But if you take a close look at Boulders/White Cloud, I'd say Mountain Biking did well. First of all, the Bowery Loop, which looks like a carrot, both north and south of the loop are now protected Wilderness. That means that the views and the wilderness quality of that loop, which is about 30 miles long, are forever protected. Secondly, the lawmakers cut 23,000 acres from the Wilderness so the 4th of July Trail could be out of the Wilderness. That allows for the whole loop with the Washington Basin Trail continue to have mountain biking.
|The Bowery Loop remains out of the Wilderness as well as the 4th of July Trail|
All told, mountain bikers have lost access to 295,000 acres because of Boulders/White Clouds. So how many miles of trail did they lose access to? Well, I asked that question in an email to the Sawtooth National Forest. Julie Thomas, Public Information Officer wrote me back. She writes:
“Warm Springs Creek/ Antz Basin and Castle Divide were the only trails that received a lot of mountain bike use in recent years, prior to designation within the White Clouds and Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness areas. Chamberlain Creek was getting some use as an alternate route on the Hot Springs Tour Map. These areas are also very popular with hikers and horse users.”
Here is the list of the mileages
Ants Basin, 3 miles/1.9 now in wilderness
Warm Springs Creek, 20.7 miles
Livingston Mill-Castle Divide, 9 miles inside wilderness
Chamberlain Creek, 7 miles
Also according to Julie Thomas:
“All other trails in the new wildernesses were open to bicycle use but most received very little if any bike use.”
So, basically, mountain bikers are complaining about losing about 40 miles of trail. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great loss. But, the rest of the trails in the 295,000 acres mountain bikers didn’t even use. Perhaps that’s because there are 100s of miles of other mountain biking trails already in the Sun Valley, Idaho area.
Every time a Wilderness Area is designated there are groups that are affected. Back when the Boundary Waters was protected as a Wilderness, logging businesses said it would really hurt them. But in reality, there are plenty of places for logging in the Superior National Forest outside of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. I did a hike up near the Boundary Waters in October, and I saw plenty of Logging Trucks hauling logs. Likewise, there are still hundreds of miles of trail in the Sun Valley, Idaho area for mountain bikers to enjoy.
And now, thanks to the Boulders/White Clouds, 155,000 acres will potentially be opened to multi-use, so more trails can be built. That’s right, the big news is that 4 Wilderness Study Areas will no longer be WSAs. According to Julie Thomas:
“The legislation released Wilderness Study Areas from the BLM but all recommended wilderness on Forest Service lands remain in place until future Forest Plan revision.”
That's a total of 155,000 acres that mountain biking can potentially thrive on. You would be better off sending money to build new trails in those areas than sending money to STC.
You also have to remember that Mountain Bikers were not shut out of the process. Mountain Bikers knew that Boulder/White Cloud could have become a National Monument. It was known that mountain bikers should contact their members of Congress in support of the National Monument designation. So, mountain bikers had input on this, but in the end because of a Republican tactic, it became a Wilderness Area. The Republicans didn't want Obama to get credit for designating a National Monument. So, basically, the Republicans are playing games with our wild areas. Remember that these are the same Republican members of Congress that Ted Stoll and the Sustainable Trails Coalition want to sponsor their bill.
Plus the National Monument designation is not as permanent as a Wilderness designation. If you go to google and search for “former National Monuments” you will find a list of almost 60 areas that used to be National Monuments. If you search for “former Wilderness Areas” you won’t find a list.
|A list of around 60 former National Monuments appears on Wikipedia|
Meanwhile, Wilderness areas are only 2.5% of the Land Area in the Lower 48 States, and even Ted Stroll says that it will only ever be 3% of the land area. There are not that many areas left that qualify for being a Wilderness Area. Meanwhile, according to the Outdoor Foundation, only 3% of the population goes mountain biking.
Also, while STC is promoting mountain biking out in the middle of nowhere they are ignoring mountain biking where it is really needed. Again, take a look at the statistics from the Outdoor Foundation. Skateboarding is kicking mountain biking's ass in the youth 6 to 17 age group. 3.7% of youth participate in Mountain Biking and 6.9% participate in Skateboarding. And why is skateboarding doing so well against mountain biking? It's because there is a skateboard park in almost every little town of 10,000 people. That's what mountain biking needs to do to get youth interested in the sport. Sure, Mountain Biking needs more land than a Skateboarding Park, but Skateboarding Parks need massive amounts of concrete so they are expensive to build.
One of the things that the Sustainable Trails Coalition is pushing for is to have local land managers decide if mountain biking will be allowed in each of the Wilderness Areas. Having local land managers decide is an Administrative Nightmare and Financial Boongdoogle. Each one of the 765 Wilderness Areas would have to go through an Environmental Review if they were to allow mountain bikes. I sent an email to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schoyer, the Forest Ranger who manages the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. I asked her how much would a typical Environmental Review for a Wilderness Area would cost. She wrote back to me:
“I can tell you that an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) can cost tens of thousands of dollars and several years to complete currently and they are often completed by 3rd party contractors, under Forest Service specialist review, because we do not have the staffing to complete the work in a timely manner.”
So, let’s do the math on that. There are 765 Wilderness Areas and if each of them cost on average $10,000 to complete the Environmental Review, well that’s 7.65 million dollars. And even after all that money is spent, there is no guarantee that mountain biking will be allowed in a Wilderness Area. Many Wilderness Areas like Maroon Bells/Snowmass are already overused by hikers and horseback riders. Adding mountain bikers would not be an option.
Ted Stroll is hoping one of the Republican Congressmen will take up his cause. But I come from a state where the Republican Legislature and Governor let a Mining Company write an environmental law. The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club are not going to want the Wilderness Act to be opened up now after stuff like that has been happening. And those two organizations have more clout in Washington than any other organization other than the NRA. I contend that the only member of Congress that will sponsor Ted's bill is one that is in the pocket of Logging, Mining or Oil. So, when you finally get to ride your bike in the Wilderness, you will be riding next to clear-cut areas, open pit mines and oil rigs
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