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  1. #1
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    Wilderness Areas and Mountain Bikes

    I am currently prewriting and planning a paper for my Ethics and Management of Public Lands class. It's a forestry/recreation management oriented philosophy course. I am writing my first paper defending the utillitarian position that mountain bikes should not be allowed in wilderness areas. It isn't a hard paper and we're just suppose to take an ethical framework and apply it to current land management issue. I am not really to inspired to defend the utillitarian position that mountain bikes should not be allowed in wilderness areas. I figured since i am not too motivated to defend this position, i would look for inspiration on the boards. So tell me folks, how do you feel about mountain bike access in wilderness areas? I am sure it will be a bit biased since i am on a mountain bike forum, but i am sure there are some tree hugging environmentalists on the boards who have an interesting view. I'd love to hear everyones! Happy trails and thanks for the input!
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  2. #2
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    this is true. there is also miles upon miles of fantastic single track all over the country.
    Every time that wheel turn round,
    Bound to cover just a little more ground

    - J. Garcia

  3. #3
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    p.s. do you really like barley wines?
    Every time that wheel turn round,
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    - J. Garcia

  4. #4
    Member DaveMaddux's Avatar
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    It is a very controversial topic. I'm a backpacker and a mountain biker, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Certainly Mt Bikes would have more impact on trails than foot traffic, but no more than horses, which are permitted in wilderness areas. I think the bigger issue is compatibility, as bikes and hikers move at very different speeds. You can't have bikes bombing down narrow steep descents if there are lots of people walking on the trail.

  5. #5
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    What is your definition of wilderness?

  6. #6
    Member DaveMaddux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Danneskjöld
    Why?
    I know what I have seen. Trails used exclusively by hikers are tiny, narrow, packed trails. Trails used by bikes tend to be wider and rutted. Trails frequented by horses are very wide, usually with deep sand or powdery dust, with road apples and flies. I have seen wet meadow areas in the spring look destroyed, littered with hoof-sized craters.

    Not alot of difference between hikers and bikes, I think. Big difference with horses.

  7. #7
    blacksheep the blemish
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  8. #8
    Member DaveMaddux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    What is your definition of wilderness?
    Thats a good question. I assumed you were referring to designated wilderness areas in National Forest, where permits are required for overnight stay, and no motors of any kind are allowed, not even chainsaws by firefighters. Hikers and horses only.

  9. #9
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by endform
    That's worth quoting right here. Bold/italics text are my own emphasis:

    A study published in the summer 2006 Journal of Park and Recreation Administration (Volume 24, Number 12) takes a close look at the environmental impacts of mountain biking. Researchers measured trail erosion and other impacts on 31 trails used for mountain biking in the southwestern U.S. The study concludes that, "certain impacts to mountain bike trails, especially width, are comparable or less than hiking or multiple-use trails, and significantly less than impacts to equestrian or off-highway vehicle trails."
    First Class Jerk

  10. #10
    Member DaveMaddux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by endform
    "certain impacts to mountain bike trails, especially width, are comparable or less than hiking or multiple-use trails, and significantly less than impacts to equestrian or off-highway vehicle trails."

    This really surprises me. I guess what I am observing is more a result of the amount of traffic, not the type of traffic. (The remotest trails are not frequented as much by horses, bikes).

  11. #11
    Member DaveMaddux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Danneskjöld
    That's quite different than "Certainly Mt Bikes would have more impact on trails than foot traffic."

    The science doesn't agree with your claim.
    read my last comment.

    Sorry, Terrapin Ben, I can't help you, it seems that my observations are crap. Open up the wilderness to Mt Bikes, we need more singletrack!

  12. #12
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    I think the remoteness and danger (getting lost, cougars...etc) of true wilderness areas keeps most people, whether they are hikers, bikers or horse riders, away. In the wilderness surrounding my town, people die every year doing something stupid. This year it was James Kim.

    Is it unethical to venture into the wilderness on a bicycle? No, as long as we act ethically when we get there.

    Perhaps Kant's "categorical imperitive" is a better "ethical framework" to apply to this situation.

  13. #13
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    i suppose looking at the issue from a utilitarian perspective, and considering that the mountain bike commmunity is pretty small compared to backpackers and nature-enjoyers in geneal. I suppose mountain bikes also do not fit in there definition of wilderness. Thusly not allowing mountain bikers in wilderness areas would result the greatest good for the greatest number. maybe not.
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  14. #14
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    and it's a matter of preference. in some sense a mountain bike, since it doesnt conform to peoples idea of wilderness, would be more detrimental to a wilderness area than a hiker or someone packing with a horse. also, given the relative ease of travel with mountain bikes, they could destroy the sense of isolation wilderness areas provide its users. everyones input is very welcome. thank you both Dave and R. Danneskoldjole'.
    Every time that wheel turn round,
    Bound to cover just a little more ground

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  15. #15
    I'm simply not credible. Terrapin Ben's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    Perhaps Kant's "categorical imperitive" is a better "ethical framework" to apply to this situation.
    Very good advice. Do only the things you wish everyone else to do is a more managable argument than trying to argue the greatest good for the greatest number. A utilitarian way of thinking has always that slippery slope. And it can become contradictory so that's pretty lame too. thanks for the input.
    Every time that wheel turn round,
    Bound to cover just a little more ground

    - J. Garcia

  16. #16
    Coyote!
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    Your report should also balance the negative impact of bikes in the wilderness with the influence of another cadre [i.e., cyclists] of wilderness defenders.

  17. #17
    Senior Member mlh122's Avatar
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    my $.02: i think in relation to environmental impact "hikers < bikers < horses < ORVS". i think bikers influence the environment more than hikers because they pick the same line, which helps create ruts and erosion. hikers' footprints rarely land on top of each other so they don't cause as much erosion. If bikers rode different lines when possible i think erosion/rutting impact would be much less. also i think horses cause more impact than hikers and bikers, and ORV drivers impact even more. what's even worse is irresponsible ORV drivers. the kids that do long burnouts on the trail and long skids etc... Though i think if the wilderness was opened up to mt bikes it wouldn't have that much of an impact for the same reason not many hikers go out there, the danger of getting lost or eaten and the extra effort it would require to travel the longer distance. In my case, i have miles and miles and miles of singletrack that is open to mt bikes as well as loads and loads of fireroads that i've never been to. And every time i go to one, i'm often the only person out there. so even if wilderness was open to mt bikes, it would be a while before i got around to venturing out that far, as i might as well explore the more local terrain i already have pinpointed in my GPS

  18. #18
    Official Website Waterboy born2bahick's Avatar
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    An observation I've made in my area, A large tract of land that basically used deer trails as hiking and biking trails, no maintainence, trail became very overgrown in summer, and saw little use. Now the land is state own/operated, trail maintainence is frequent, use has increased ten fold, trails and built well using switchbacks and erosion free technology, BUT! they are cutting the trail 6 feet wide, which will have, and already has had a big impact on what was once a pristine tract of land. THese impacts are hardly noticeable at first, A good mushroom spot suddenly dissapears, Or maybe a Paw Paw tree get's more sunlight than it can take and quit's fruiting or dies altogether. My Obsevation is that, maybe we don't have to make trails quite as user freindly as the state and national government seem to think, Maybe having to check yourself for ticks after a ride, or getting a few nettle stings are just part of the experience! Erosion free technology is Super!, But I don't need a trail wide enough for a car! JMO

  19. #19
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    You guys should return your keyboards. It appears that your Enter keys aren't working.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Curtis_Elwood's Avatar
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    May I suggest you start by reading the Wilderness Act if you have not. http://wilderness.nps.gov/document/wildernessAct.pdf

    This should give you some things to think about. Under the Definition of Wilderness in section 2, "has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation."

    Beyond the physical issues, such as erosion, solitude is an issue to consider as well.

    Regarding erosion, my experience has been that bikes, for the most part, are no more destructive than foot traffic, and in some cases, less destructive. In one study here a few years ago, it was found that bikes had the ability to improve the quality of trails destroyed by horses. I think where bikes get a bad rap is that they usually bring increased numbers. Increased numbers leads to increased impact on the terrain. One for one, I don't think they have a much different impact than foot traffic, but opening areas to biking tends to increase it's traffic markedly. So, it's not so much the act of taking a bike into a Wilderness area, but the increase in usage that is a potential problem. From a management perspective, it's easier to limit numbers by limiting the types of compliant activities than to establish some type of permit or other regulatory system.

    BTW, I believe it's up to the regional forester of the U.S. Forest Service to establish management plans for Wilderness areas within his/her district. That being said, Wilderness areas that I've been to in Missouri and Arkansas do not allow horses. Also, only roads built before the designation to special areas such as cemetaries and those required to manage the area are maintained. New roads and trails are generally not allowed, at least in the Wilderness areas that I'm familiar with. If a trail built 30+ years ago, chances are it was not built with good water shedding properties and with adequate switchbacks for reducing erosion for bike use. If alterations are not allowed under the Wilderness Act, biking on trails not built for biking could speed up the erosion process.
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  21. #21
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    My .02 cents (And please,this is NO reflection on anyone Here!) at least in my part of the world a lot of folk who call themselves Mt bikers are also party animals,a lot of 'em use trucks or atv's to get to some of the deepest woods,they have BIG bonfires,leave LOTS of trash at their party/campsites (Beer cans/bottles) and seem to not care about the next person who may come along or the wildlife.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Curtis_Elwood's Avatar
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    Oops, I missed this part of the Wilderness Act. It's pretty clear.

    "(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."

    I'm pretty sure bikes would be considered a form of mechanical transport. This doesn't answer to any philosophical argument as to whether bikes should be allowed, but the law is pretty clear that they are not allowed.
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  23. #23
    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    Bikes should be able to use any trail that a horse can use. A MTB is not an ATV nor is it a dirt bike. All the Park rangers I've ever spoken to (State and Federal) would rather deal with mountain bikers than horses on thier trails - less wear & tear, less poop.

    Figment - perhaps you ought to speak to your local park people about the party animals & let them track them down!
    As with mud, life, too, slides by.

  24. #24
    "I'm OK!" dminor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curtis_Elwood
    Oops, I missed this part of the Wilderness Act. It's pretty clear.

    "(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."

    I'm pretty sure bikes would be considered a form of mechanical transport. This doesn't answer to any philosophical argument as to whether bikes should be allowed, but the law is pretty clear that they are not allowed.
    Gee, I think skis and snowshoes should count too, by the narrow interpretation, eh?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Danneskjöld
    There is some fantastic riding in Wilderness Areas.
    I thought bikes were not allowed in Federal Wilderness Areas? The only one I am really framiliar with is around Sedona, AZ and bikes are forboten in the Wilderness Areas.

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