For Immediate Release
Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337
Bush Plan for National Park Mountain Bike Expansion Unveiled
Lame Duck Rule Opens Park Backcountry and Proposed Wilderness to Bike Trails
WASHINGTON - The Interior Department today formally proposed to jettison a
two-decade-old regulation that protects parks in favor of opening more
backcountry trails to mountain bicycles. As a result, thousands of
miles of existing national trails could be opened to bike use,
according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Assistant Interior Secretary Lyle Laverty had ordered the NPS to
ease its existing mountain biking rules before President Bush, an avid
mountain biker, leaves office, according to an internal document
obtained by PEER. The current National Park Service (NPS) rule requires
that backcountry trails may be opened to bikes only after adopting a
park-specific regulation in the Federal Register, a process which
allows public review and comment. The Bush Administration now proposes
to require a special regulation only for bike use on
yet-to-be-constructed trails. As a consequence of this change -
- Nearly 8 million acres of recommended or proposed wilderness
lands in approximately 30 parks would be opened up to mountain bikes,
which would be prohibited only in officially designated wilderness (the
Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits bicycles). This proposal also reverses
a commitment made by former NPS Director Mainella in an October 4, 2005
letter to PEER that parks will not open trails to bikes in recommended
or proposed wilderness areas; and
- It will be easier to open
trails that are now open to hikers, horseback riders and other uses to
mountain bikes whose introduction often creates conflicts with these
"The pending proposed bicycle rule is an example of special interest
intrusion into national park management," commented PEER Board member
Frank Buono, a former NPS manager. "The need for this change is
mysterious as several parks have designated bike trails under the
current Reagan-era rule."
In addition to PEER, a number of national park advocacy, hiker and
other outdoor recreation groups are mobilizing to oppose this change.
"While we support mountain biking or other activities that get park
visitors out of their cars, it is important that one of our national
parks uses does not preclude other uses," stated PEER Executive
Director Jeff Ruch. "The other concern is that mountain biking on
narrow backcountry trails can create damage and new maintenance demands
which is precisely why the Park Service adopted regulations for
mountain bikes on backcountry trails only after a stringent
The fate of this proposal will be up to the Obama administration, as
the public comment period on the Laverty rule closes on February 17th,
after Bush has left office. PEER will ask the new Secretary of the
Interior to abandon this proposed rule and discontinue other
park-hostile Bush policies.
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