Utah senators increasing access to mountain biking

Brad Dayton poses his mountain bike along the Hobble Creek trail. Utah is home to hundreds of mountain biking trails. (Brad Dayton Instagram)
Brad Dayton poses his mountain bike along the Hobble Creek trail. Utah is home to hundreds of mountain biking trails. (Brad Dayton)

The Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Act – a new bill seeking to increase public access to mountain biking trails in local areas – has just been introduced. If passed, a lot of the red tape that prevents riders from accessing popular trails could be permanently removed.

Mountain bikers may soon be rejoicing.

The Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Act, aims to accomplish two goals: put the decision about allowing mountain biking into the hands of local land managers instead of bureaucrats, and allow for easier maintenance of trails.

According to Sen. Mike Lee’s press secretary Emily Long, mountain biking in all wilderness areas is prohibited by current regulations.

“This (bill) would allow local land managers to decide whether to allow any amount of mountain biking, a decision they cannot currently make,” Long said in an email.

Lee has partnered with Sen. Orrin Hatch in sponsoring the bill. The two Republican senators hope they will find bipartisan support for the bill.

Hatch believes this bill is especially pertinent to Utah residents.

“Utah is blessed with an abundance of beautiful wilderness, and Americans should be free to enjoy it,” he said in a press release.

The bill will not require any public lands managers to create trails, but opens up all wilderness areas for consideration. The only exception is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which is protected by previous legislation.

Specifically, the bill defines a wilderness area as any land within the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS).  The system was created in 1964 and designed to help preserve areas that are exceptionally beautiful.

“Our National Wilderness Preservation System was created so that the American people could enjoy the solitude and recreational opportunities of this continent’s priceless natural areas,” Lee said in a press release. “This bill would enrich Americans’ enjoyment of the outdoors by making it easier for them to mountain bike in wilderness areas.”

David Lisonbee riding his mountain bike on a trail.
David Lisonbee rides his mountain bike on a trail. Utah Sen. Mike Lee is aiming to make the use of mountain bikes in wilderness areas easier for Utahns. (David Lisonbee)

The direct impact on Utah is not as large as it might seem. There are 1.3 million acres in the NWPS within in the state, comprising 33 wilderness areas. This amounts to 2.5 percent of the total land.

Overall, there are 109 million acres of land in the NWPS, or roughly 4.5 percent of all of the United States. Alaska has approximately 56 million of those acres – a whopping 52 percent of all NWPS land.

The bill grants decision-making power to designated local employees of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Because it was introduced right before the summer recess, it is unlikely that any immediate progress will be made on passing the bill. It will be under consideration once Congress reconvenes in early September.

Long hopes that trails will be more accessible to people in the state as a result of the bill.

“We want to encourage people to get out and enjoy all of Utah’s beauty, as long as that can be done in a responsible way,” she said.

See the full text of the bill below:

Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act by Senator Mike Lee on Scribd

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