails. Frankly, we can do it better. Build trails that not only are armored with natural materials, drain properly (without the use of hand dug trenches crossing the trail that only promote channelization and worsen erosion), and flow so that they\’re actually fun to ride. That, and we can leverage the resources to maintain \”our\” new trails as well.

    Sadly, I doubt this will happen on any large scale, since every new trail would likely need to go through a costly and time consuming EIS, and the same contingent that didn\’t want bikes in the wilderness will say no new trails should be built in some marginal area that has been clearcut in the past, and likely will be again.

    My answer to that is, treat the new trail like a riparian area. No logging within 100 feet either direction of the trail. Heck, why not route the trail adjacent to an existing riparian area and widen that protection by another 100 feet. A properly designed trail with a 100 foot buffer (or whatever the current riparian width is) woud have virtually 0 impact on the watershed.

    Then, having that trail provides a net environmental benefit compared to truly destructive activities that may otherwise occur in those area.

    We need to think of new ways to move forward. I don\’t think we have the money, the time, or the resources to let lobbyist battle this out.

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    Icarus Falling June 27, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Come on now,

    We know what leave no trace means.

    It means, among other unmentioned things, STAY ON THE TRAIL provided.

    Camp only in designated sites.

    Pack out everything you pack in, including solid waste.

    Leave the trail maintenance to those who are designated to do trail maintenance, because they are either trained to do so, or supervised by those that are trained to do so.

    Of course there is no way to truly \”leave no trace\”, except to just stay home. But if we go around nitpicking the shit out of everything, well…..That would suck.

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    wsbob June 27, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    \”Too bad basic fairness doesn\’t make sense to you as an argument, but it\’s pretty clear that the exclusion of mountain bikes and the inclusion of equestrians is not about the text or about a reasonable interpretation of the Act, but about politics driven by the equestrian lobby.\” a.O.

    Well he doesn\’t say, but I figure a.O. must be referring to my comment. Fairness is important, but I don\’t think it\’s the only consideration called for to understand what the Wilderness Act is designed to provide. Section 2,c (1)of the Wilderness act establishes the point that seems to deserve consideration before the issue of fairness:

    \”…(1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man\’s work substantially unnoticeable;\”

    (see more in my comment #53)

    I\’ve got a feeling that a lot of people probably don\’t consider mountain bikes cruising up and down wilderness trails to be consistent with a sense of \’man\’s work being substantially unnoticeable. People that want to ride mountain bikes in designated wilderness areas probably don\’t appreciate that, but if they hope to find some way to have mountain bikes allowed in wilderness areas, it might be worth their while to understand this part of the Wilderness Act better, and possibly prove that mountain bikes are consistent with it.

    As far as horses are concerned, politics does probably have a something to do with their permission to be in designated wilderness areas (personally, I really don\’t know the extent that horses are allowed in wilderness…presently just going on what others have said.). It\’s the whole, western frontier, Teddy Roosevelt thing. Big money, big ranches, people used to living life in the west on horses, probably instrumental in helping establish national parks, established the tradition of taking a horse up into the wild country. Now, it\’s hard to get rid of that tradition just like it\’s hard to get rid of the tradition of open land grazing that has decimated the landscape in those places.

    Personally, I would not miss horses in the back country. I remember hiking the Timberline Trail around by the Sandy river. Years back, horses were allowed there. Gawd, those things stink. It\’s pathetic to have to put up with that when you know the people riding are perfectly capable of walking. On somewhat of a flip side, when I hiked in the Olympic National Forest, maintenance crews used mule teams to pack in gear. I kind of like that idea.

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    a.0 June 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Please just give it a rest, wsbob. It\’s become abundantly clear after this many posts that you have little understanding of the actual situation being addressed here. The statement \”politics does probably have a something to do with [authorization of equestrians] in … wilderness areas.\” aptly demonstrates your mastery of the obvious.

    As others have pointed out, this seems to be your MO: Re-state the blindingly obvious, then engage in vapid vacillation until others become uninterested.

    Fact: The current federal regulations exclude mountain bikes and include equestrians in wilderness.

    Fact: The goal of the wilderness designation is to minimize the impact of human activity and allow for recreation to the extent compatible with temporary human use.

    Fact: Equestrians have substantially greater impact than mountain bikers.

    End of story. The conclusion is equally obvious.

    Before you use your google-level knowledge of federal land law – without any understanding of the substance behind its implementation – please (seriously, please!) go get some education on the history of federal lands, delegation of lawmaking authority to federal agencies, the Wilderness Act, federalism, the contemporary political forces at work in setting federal land use policy, and perhaps how not to tell everybody what everyone else already knows.

    Unless I have been unclear so far, let me state it in so many words: You have no idea what you are talking about.

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    fly on the wall June 27, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    One last thing. Folks here keep talking about riding bikes in wilderness and that is not what the article is about. It is about legislation that proposes new wilderness and if passed will revoke the historical bicycle use on these trails.

    Bicycles are not the problem in these areas there is virtually 0 user conflict. As was pointed out above many trails get little use because they are hard steep or technical however some riders live for this type of riding and it is getting harder and harder to find.

    Experience has show any area that gets designated as wilderness actually gets increased use even though it becomes much harder to manage and maintain for recreational use. Look at the Steens for an example of this.

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    Roger W. Louton August 28, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Forest Service retirees question wilderness expansion plan
    August 27, 2008
    By RAELYNN RICARTE
    Hood River News staff writer
    August 27 , 2008
    Two former high-ranking officials from the U.S. Forest Service contend that expanding Wilderness areas on Mount Hood will create numerous management challenges.
    Linda Goodman and George Leonard believe that retirement has afforded them the opportunity to speak freely and so they can represent the views of many employees with the federal agency.
    Goodman was the Region 6 Regional Forester until this spring and supervised activities in 17 national forests — more than 25 million acres — in Oregon and Washington. Leonard served as associate chief for the federal agency until 1993 and is the current president of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees.
    Both administrators have many concerns about the latest Wilderness bill, known as Oregon Treasures. That proposal by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., seeks to add 132,000 acres of Wilderness to the existing 186,200 acres. The legislation is awaiting review by the House when Congress reconvenes in September. A similar plan — calling for 127,000 more acres of Wilderness — has been stalled in the Senate since 2007.
    Goodman said 4.5 million people visit Mount Hood each year because of its proximity to the Portland metro area. She said a visitor study undertaken by the forest service within the last several years revealed that 67,000 people each year came to the mountain solely for the Wilderness experience.
    The remainder of respondents pursued other recreational interests, such as skiing, mountain biking and camping in developed sites, some of which would be eliminated under Oregon Treasures.
    “I think this proposal could be doing an economic disservice to the public and communities around the mountain,” said Goodman.
    She said it would be more appropriate for Congress to impose a National Recreation Area designation rather than Wilderness.
    She said NRAs provide protection for natural resources but leave camp sites open, accommodate mountain biking, which is prohibited in Wilderness, and allow greater efficiency in maintaining hiking trails. She said chain saws could still be used to clear away trees that fall across pathways. Mechanized equipment is prohibited in Wilderness so cross-cut saws are used to clean up trails.
    Goodman said the task of sawing up a downed tree then becomes so laborious that Forest Service employees can’t keep up with the workload. She said there are not enough volunteers to make up for the lack of manpower.
    “They don’t have enough funding to maintain the Wilderness they have right now, and this plan will be a real problem for employees,” said Goodman.
    She believes the purpose of the 1964 Wilderness Act would not be met by scattering more “small narrow corridors” across the slopes of the mountain. She said the existing Mount Hood Wilderness, at 47,160 acres, and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, 44,600 acres, are large enough to serve as a pristine getaway for hikers. If Congress decides to mandate more Wilderness, Goodman said, it should be attached to the larger locations that are already in existence.
    “We all believe in Wilderness but the little spurs in Oregon Treasures don’t meet the intent of the Act to provide solitude,” said Goodman, whose career with the Forest Service spanned 34 years.
    Leonard expects Hood River County to face challenges if the bill is approved. He said having the newly expanded Wilderness abut a section of the county’s managed forest near Post Canyon creates the potential for more wildfires.
    He said insect-riddled and diseased trees are more at risk during lightening strikes. He said while infested trees can be treated within the national forest, they must be left alone in the Wilderness.
    “If I had land that was immediately adjacent to an area classified as Wilderness I’d be pretty concerned,” said Leonard.
    “I would expect to have my ability to suppress problems significantly reduced.”
    Goodman said even if an exception is made and mechanized equipment is allowed into the Wilderness to combat a fire, there might not be a way to reach the blaze. She said the primitive roadways once used for timber harvest cannot be maintained and some are obliterated altogether.
    “Putting equipment in there means that you have to be able to get there; and without a road nearby, you can’t do that,” said Goodman.
    She said fires are considered a “natural phenomenon” in a Wilderness area and managed with a lighter touch unless they threaten public safety. She said these fires can burn “explosively” because of the dead and dying trees so they are harder to contain once ignited — and more dangerous for firefighters to battle.
    John Marker, a retired forest service employee and upper valley orchardist, believes expanding Wilderness will threaten the most valuable resource on the mountain — its water supply.
    “Water is critical to our way of life and the engine for a substantial part of our local economy,” he said.
    He said a fire that burns hot enough in the Wilderness to sterilize topsoil creates the potential for erosion since nothing can grow there. He said even rains cannot penetrate the damaged earth and that is not acceptable when Mount Hood’s watersheds provide drinking water for more than one million people — and irrigation water for hundreds of local farms.
    “Once a fire gets started in a Wilderness area and starts moving, it will go where it wants to go,” said Marker.
    He supported development of a customized management plan for the “urban” mountain that was called for in a 2006 bill co-sponsored by Blumenauer and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. That plan would have established stringent rules for protecting resources, recreation and other uses.
    Marker, Goodman and Leonard agree that adding more Wilderness to Mount Hood could end up threatening not only resources but recreational opportunities.

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    wsbob August 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Roger, thanks for posting that article. Plenty of important points worth thinking about are raised in it. The objection I would offer to the point raised by George Leonard about insect infestation and diseased trees, is that areas should exist where this natural phenomena can take place. The presence of protecting private property next to them should not be of such paramount importance that wilderness areas can not be allowed to exist and evolve in a natural state.

    Also, concerning maintenance of wilderness area trails and the prohibition of chainsaws in those areas. I see no reason why a specific exception can\’t be made for limited use of chainsaws to clear trails of fallen logs.

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