Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Zoie Koostra

Mountain bikers and policies look to balance wilderness and recreation


August 9, 2018

Pathfinder file photo

Mountain biker Jefe Branham rides down the backside of Richmond Ridge with the Swan Mountains as the backdrop.

When Rep. Greg Gianforte voted in committee in favor of HB 1349, a bill that would allow mountain biking in some wilderness areas, it drew a response from mountain bikers who supported the new bill as well as strong dissent from groups like the International Mountain Biking Association.

After hearing from mountain biking and conservation groups in Montana, Gianforte later backpedaled, saying he no longer supported the bill and would vote against it in the unlikely scenario it reached the House floor for a vote.

But while the fate of HB 1349 is in question, this brought a different issue in...

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Reader Comments(2)

mjvande writes:

Mountain bikers are one of the most powerful conservation groups out there: Nonsense! The only thing that mountain bikers are interested in conserving is their bicycle access. Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking.... A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions. Mountain bikers also love to build new trails - legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat - not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals' full use of their habitat. See for details. Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT? To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: . For more information: . The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

Anonymoose writes:

Once you add mountain dirt bikers to the fray, any idea of balance is gone for good. Kick the mountain bikers out, and then there is a real chance at balance in the discussion and planning.


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