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Beth  Puliti

Montana Forest: Mountain Biking Ruins Solitude

By April 13, 2010

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Trail access will be cut from 170 miles to just 20 miles in Montana's Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn wilderness study area (WSA). The restrictions, which may set the stage for similar challenges in Montana and throughout the US, stem from a lawsuit.

The Gallatin National Forest office oversees the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn WSA and has appealed the ruling. However, the appeals process can take 6 months to 2 years. Starting May 1, an interim strategy--which closes the Gallatin Crest and other high-country trails to bicycling--will be implemented.

International Mountain Bicycling Association's executive director, Mike Van Abel, said in a press release, "We joined the legal proceedings and provided written testimony asserting that mountain biking does not compromise a landscape's wilderness attributes, and that bicycling is not equivalent to motorized recreation. Unfortunately the judge did not follow our guidance, which puts mountain bike access in a very precarious place."

The judge's decision was not based on environmental impact, but rather the opportunity for solitude.

The release quoted Marna Daley, public affairs officer for the Gallatin National Forest telling the Billings Gazette, "By moving use from the core area to the perimeter, the forest has increased the opportunity for solitude in the WSA."

Share your thoughts. Do mountain bikers disrupt other trail users' experiences? Or do you think trail conflicts are exaggerated?

April 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm
(1) STG says:

I am so pleased with this ruling! I have had my dogs hit by mountain bikers; I have seen off trail vegetation damage by mountain bikers in the Gallatin National Forest. I have had altercations with the “go for it crowd” because I was almost hit on a trail. Many mountain bikers think trails are their single tracks for high speed downhill regardless of safety issues (e.g., blind corners) and respect for other users(unwilling to give hikers and horesman the right off way). Mountain bikes do not belong in Wilderness Study Areas period.

April 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm
(2) Tom says:

At times I have to agree with the previous writer. We, mtb bikers, can be rather gregarious and more than abit unthinking. Can we ‘clean it up’ ? Sure we can. But it is going to take self policing and showing abit more responsibility. MTB ONLY areas are there. But shared areas need to be respected. Thanks.

April 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm
(3) Todd says:

What if the Forest Service banned dogs because they are a potential danger to mountain bikers or other hikers? Or because they urinate and defecate all over the place? And what about people who are afraid of dogs – isn’t their peace of mind shattered by the dog’s presence? One could easily say that dogs do not belong in a Wilderness Study Area. Period.

But don’t get me wrong. I actually like dogs, and I personally don’t have a problem with them – so long as they are non-aggressive or under their owner’s control. Nevertheless some people don’t realize that their own pursuits are potentially bothersome to others. And, like mountain bikers, I’d imagine that they probably don’t like being banned from a relatively benign activity that they enjoy.

That said, basic courtesy would go a long way in keeping trail passings smooth and trouble free. Just a little something to think about.

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