SWMMBA Position Statements

The Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) Board of Directors has taken a number of positions on common points of contention in the cycling advocacy community. These positions are standing views of the SWMMBA Board and are reflected in our yearly Advocacy Platform. If you have any questions about these positions, their interpretation, or you wish to modify or enhance them, please reach out to our Advocacy Director here: advocacy@southwestmontanamba.org

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Recommended Wilderness Area

Definition

Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWA) are management designations for Federal Public Lands including those managed by the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These areas are identified by the agencies when they update their management plans. For the Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF), which surrounds Bozeman, this process is happening now. The plan is at a point where RWA could be managed either to allow or exclude uses such as mountain bikes.

Our Belief

SWMMBA firmly believes that cyclists in general do not significantly degrade the quality of remote, wild areas. The potential designation of a Wilderness Area to immediately preclude our use is not an acceptable reason to remove us from hundreds of thousands of acres of the forest. Simply put, we believe that Bikes Belong. Mountain bikers are the most engaged and dedicated of land users, donating more hours to trail work than most other user groups. Cyclists spend more money in local economies and they travel to areas to experience them. We believe that cyclists are a net benefit to lands they can access.

Furthermore, we believe that if bikes can be shown to degrade the “wilderness character” of an area, that degradation should be measurable and able to be minimized through adaptive management rather than a blanket ban. There are multiple alternative options for managing land or trails prior to blanket exclusions, management agencies should explore all of them prior to excluding a beneficial group entirely.


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Wilderness Study Area

Definition

“An Act to provide for the study of certain lands to determine their suitability for designation as wilderness in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964, and for other purposes” was signed into law back on November 1st, 1977 with an expected end result to be accepted by the US Congress five years later by 1982. As seen below in the text excerpt:

SEC. 2.

(a) In furtherance of the purposes of the Wilderness Act (78 Stat. 890; 16 U.S.C. 1132), the Secretary of Agriculture (hereinafter known as the "Secretary") shall, within five years after the date of enactment of this Act, review certain lands designated by this section, as to their suitability for preservation as wilderness, and report his findings to the President

Current Status

Wilderness Study Areas still exist in Montana, over 40 years after they were created. Two bills were introduced into the 115th US Congress to help resolve these areas: H.R. 5149 Unlocking Public Lands Act introduced by Rep. Gianforte, and S. 2206 Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act introduced by Sen. Daines. Both bills would resolve the Montana Wilderness Study Act by wholesale releasing a number of these areas: S. 2206 would eliminate a number of WSAs currently managed by the Forest Service and H.R. 5149 would eliminate a number of WSAs managed by both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Neither bill passed in the 115th Congress.

Our Position

SWMMBA wholeheartedly supports resolution of these WSAs by any method which protects cyclist access to these public lands. While we prefer to operate in a collaborative process with local groups, SWMMBA recognizes this is not always possible. SWMMBA supported both S. 2206 and H.R. 5149 because political gridlock and changing management have lead to significant losses of cyclist access in these areas. These lands would still be protected by a multitude of environmental laws if released from WSA status, but we believe a more fair result could emerge without the confusion WSAs provide to the public and land management agencies.

As a member of the Gallatin Forest Partnership, SWMMBA is championing the resolution of the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalohorn WSA through a comprehensive look at the environmental values, high-benefit areas of the WSA for cyclists, and the future impact of humans on the landscape. As a result, SWMMBA has protected most existing access and expanded access for cyclists within the Gallatin Range. SWMMBA prefers to collaborate with other groups whenever possible, and the Gallatin Forest Partnership is a perfect example of this.

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Other Positions 

E-Bike Access

Our Position

SWMMBA believes that electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) present opportunity and challenge to traditional mountain bike access. If managed effectively, eMTBs may increase ridership and stewardship of trails. No management, poor management and misinformation, however, have the potential to jeopardize current and future access that mountain bikers, SWMMBA, and national organizations have pursued for the past thirty years.

Our position on eMTBs is as follows: SWMMBA is supportive of e-MTB access to motorized trails. SWMMBA recognizes that changes in design, technology and the numbers of eMTB users is evolving, and believes this use can be managed in a sustainable way for both the environment and other motorized trail users.

SWMMBA firmly believes in its Mission Statement: to enhance access to trails and advocate for mountain bicyclists in Southwest Montana by engaging and educating community, and building and maintaining trails. We wish to execute that mission to the best of our abilities and dedicate 100% of our efforts to Mountain Biking in Southwest Montana, and will continue to do so, regardless of eMTB technology, or changes in access locally or nationally.

Current Management

U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations categorize eMTBs as a “motorized” use. Therefore, eMTBs are only permitted where motorized vehicles are allowed.

Some state and local authorities manage eMTBs similarly to federal agency regulations. However, other agencies have decided to open non-motorized trails to eMTB use.

Several state parks, county open space organizations and municipalities treat electric bicycles identically to non-motorized bicycles, or have designated specific areas that are open to eBikes.

Many government entities have not yet considered the issue or have no policy regarding eMTB use at this time.

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