Here’s to the protection of nature - especially the wildlife.
What were they thinking??? Mountain biking and trail-building destroy wildlife habitat! Mountain biking is environmentally, socially, and medically destructive! There is no good reason to allow bicycles on any unpaved trail!
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: https://mjvande.info/mtb10.htm . 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 https://mjvande.info/scb7.htm ). 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 https://mjvande.info/scb9.htm 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: http://vimeo.com/48784297.
In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: https://mjvande.info/mtb_dangerous.htm .
For more information: https://mjvande.info/mtbfaq.htm .
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).
The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.
Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.
This discussion thread offers up some rather interesting points…and it stirs up emotions in me I had thought long resolved. Having been born in a remote, rural area with a very low population density, I suffered throughout my childhood (and still do) the steady, unrelenting loss of cherished and unique natural spaces. One plot of land after another was sold off, its trees removed, the once forest floor cleared of all underbrush and yet another sprawling “dream home” completed with its pointless lawn, topiary shrubbery, and protective deer fence. This shift accelerated at the beginning of the 1970s, when people desiring to get “closer to nature” flooded into Southern Oregon/Northern California drawn by the syren call of expansive wilderness, cheap land and low taxes: many counterculture refugees resorted to squatting discrete acreage and forming large communes (such as the community which became known as “Bedspring Acres” and resided in the woods less than a mile from my family’s property). The majority of these “immigrants” were from Central/Southern California, bringing with them not only an exponential population growth, but decidedly “urban” sensibilities…and it wasn’t long before the label of “Californian” was both insult and curse. The bitter irony observed by locals: their compelling desire to “return to nature” also directly resulted in their willful destruction of it.
In those earlier days thereabouts, there weren’t many amenities for one wishing to experience “nature,” as it was all around us, and ever accessible. It was rare to find a parking lot at a “trailhead” (let alone a marked trailhead), and us back-wood locals generally considered “parks” as places where the city-folk and tourists went, or where you might gather the family for a picnic. For us, remote wilderness was accessed via primitive logging roads cut through Forest Service land/private holdings, or better yet, by simply packing a rucksack and trudging off into the forest out your back door. National Parklands were viewed as something more akin to “natural theme parks:” not seen as “wild” per se, but rather, areas of special notoriety set aside during the creation of the National Park System, resplendent with developed, modernized campsites, groomed trail systems, and the need for patience; as one had to contend with hordes of people from various backgrounds, experience levels, interests and even…awareness. To a local-yocal, such people were “the foreigners,” seeming equal parts awkward and out of place with their crisp nylon windbreakers, boutique hiking boots, imported frame-packs…and were generally considered a nuisance.
Fast-forward to the present: these open, wild spaces I grew up within have become increasingly rare and isolate, with land access/usage strictly regulated. 35 years later I am living in a more developed world, as the overflow of people from city to suburb to urban has not only continued, but accelerated. I now find myself forced to use the very park system I once found so abhorrent, relegated to the very horde I used to avoid. I don’t really have much choice in Western Washington: there simply isn’t much “free range” left. Even Forest Service lands (supposed “public land” but in actuality just glorified monoculture tree farms) are often blocked from public use as Timber Corporations are granted exclusive access. Now, in order to “experience nature” as I grew to define it, I have to travel for hours through urban sprawl, pay to park in order to enter in through a trailhead, and then make my way in far enough so as to orienteer myself into the backcountry…“natural theme-park” indeed.
Realize that for me, a “wilderness” doesn’t have candy wrappers littering a well groomed trail, artificially cleared campsites (with requisite firepit), or the telltale tufts of toilet paper strewn throughout the underbrush near the “officially designated” tent spaces. Thus, I couldn’t agree more that extensive areas should be set aside as “wild” and be protected as such…although my proposition is perhaps a bit more radical. Just as dams have been removed to facilitate the return of a river to a more “natural state” so should many trails/roads be removed in order to enable a similar reversion within newly repurposed wilderness areas. For example, we’ve already the well-established Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail systems…shouldn’t these (and similar) major arterials be sufficient for access into the wilderness interior? The historic National Park attractions (such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rainier, Carlsbad, Canyonlands, etc.) could still function pretty much as they do currently while the greater Sierra Nevada, Siskiyous, Cascades and Continental Divide (etc.) would have wider swaths reclaimed as “wilderness.” Meanwhile, on the margins of these exclusive Wilderness Areas/National Parks (on select lands reclaimed from Forest Service/BLM mismanagement: I do acknowledge however, that we will still need some timber resources) designated sections might still be set aside for more diverse usage. I propose each of these user groups receive their own exclusive extent of access as deemed appropriate by activity and proposed usage. Each of these groups should also be required to maintain said access. Thus, as has been so emphatically stated, no one “loses access” to these already impacted areas: as long as one is willing to conduct oneself within the designated usage of any given area, one has access to said area.
Perhaps, the biggest mistake we run into when dealing with complex, systemic issues is using too broad a brush? When we make vague generalizations we remove nuance and default to stereotypes. This increases the potential for misunderstanding and intolerance…and it is precisely such overtly categorical thinking that led to the violent conflicts between environmentalists and loggers in the seemingly once pastoral woods of my childhood. This divisiveness led to a bitter animosity that still lingers today, and further inhibits conversations that might actually result in lasting solutions…
…and regarding so called “Californians:” one of my oldest and dearest friends was once considered of that same ilk. He and I have since shared many a wilderness adventure together.Edited