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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."
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