Saturday, August 20, 2016

Responding to John Fisch’s “Responses to 5 Arguments against The Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act"

You would have though John Fisch would have stopped when I schooled him on his “Responses to the 10 Most Common arguments against allowing mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas.” His article is here, and my response is here.

But now John has come up with 5 more Arguments supporting the Sustainable Trails Coalition’s Bill, the Human Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act. And again I will respond and show that John Fisch’s article is totally ridiculous.

1. We Shouldn’t Amend the Wilderness Act
You got that right, we really shouldn’t amend the Wilderness Act. You ever hear the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, our Wilderness Preservation System is not broke. Now there are 765 Wilderness Areas comprising 110 million acres. And the goal of preservation is being accomplished. And, unlike John Fisch would like you to believe, bicycles have always been banned in Wilderness Areas. The 1964 Act says “no other form of mechanical transport” which totally bans bicycles, period. All the 1984 regulation did was to clarify the original law. It was nothing new.

Orrin Hatch Environmental Score in 2015 is 0%

2. The New Legislation is Sponsored by Senators with Poor Records on the Environment.
Again, John got that exactly right. Both Lee and Hatch have absolutely terrible records on the Environment. And comparing them to Simpson and Risch is ridiculous. Again, Senators Lee And Hatch want to sell off Federal Lands. Mike Simpson is against selling off Public Land, and Risch hasn’t made a strong statement on the issue.

So, since Lee and Hatch want to sell off Federal Lands, I’ve asked John Fisch to name his favorite mountain biking trail on Federal land. I also asked Ted Stroll and Vernon Felton to name their favorite mountain biking trail on Federal land. Since these guys support Lee and Hatch so much, I thought we’d start making a list of lands for the Senators to sell off. But, Fisch, Stroll and Felton have never responded, so it sounds like they don’t want their favorite mountain biking trail to be sold. And since Big Oil is one of the Top 5 Contributors to Senators Lee and Hatch, perhaps they would be interested in the land.

I think it’s a telling sign when people start changing their minds on an issue. In June, Gunnar Waldman wrote an article supporting STC’s Bill which includes mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas for Teton Gravity Research. In July, once Gunnar found out who was sponsoring the Bill, he immediately wrote an article against the Bill. He points out that Hatch has said "I wouldn't want to see homosexuals teaching school anymore than I'd want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school” and Senator Lee was “The ONLY guy against sending aid to Flint, Michigan.” Gunnar also wrote “You’d be hard pressed to find senators MORE repugnant to me that those two.”

3 The Legislation is Too Aggressive.
John writes “The key complaint here is the verbiage in the bill, which give the USFS two years to assess their trails…” Yes, that would be a key complaint. In order to allow mountain biking in a specific Wilderness Area, an Environmental Impact Statement would have to be done for NEPA. And as I wrote in my previous blog:

“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, allowing mountain biking in Forest Service Wilderness Areas is not going to be as easy as a flick of a pen as John Fisch is suggesting. Plus, John failed to mention that there would be three other Federal Agencies involved. Besides the Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management all manage Wilderness Areas. All of these agencies are going to have land managers spending their time dealing with this legislation. In other words, they will not have as much time to be working on trails or training trail volunteers. So, our Nation’s Trail System will be much worse because of STC’s Bill.

4. This Legislation Antagonizes Fellow Environmentalists
John actually got the heading wrong. The heading should read “This Legislation Antagonizes Environmentalists.” If you are supporting STC’s Bill, you are not an Environmentalist, therefore, you have no “Fellow Environmentalists.” Again, I only have to refer you to Point 2 of this article, which shows that the Senators sponsoring this Bill are very Anti-Environment. John Fisch and the Sustainable Trails Coalition are in bed with people that want to sell off our precious public lands for extraction and development. Nobody should ever be calling people supporting this Bill “Environmentalists.”

The Wildlife News article about 116 Conservation groups sending a letter to every Member of Congress

John goes on to quote Ashley Korenblat and tries to pick apart her statement line by line.  But since John quoted Ashley, I decided I would quote one of John’s fellow Sustainable Trails Coalition Board Members, Jackson Radcliffe. Outside Online published an Article on July 16, 2016 called “Congressmen Introduce Bill to Allow Mountain Bikers in Wilderness Areas.” In the comments of the Article, Jackson Radcliffe writes
“However, some rural regions may like to have more tourism and allowing bikes to use the same trails that equestrians can use, may generate more tourism visitors and help their local economies. There are a number of areas that would love to see the growth that Downieville and Fruita have enjoyed."

The Outside Online article that Jackson Radcliffe commented on.

I replied to Jackson with the following
“And I'm laughing when you use Fruita as an example of a town that has enjoyed a boom in mountain biking. Well, Jackson, did you know that the 75000 acre Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness is right outside of Fruita? Yes, there is a Wilderness Area that doesn't allow bicycles RIGHT NEXT to the Bicycling Boomtown you mentioned. Evidently, there are other places nearby that mountain bikers can ride if Fruita is the envy of the Mountain Biking World. I think you are making my point for me.”

The fact is that mountain biking and Wilderness Areas can coexist right next to each other. There is no reason to allow Mountain Biking in Wilderness Areas when there are amble opportunities to mountain bike nearby.

5. Miscellaneous Lesser Arguments
John writes “Some are concerned about the “slippery slope,” that this may lead to motorized vehicles or other things we all agree are not Wilderness-like.” Well, yes, it may lead to other things into the Wilderness. First of all, the bill changes the definition of what is a “small hand-held appliance.” Previously, small hand-held appliances were devices such as electric razors and transistor radios. Now, STC wants Chainsaws to be considered a small hand-held device. And if Chainsaws are considered small hand held devices, who knows what other devices will also be included.

But to give John credit, he does say he holds a reservation about allowing chainsaws in Wilderness Areas. Well, John, that reservation should be enough for you to drop support of this Bill. Chainsaws are loud. They can be heard for over a mile. Chainsaws can be as loud as 120 decibels. They are not in the same classification as an electric razor that can be heard from no more than 1/8 of a mile.

A photo of volunteers using a crosscut saw from a Border Route Trail Trail Maintenance Outing that I participated in.

If the Sustainable Trails Coalition really wanted to improve the condition of trails in Wilderness Areas then they should be taking a different approach. They should be using the $130,000 that they have collected for promoting and having training sessions to teach people to be crosscut sawyers. Using crosscut saws is labor intensive, but it also is very quiet compared to using chainsaws. Also, crosscut saws are easier to carry into Wilderness Areas and don’t required gas. And if you’ve ever hiked gas into anyplace, you know it’s nasty

STC's Bill Heading

And if you read the Bill, the first thing it says is “To allow local Federal officials to determine the manner in which nonmotorized uses may be permitted in wilderness areas, …” So, Having chainsaws included in this Bill even goes against the stated purpose of the Bill.

If we want to remain true to the vision of the writers of the Wilderness Act, then excluding mountain bikes and chainsaws is the way to do it. The Wilderness Act says “no mechanical transport” which excludes mountain bikes, and “no motorized equipment” which excludes chainsaws. The Wilderness Act has been a rousing success so far, and there is no compelling reason to change it.