The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Boteler (202) 265-7337

Interior Readies Mountain Bike Expansion in National Parks

Lame Duck Rule Would Clear Way for Mountain Bike Trails in Park Backcountry


The Interior Department is preparing to jettison a two-decade old
regulation that protects parks in favor of opening more backcountry
trails to mountain bicycles, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan would eliminate public
review and comment for new bike trails, which could be opened in any
park area not prohibited by law.

Assistant Interior Secretary Lyle Laverty will propose "Mountain
Bike Final regulations November / December", according to an agency
schedule obtained by PEER. This action would cap to a longstanding
campaign by the International Mountain Bicycle Association (IMBA) to
weaken current park protections.

"This is a lame duck gift for our Mountain-Biker-in-Chief," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this proposed regulation
is well past the proposed deadlines announced this summer by the White
House Chief of Staff. "With all the troubles facing the country, the
White House should be concerned about more than where the president can
ride his bike."

While PEER applauds getting more people out of their cars to bike on
the paved and dirt roads of our parks, mountain biking on narrow trails
may damage resources and conflict with visitor enjoyment. For this
reason, the National Park Service adopted regulations for bicycles in
1987, during the Reagan administration, which allow mountain bikes on
trails only after an individual park follows a stringent
decision-making process that allows for closer scrutiny. The process
requires notice of a proposed regulation in the Federal Register and
publication of a special federal regulation. Several parks have adopted
the necessary special regulations to allow bikes. Among the parks are
Saguaro National Park, Arizona and Golden Gate National Recreation
Area, California.

By contrast, under the plan pushed by IMBA, each park manager could
designate backcountry trails open to mountain bikes by making a simple
notation in an internal document called a "compendium" which is
available to the public upon request but receives no public notice or
public comment prior to approval. Nor would a park manager prepare any
environmental compliance under the National Environmental Policy Act or
other laws prior to adoption.

"The pending proposed bicycle rule is a step backward for park
conservation. IMBA is correct to anticipate that such a lax and nearly
invisible process will open many more trails to bikes," commented PEER
Board member Frank Buono, a long-time former NPS manager. "We think the
current rule is a good one. PEER does not oppose mountain bikes on
trails in backcountry areas that are outside of designated, proposed or
recommended wilderness but each proposal to allow bikes on backcountry
trails should be thoughtfully and publicly considered."

Similar to the pending revision of the NPS gun rules sponsored by
the National Rifle Association, the IMBA mountain biking proposal will
not be accompanied by any review to determine how the proposed
regulation would affect the quality of the parks environment.

View the current NPS bike trails rules at 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 4.30

Look at the IMBA lobbying effort in national parks

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.