11/30/2015 Update: Our intent with this post was to galvanize the mountain bike community into taking a proactive position on land management issues both within the Wasatch & the West. We are not anti-Save Our Canyons, simply very pro-bike. In retrospect, we should have contacted Save Our Canyons for their input before publishing, as this seems to have caused quite a stir within the community. It was never our intent to mislead or mis-inform, but instead promote dialogue and engagement on an issue that many are deeply passionate about.
Save Our Canyons has reached out to ensure us that their proposal no longer includes the Wasatch Crest Trail. Furthermore, they are moving forward with a proposal for a Wasatch National Monument designation that does include some Wilderness areas, the exact boundaries of which we are still unclear on. It is critical that we not only consider continued access to current trails, but also the impact any designations would have on future trail-building efforts. Additionally the bike community must stay engaged throughout the Wasatch National Monument & Mountain Accord processes, as this is very much in the beginning stages and if history is any indicator, proposals often changes with access lost overnight.
Thank you for your interest and continued participation on the matter.
Why are Utah conservationists drafting a plan to keep bikes out of parts of the Wasatch?
Save Our Canyons is currently in the process of drafting a plan to present before Congress that would seek Wilderness designation areas of the Wasatch effectively banning bikes on such lands. According to the Wilderness Act which was signed into law in 1964, bikes fall under the definition of “mechanized transportation” and therefore are prohibited from Wilderness lands (although it’s important to note that not until 1984 was the scope of the prohibition redefined from motorized to mechanized transport). While the exact perimeter or boundary the proposal would seek for designation is unclear, it’s likely that trails such as the Wasatch Crest or Mill D would be included. The loss of either trail would be a tremendous hit to the bike community, as the Wasatch Crest is repeatedly rated as one of the best rides in Utah, if not the country.
The Save Our Canyons proposal is in effort to combat One Wasatch, an initiative to connect all of the Wasatch area ski resorts. While we’re not necessarily proponents of One Wasatch, we are most definitely against any efforts that would put in place sweeping restrictions on bikes in the Wasatch. We’ve expressed our frustrations with the Wilderness Act before, and this is yet another example of how the poorly defined and managed legislation divides conservation efforts by pitting user groups against one another. Whether you’re a hiker, mountain biker, equestrian, or backcountry skier, we ultimately share the same end-goal of preserving land from development and for recreation.
Earlier this year, many Idahoan’s lost their beloved backyard trails due to similar Wilderness legislation. Should the proposed Wilderness legislation go to congress, mountain bikers would be forced into the corner of opposing conservation efforts in order to maintain continued trail access, pitting mountain bikers against backcountry skiers and conservationists. As the west continues to rapidly develop, our public lands are increasingly at risk, which is why it’s imperative that we work to ensure our voice is heard both as conservationists and mountain bikers before it’s too late.
What You Can Do:
1. Contact Save Our Canyons. Ask that they not pursue Wilderness designation from congress and instead seek National Monument Status for the land in question.
2. Donate to the Sustainable Trails Coalition who have retained a government affairs group to fight the blanket ban on bikes in Wilderness areas.