Sen. Lee Reintroduces Bill to Allow Bikes in Wilderness


May 29, 2019 – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is trying again to weaken protection of the wilderness. He reintroduced legislation in May that would give local federal officials the ability to allow bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles in federally-designated wilderness areas. His S. 1695 would end the nationwide restriction. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It picked up no immediate cosponsors.
He introduced a bill with the same idea, called the Human-Powered Travel in  Wilderness  Areas Act last year but it got no cosponsors and the committee never acted on it. The bill would have applied to lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service
Lee also introduced legislation last year and this year that would restrict creation of expansion of national monuments in Utah. That bill is now pending before the same committee. Sen Mitt Romney (R-UT) has cosponsored it.

-Charles Pekow

Mountain biking could be allowed in federally designated wilderness areas if Sen. Mike Lee's 2019 bill is passed. Photo by Dave Iltis
Mountain biking could be allowed in federally designated wilderness areas if Sen. Mike Lee’s 2019 bill is passed. Photo by Dave Iltis

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  1. I love to mountain bike. I love to road bike. I love to gravel bike. I love to bike commute to work. I coach a high school mountain bike team and I love it. And I love to walk in wilderness areas and see no bikes. Bikes have no place in wilderness areas and shouldn’t be allowed in them.

    I also don’t trust the intentions of Senator Lee. Nothing that he says or has done so far is in the interest of the environment

  2. I generally agree – I like the idea of wilderness being wilderness. I would hate to see bikes (and I LOVE bikes) in places line Lone Peak Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness (in CO – near and dear to my heart), etc.

    On the flip side, when Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds wilderness was created in a place that historically allowed MTB’s for years and had an amazing network – suddenly gone. That isn’t right either.

    But yeah, I don’t trust Senator Lee much either.

  3. I have a hard time believing Mike Lee is a mountain biker. Correct me if I am wrong. This is just another attempt to weaken wilderness quality public lands in an effort to sell off the public lands to special interest private groups. A new angle to an old battle that the Utah GOP will not let die. I love mountain biking but if the intent is to create more trails then why not develop trails on BLM land or Forest Service land. Bikes don’t belong in the National Wilderness areas.

  4. Unless you plan to stop people and people on horses from these areas, why stop bikes. People and horses create trails.

    Bikes allow people to get out and enjoy the outdoor. Something we need to promote given today’s always online world.

    In fact, I’d argue electric bikes would allow people like my father that used to hike to still get outdoors now that he is older.

  5. This article starts out pretty biased: “is trying again to weaken protection of the wilderness” Allowing bikes into wilderness area again will not weaken them, but help them. Trails in wilderness areas need help since they do not get the volunteer work on them that trails that allow bikes do. We have lost lots of trails due to wilderness areas and “wilderness study areas” being created where there were trails open to bikes.

    Check out Sustainable Trails Coalition for more info about the history of how bikes were banned in wilderness areas.

  6. Sen Lee is following in the footsteps of Idaho’s Mike Crapo of Idaho in that both see the opportunity to divide the recreation/conservation community with this issue, because divided we fall. Indeed, you can be sure that Mike Lee not only doesn’t mt bike, he doesn’t care one iota about mountain bikers, he just cares about creating and exploiting every chink in the armor of that community.

    I too don’t like horses in wilderness areas and think they are far more damaging to trails (and meadows and watersheds) than mtb’s are, but that battle was fought over 50 years ago, but saying “horses chew up the trails so we should be allowed to chew them up too” is a red herring argument.

    The local Forest Service is already punting on the issue of e-bikes on forested trails (ie they don’t care) and it’s a slippery slope (so to speak) to allowing motos as well (“hey, they allow horses, so they should allow mountain bikes, so they should allow ebikes, so they should allow motos!”

    using the argument that more trail users = more trail lovers = more volunteer work is also a fallacy; the cottonwood canyons foundation gets lots of volunteers, and (I think….not quite sure on this one, tho I can confirm) that those volunteers are trail runners and hikers, not mtb-ers, even tho a trail like the Crest is an example of a trail that has gotten hammered by mtb-ers and needs the most love.

    and lastly, 28% of US land is BLM, and almost all of that is in the west. Forest land = 33%. By contrast, in the Lower 48 only 2.7% of land is designated as wilderness, Most of the wilderness trails are too high, rocky, and steep to be mtb-able anyway. Of course there are places like the Boulder/White Clouds and Wilderness Study areas that have been “taken away”, but most of the iconic mtb areas developed over the last dozen years have been in distinctly non-wildernesss areas like Fruita, Moab, Gooseberry/Goulds, Boulder City NV, within/adjacent to ski resorts, etc.

    We have lots of options to ride in besides Wilderness. don’t let our awful Senator divide us on an important issue.

  7. As a professional trail builder, I support having mountain bike access in wilderness areas. If we are going to restrict use in these areas, it should be for all users (including horses and hikers). Poor trail design leads to more environmental damage than any specific user.

  8. This reasonable legislation will be reintroduced every year until it passes. Why? Because there is no reason for a blanket ban on bicycling in 130 million acres of spectacular Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, unless all forms of non-motorized recreation is banned. Allowing conservationist who enjoy the bicycle will only strengthen the Wilderness Act and the lands designated now (and in the future) as Wilderness. You may not agree, but your under 30 year old off-spring aren’t terrified of bicycles and sharing public lands with those who ride them.


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