Describes large, remote, wild, and predominately unmodified landscapes. Areas with no motorized activity and little probability of seeing other people. Includes most wilderness areas.
Areas of the Custer Gallatin National Forest managed for non-motorized use. Uses include hiking and equestrian trails, mountain bikes and other non-motor mechanized equipment. Rustic facilities and opportunity for exploration, challenge, and self-reliance.
Backcountry areas used primarily by motorized users on designated routes. Roads and trails designed for off-highway vehicles and high-clearance vehicles. Offers motorized opportunities for exploration, challenge, and self reliance. Rustic facilities. Often provide portals into adjacent primitive or semi-primitive non-motorized areas.
Often referred to as front country recreation areas. Accessed by open system roads that can accommodate sedan travel. Facilities are less rustic and more developed (campgrounds, trailheads, etc.). Often provide access points for adjacent semi-primitive motorized, semi-primitive non-motorized, and primitive settings.
Highly developed recreation sites and modified natural settings. Easily accessed by major highway. Located within populated areas where private land and other land holdings are nearby and obvious. Facilities are designed for user comfort and convenience.
Areas with highly developed recreation sites and extensively modified natural settings. Often located adjacent to or within cities or high population areas. Opportunities for solitude or silence are few.
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.
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.
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 designated through regular management planning by the agency managing the land. For the Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF), which surrounds Bozeman, this means during the currently ongoing Custer Gallatin Forest Planning process. Management of these areas is varied and wide-ranging, but established in the management plan for that department. So for the CGNF, the management of an RWA would be designated in the same management plan as where that RWA was designated, the Custer Gallatin Forest Plan.
SWMMBA firmly believes that Mountain Bicycles and Cyclists in general do not adequately degrade the quality of potential designation of a Wilderness Area to immediately preclude them from accessing these public lands which are designated by the land manager as RWAs. Simply put, we believe that Bikes Belong. Cyclists 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 any lands they can access.
Furthermore, we believe that if bikes do degrade the “wilderness character” of an area, that degradation should be quantifiable and able to be minimized through alternate access management to blanket banning of a use. Simply put, we believe that all available management options should be explored before bikes are capriciously excluded from the lands they, as public land owners, own a share of. There are multiple alternative options for managing land prior to blanket exclusions, management agencies should explore all of them prior to excluding a net-benefit group wholesale.
Finally, we believe that the management agency should practice what they preach, if an area currently or historically has cyclists present on the landscape, it should be excluded from RWA and allow cyclists to persist on the landscape. Simply put, if bikes should be removed to preserve the “wilderness character” of an area, then it should not qualify for RWA management designation through that same logic. We believe that if a use precludes a Congressional Wilderness Area from being formed, then that same use precludes a RWA from being designated.
Wilderness Study Area
“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 being accepted by the US Congress five years later by 1982. As seen below in the text excerpt:
(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
(b) The Secretary shall conduct his review, and the President shall advise the United States Senate and House of Representatives of his recommendations, in accordance with the provisions of subsections 8(b) and 3(d) of the Wilderness Act, except that any reference in such subsections to areas in the national forests classified as "primitive" shall be deemed to be a reference to the wilderness study areas designated by this Act and except that the President shall advise the Congress if his recommendations with respect to such areas within seven years after the date of enactment of this Act: Provided, however, That the Secretary shall give at least sixty days' advance public notice of any hearing or other public meeting concerning such areas.
The US Congress proposed S.2751 - Montana Natural Resources Protection and Utilization Act of 1988 to President Ronald Reagan, who subsequently pocket vetoed it. In S.2751, numerous Wilderness Study Areas were either returned to the National Forest System general management or designated as Recreation or Education Areas. It would have officially designated a number of diminutive Wilderness Areas within the original WSA swatches, and excluded any future designation of Inventoried Roadless Area and Recommended Wilderness in perpetuity without Congressional mandate.
Wilderness Study Areas still exist in Montana, over 40 years after they were created, 35 years beyond their supposed resolution. There were two bills 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 Area Act by wholesale releasing a number of these areas, S. 2206 would eliminate a number of WSAs currently managed by the USDA Forest Service and H.R. 5149 would eliminate a number of WSAs managed by both the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Neither bill passed in the 115th Congress, as was expected by SWMMBA’s policy wonks.
SWMMBA wholeheartedly supports any legislation seeking to resolve these WSAs by any method which expands or protects Mountain Bike and Cyclist access to these public lands. While we prefer to operate in a collaborative process with local cyclists involved at 25% or greater of the collaborative composition, SWMMBA recognizes this is not always possible. SWMMBA supported both S. 2206 and H.R. 5149 for the simple reason that the current situation is untenable for cyclists in Montana.
As a member of the Gallatin Forest Partnership, SWMMBA championed the resolution of the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalohorn Wilderness Study Area through a comprehensive look at the high-benefit areas of the area for cyclists and the future impact of humans on the landscape. As a result, SWMMBA has protected existing access and expanded access for cyclists within the Gallatin Range. SWMMBA prefers to collaborate with other groups whenever possible.