Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

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Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby Wildhorse » Sat Aug 20, 2016 5:47 pm

A bill is moving through Congress that would allow mountain biking in the federal wilderness including the San Jacinto Wilderness. As of now, this is illegal under the Wilderness Act. This has been reported by numerous sources over the last couple of years. NYT ran a story about it a couple of days ago.

The proposed law is opposed by organizations that support conservation (e.g., Sierra Club), but also by IMBA (the mountain biking association) because these groups believe it will be detrimental to the wilderness and legally undermine its protections under the Wilderness Act. The NYT also suggests that the law's sponsors may have other intentions that would be served by this modification of the Wilderness Act. I hope to find out more about that. It is hard for me to fathom support for this law. It would increase the human impact on remote areas. Many of us, perhaps most of us, who do enjoy mountain biking don't believe it has a place in federal wilderness.

The NYT article also mentions that the proliferation of wilderness designations below alpine elevations may be resulting in more resistance from entities that have economic interests that do not benefit from wilderness designations.

I think we need to watch this like hawks, and to write to members of Congress letting them know that we oppose this legislation. This is not about disliking sharing trails with mountain bikes when we are on foot. This is about protecting the very things we go into wilderness to know through experience and about protecting the remnants of wilderness from which we all ultimately came and that is the fountain of life itself.

Linke to NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/us/bi ... .html?_r=0
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby pkirkham » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:03 pm

Mr or Mrs Wildhorse.
I am an avid hiker, trail runner, mountaineer and mountain biker. Unfortunately, your reaction to this proposal of allowing mountain biking in certain wilderness areas, is a typical knee jerk reaction that has been multiplied and replicated in numerous forums. Why should you be allowed to recreate in a certain area when other types of trail users, such as mountain bikers, are banned? What makes you so special? If someone told you only runners and mountain bikers could use wilderness trails and hikers and equestrians were banned, what would you think then? They can't discriminate against me, I'm a hiker!! Most Wilderness trails, such as those in the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Wilderness', are very rugged trails that are steep and are usually not very well suited to riding. The idea of opening up Wilderness trails to mountain bikers is to allow access to cyclists where that usage would be compatible with the terrain and other trail users. Lastly, you should do some research into the original intent of the Wilderness bill. The idea was to exclude 'motorized' transport (meaning autos, graders etc.), not bicycles, from Wilderness areas. Subsequent amendments, with pressure from the Sierra Club and the USFS, amended the bill to specifically exclude bicycles.
Cheers,
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby SoCalJim » Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:14 pm

Well, Pete, I did not have the same reaction to Wildhorse's post that you did. As someone who is also an avid all-of-the-above, I did not find Wildhorse's message to be of the knee jerk reaction type; I felt it was well-reasoned. And I share his concern. As someone who resents the intrusion of the modern world when I'm in the backcountry (such as military jets flying near and low over wilderness areas, and yeah, I know, "It's the sound of freedom"), I cherish the diminishing parts of the world where we can still get a taste of wildness. Wilderness areas are a fairly small segment of public lands; is it necessary to allow bikes access to them when there are so many places to ride? Imagine backpacking a wilderness trail and having a bike come around a corner toward you at high speed because the rider (and you) weren't really expecting to run into anyone else. And I think it's significant that the IMBA is opposed. I don't hear a firestorm of complaints from the biking world about not being allowed to ride in wilderness areas. It'd be nice to keep them as wild as possible, especially considering how much of the planet we're currently polluting and destroying such as the vanishing rainforests of Brazil.

By the way, the "original intent of the wilderness act"... The Wilderness Act was signed in 1964. People started making mountain bikes in the late 70's.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby phydeux » Sun Aug 21, 2016 1:16 pm

pkirkham wrote:Mr or Mrs Wildhorse.
I am an avid hiker, trail runner, mountaineer and mountain biker. Unfortunately, your reaction to this proposal of allowing mountain biking in certain wilderness areas, is a typical knee jerk reaction that has been multiplied and replicated in numerous forums. Why should you be allowed to recreate in a certain area when other types of trail users, such as mountain bikers, are banned? What makes you so special? If someone told you only runners and mountain bikers could use wilderness trails and hikers and equestrians were banned, what would you think then? They can't discriminate against me, I'm a hiker!! Most Wilderness trails, such as those in the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Wilderness', are very rugged trails that are steep and are usually not very well suited to riding. The idea of opening up Wilderness trails to mountain bikers is to allow access to cyclists where that usage would be compatible with the terrain and other trail users. Lastly, you should do some research into the original intent of the Wilderness bill. The idea was to exclude 'motorized' transport (meaning autos, graders etc.), not bicycles, from Wilderness areas. Subsequent amendments, with pressure from the Sierra Club and the USFS, amended the bill to specifically exclude bicycles.
Cheers,
Pete Kirkham


Methinks you really didn't do any research, but got your info from a special interest group who skewed your thinking, because there are separate regs/laws for motorized items and wheeled items, and plenty of info on how those were developed. You can look it up on the web by typing in the code section 36USC261, finding the law, and it'll give you the link (at the bottom of section 261) to the Federal Register listings where the laws were first published; these also include the pros/cons, and public input (good luck reading it all!):

Possessing or using a motor or motorized equipment except small battery-powered handheld devices, such as cameras, shavers, flashlights, and Geiger counters. 36 CFR 261.16(a)
14.Possessing or using any wheeled mechanical device including, but not limited to, bicycles, wagons, or carts. 36 CFR 261.57(h) Use of wheelchairs by physically challenged persons is permitted.

Besides, there's plenty of land out there for MTBrs. The wilderness areas are just a small portion of the public lands in Southern California; lets keep those areas free from MTBs so those of us who like to hike don't have to worry about MTBrs suddenly coming at them on a sloped trail. Your comment about MTBrs staying off steep, rocky trails in (current) wilderness areas - you're really naïve enough to believe that'll happen? Lets face it, they're going to go to the summit regardless of the trails difficulty. MTBrs already can't obey the regs. The best example I can think of where MTBrs illegally use prohibited trail is the Pacific Crest Trail in/around Big Bear - MTBrs are notorious for using it, even though signs at all the fire road junctions prohibit bicycles on it. I was hiking with a few others up a portion of the PCT to Gold Mountain and two MTBs came out of nowhere going downhill fast. Lucky we were able to step out of the way quickly, but those guys went off the side into the brush (and cursed us for being the problem!).

Nope, keep those few wilderness areas we have as bicycle-free areas. You're always allowed to hike on them too. I'm out of the hiking game now due to some medical issues, but I still wouldn't support this legislation. And remember, even if this were to pass it would not effect the areas immediately around the Mt San J Peak - that a STATE wilderness area that would STILL prohibit bicycles!
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby OtherHand » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:06 pm

As someone who has mountain biked since the early 1980s, back when MTBs were called "klunkers", it was still legal to ride the PCT and hikers waved at you 'cause seeing a bike in the backcountry was cool, there is no way I'd support opening up wilderness areas to MTBs. Like any other user group, there is always a small percentage of MTBers that are asshats. The problem is that the total MTB user group is so large the number of MTB asshats is also numerically large. Even if only 5% of riders are morons, 5% of a very big number is cause for concern.

So I'm good with keeping all MTBs out of wilderness areas if it keeps out the destructive ones. Is it fair? Of course not. The majority always suffers due to inappropriate behavior of a minority. Welcome to modern life.

And as to the San Jac trails being too difficult for MTBs, I must ask just how competent a rider are you to make such an assessment? Most of the trails I have hiked on here, while technical, are mostly rideable. Many times while hiking I've looked lustfully at certain stretches, like up to San Jac peak, and thought how fun that would be on a bike. And I'm not an especially technical rider.

Now I am also all for banning stock from wilderness areas also. If I'm not permitted to stop and take a dump in the middle of a trail, your 1,000 pound horse shouldn't be allowed to either. But it's one of those "It's always been this way" sort of things.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby Myth » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:36 pm

Ah yes, horse pee on trails :? I can kinda deal with the patties, but the pee smell really gets to me for some reason. Some of my favorite trails are horse highways also because they have pack stations at the trailhead. I'm sure there are some fine backcountry horsemen/women out there but the ones I dealt with to date were all asshats, angrily ordering hikers off the trail, glowering at us for daring to be in the wilderness and on the same trail with them. Yes, really! Once a couple of women insisted we get off trail even though the trail was basically a two-foot ledge on a cliff. I really didn't feel like jumping off a cliff for their horses, sorry. Of course I didn't feel like getting kicked by a stupid horse either but at least that was a maybe and the cliff was a certainty.

Speaking of wilderness, the trail I hike most often is really not what I'd consider the wild frontier, being in the Golden Trout Wilderness which attracts plenty of fishermen, but it is typically packed with wannabes who are slung all about with bandoliers and who watchfully carry a long gun across the saddle and another in a fancy leather holster close at hand - the works. They're being all brave, riding in front and behind of the wimmin-folk and the pack horses laden with survival supplies, and then they come across this middle-aged woman in trail runners, shorts and a baggy sun-shirt, ambling along ten miles in, all by herself, with a 15-pound backpack. Oh, how they glower! I try to camp on the other side of the lake from them so they can at least feel a little braver.

Anyway, MTBs. I enjoy riding on designated trails or multi-use trails. There are plenty of those where I'm at. A good forest service road is fine, too. But no, I don't want MTBs on hiking trails, and I don't want to ride on hiking trails either. The speed differential is too likely to cause accidents. I'm out there to enjoy nature and a change of pace, not to maim or be maimed. A hiking trail is often too narrow for evasive action. Forest service roads on the other hand, are more than wide enough.

Some of the multi-use trails in this area are all but unusable now, being gouged out and damaged by bikes. Hikers also cause erosion, but not as quickly.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby halhiker » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:58 pm

This bill is just a guise to open wilderness to other users starting with mountain bikers but who knows where it will go from there? The reason wilderness is not open to bikes has more to do with preservation of the land than being averse to a certain mode of transportation. The land stays as wild and pure as possible, while allowing people access, by making it difficult to get there. If a place that takes a two or three day hike were open to bikes that could get there and back in a day, the area would soon be overrun and trashed like a lot of the front country where access is easy. Wilderness is a very small portion of landscape in the Continental US, around 2%. Can't people be content to ride the bikes on the other 98%?

Wilderness is land that's set aside for preservation and as an area to escape, with an opportunity for solitude. But even without mountain bikes such opportunities are rare. We have some areas that see so much use that permits are awarded through lottery. Granting more and easier access defeats the very purpose of wilderness. It makes it tame. I'd like my wilderness to remain wild, thank you.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby cynthia23 » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:07 pm

I'm with Wildhorse and the other posters on this. Citizens do not have some inherent God-Given All-American 'right' to recreate themselves in federal lands in whatever fashion they choose. Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. There are plenty of people who derive great personal enjoyment from setting fires in the woods; are we going to allow arsonists to recreate themselves in the wilderness in their preferred manner? When a mode of recreation has some negative safety and environmental impacts, the govt has every right to control or limit it. I support my mountain biking friends, but there are places they do not belong.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:47 am

As the acreage of lands protected by the Wilderness Act has grown, mountain biking trails on that acreage have been lost. In at least one case in Montana, an infrequently used, but iconic trail was lost. I imagine many of us sympathize with the feelings of those to whom these losses have mattered.

IMBA has worked with conservationists and government agencies to find ways to preserve mountain biking trails in areas where wilderness protections have grown. In Montana, it appears that IMBA made such a deal and then was double crossed. The politics, which included maneuvers by politicians and political groups who don't care about wilderness at all, sound quite ugly to me. If the compromise reached by IMBA and the conservationists had been supported by the politicians, it seems that the land would have been protected and mountain biking could have continued.

I think it is a tragedy that this rift has opened between some mountain bikers and other mountain bikers and conservationists. Conservation requires broad political support to be effective.

While I sympathize with the frustrations that have led to the creation of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) and its push to open up all of wilderness to mountain bikes, I think that IMBA's approach is more effective in the long run at preserving and enhancing mountain bike trails as well as wilderness. In my view, IMBA has been a success for all of us. The bill sponsored by Hatch and Lee of Utah is awful.

This article, written by someone with somewhat different concerns than my own, seems to do a good job of summarizing what has happened here from the perspective of people who have enjoyed biking on trails where they can no longer ride. https://www.mountainonline.com/the-prob ... ilderness/
Last edited by Wildhorse on Mon Aug 22, 2016 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mountain Biking in the San Jacinto Wilderness?

Postby Ed » Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:52 am

Myth wrote:.. but it is typically packed with wannabes who are slung all about with bandoliers and who watchfully carry a long gun across the saddle and another in a fancy leather holster close at hand - the works. They're being all brave, riding in front and behind of the wimmin-folk and the pack horses laden with survival supplies, and then they come across this middle-aged woman in trail runners, shorts and a baggy sun-shirt, ambling along ten miles in, all by herself, with a 15-pound backpack. Oh, how they glower!


This description cracked me up! I've had a few similar experiences, not as rich and colorful. Sometimes they don't glower, they smile and wave, which is nearly as irritating. One involved a convoy of vehicles driving through the only water we had on a two-day desert backpack, turning it into a mud slurry as they gaily greeted us.

I'm afraid I am an extremist on mountain biking, I simply can't enjoy hiking down a trail knowing there are bikers behind me who are coming down. I've had to throw myself to the side of the trail more than once.

Interesting this came from Utah. You would think they would have plenty of space outside Wilderness Areas. I read once that some places in Utah managed this problem by having biking and non-biking days.

Thanks and keep us up to date on this, Wildhorse.
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