Mountain Biker/Attorney Argues For Making Wilderness Safer

Was the author of a New York Times op-ed piece on the dangers of unsigned wilderness areas really worried about signage, or was he really forwarding an argument to lessen the rules for managing wilderness areas?

And if it's the latter, was he doing so because he wants to be able ride his mountain bike in officially designated wilderness? To explore that question, you need some background. But first let's look at the current furor.

The piece by Ted Stroll caught some fire on the Internet, both for his views on how wilderness areas can be made safer -- Signage, please! -- and for his unidentified ties to mountain biking.

Here's what Steve Casimiro had to say on The Adventure Life blog under the headline, NYTimes Opinion is Wrong on Wilderness:

“The Forest Service has become increasingly strict in its enforcement of the Wilderness Act,” writes attorney Ted Stroll on the opinion page of today’s New York Times. On the face of it, that sounds like a pretty darn good trend. But not to Stroll. Here’s the whole sentence: “Despite the millions of people who have visited the country’s national parks, forests and wildernesses this summer, the Forest Service has become increasingly strict in its enforcement of the Wilderness Act.” And how exactly is that bad?

Almost everything about Stroll’s opinion is wrong. His core argument is that wilderness should be made more accessible and user friendly, as if wilderness is a city park that needs handrails for the elderly. As example, he cites signs that were put into place along the Kekekabic Trail in Minnesota after a skier became lost and died in 1970. The years went by and the signs faded, but the Forest Service refused to replace them, saying that they weren’t appropriate in wilderness.

Can I hear an “amen”? The Forest Service got it right. To Stroll, it’s a travesty that 38 years later two more backcountry users got lost on the Kekekabic Trail and nearly ran out of food. There should have been signs! And maybe a Taco Bell!

And on Best of the Blogs, they had this to say:

What the NYT doesn't tell you is that Stroll is an active, even activist, member of the International Mountain Biking Association. But, if you Google, you'll find other articles like this.

One question that arises from this is whether the Ted Stroll who wrote the op-ed piece is the same Ted Stroll who back in 2004 wrote a 26-page examination of Congress's Intent in Banning Mechanical Transport in the Wilderness Act of 1964 for the Penn State Environmental Law Review (attached), a treatise that the International Mountain Bicycling Association carries on its website under its "Land Access and Protection" section. If so, it would add some strong foundation to understand where he's going with his op-ed piece.

In that 2004 writing, Mr. Stroll argued that the growing amount of officially designated wilderness in the country had "added to the tension over the scope of the activities that may be pursued in Wilderness areas. The combination of technological advances in recreation and continued expansion of Wilderness areas makes resolving the mechanical transport question crucial."

Really?

While Mr. Stroll in that review ticked off a number of mechanical objects that already are carried into wilderness areas -- fishing reels, oarlocks on rowboats, and even anti-shock hiking poles -- he stressed that, "(T)he most pressing issue involves the mountain bike. Federal agency prohibitions of bicycle use in Wilderness have created a standoff between many mountain bikers and proponents of expanding Wilderness. Mountain bikers worry that every proposal to enlarge the nation's Wilderness inventory means the loss of trails they have traditionally ridden. This has made it more difficult to pass legislation creating additional Wilderness areas. In addition, many mountain bikers are perturbed that other forms of mechanical transport (arguably less in keeping with the Wilderness ethic) are permitted in Wilderness while mountain bikes are excluded."

He also wrote in that article that "(B)ecause exploring rugged Wilderness terrain by bicycle is physically taxing, it is safe to conclude that only intrepid mountain bikers will be attracted to the venture. Thus, the character of Wilderness is likely to be observed and respected. Mountain bikers capable of navigating Wilderness are among 'those rugged few who seek the solitude of these areas.'"

So which is it? How much "tension" can be created over wilderness uses, and how "pressing" can this issue be, if there are only a "rugged few (mountain bikers) who seek the solitude of these areas"?

Now, in his latest argument for more wilderness access, Mr. Stroll doesn't so overtly jump on his mountain bike. Rather, he suggests that not only are wilderness areas too dangerous because federal agencies don't properly sign the backcountry, but that federal land managers, due to the Wilderness Act's limitations, "have made these supposedly open recreational areas inaccessible" and "in opposition to healthy and environmentally sound human-powered activities..."

Despite the millions of people who have visited the country’s national parks, forests and wildernesses this summer, the Forest Service has become increasingly strict in its enforcement of the Wilderness Act. The result may be more pristine lands, but the agency’s zealous enforcement has also heightened safety risks and limited access to America’s wilderness areas.

Again, I have to ask, "Really?"

Mr. Stroll argues that the authors of the Wilderness Act never envisioned today's recreational toys: the modern mountain bike and kite-skiing are two he mentions. That might be so. But they also didn't envision ATVs, Segways, or personal watercraft. Does that mean that the act, which was intended to preserve natural vestiges of the country, should be malleable throughout the future, bending and changing to each generation's toys?

Let's remember some of the key definitions of wilderness as contained within the Wilderness Act:

(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

And let's put a little perspective on how much wilderness there really is. While Mr. Stroll worries about the growing amount of officially designated wilderness in the country, since 1964, when the act was passed, the amount of that wilderness has grown to encompass just 109,494,508 acres in 44 states. And, more than half that total -- 56 million acres -- is in Alaska.

According to the folks at Wilderness.net:

Overall ... only about 5 percent of the entire United States—an area slightly larger than the state of California—is protected as wilderness. Because Alaska contains just over half of America's wilderness, only about 2.7 percent of the contiguous United States—an area about the size of Minnesota—is protected as wilderness.

Mr. Stroll tries to raise an interesting argument. Not the one about signage. The one about mechanical devices in wilderness areas. But in doing so he seems to take a liberty or two with the wording of the Wilderness Act. In his 2004 article he wrote that "(T)he Act's prohibition, moreover, is not limited to the mechanical transport of humans. It forbids the mechanical transport of anything, and so devices like fishing reels, wheelbarrows, and game carts also may fall within the Act's ambit."

However, how much of a stretch is it to connect a fishing reel to the mechanical transport of anything, unless he's suggesting it's transporting fishing line? Beyond that, the act's language is quite clear that the prohibition is against mechanical transport of humans: 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.

Why so much debate over retaining 2.7 percent of the Lower 48's land mass as wilderness as pure and pristine as possible? Shouldn't that be a gift not just to ourselves, but to future generations? What's the need, in light of all the other landscapes open to mountain bikes, to have wilderness areas thrown open to mountain bikes so their riders can travel farther, faster, and with a heavier footprint on the landscape than my two booted feet?

In his 2004 article, Mr. Stroll claims, in a footnote, that "(N)ot only does (a mountain bike) not dominate the landscape, but it also does not cause changes in the natural condition of land beyond those temporary surface marks left by a tire and, like shoeprints or hoofprints, washed away in the next rain or soon erased by wind."

If that were only true. On the dual-use trails that I've hiked or run on the majority of bikers certainly dominate hikers by failing to yield and where their bikes create ever-widening bends where cyclists take wider and wider turns, their tires scraping off more and more layers of soil, and along some straightaways there are deep V-shaped grooves from tires. While International Mountain Bicycling Association officials maintain these trail problems can be addressed with proper trail construction, how would they propose to "properly construct" all the miles of backcountry wilderness that mountain bikes might reach?

Somewhat curiously, in his response to Mr. Stroll, Mr. Casimiro argues that "(T)he political problem with wilderness is its absolute nature."

But is that "absolute nature" a problem -- or rather a wonderful sanctum -- in today's increasingly developed world? To soften that absolute nature, Mr. Casimiro suggests that "we can and should define degrees of wilderness."

Haven't we already done that? There are hundreds of millions of acres, overall, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service, and within that vast landscape there are countless areas open to mountain bikes and even more mechanized toys. That number grows when you consider state and local parks and recreation areas. Only the most pristine acres ever earn official wilderness designation.

And there are more than a few long-distance trails for mountain bikers to enjoy: The 142-mile Kokopelli's Trail; the 100-mile-long White Rim in Canyonlands National Park; the 500+-mile-long Colorado Trail; the 300-mile-long John Wayne Pioneer Trail; the 280-mile Kettle Valley Rail Trail. And that's a good thing.

But we also should leave some landscapes to our two feet or our paddles. These places and their components are hallowed ground -- the deep forests, high alpine areas, raging rivers, seemingly featureless deserts -- in no small measure because of the overall lack of these protected areas.

The current ban against mountain bikes does not deprive bikers of that wilderness experience nor that environment. It just requires them to walk with the rest of us.

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Comments

I would tend to agree with Kurt on the issue regarding bikes, but I do think Stroll raises an interesting question regarding signage. I recently read a book called Lost in the Wild by Cary Griffith. It tells two survival stories both in the Boundary Waters Area (the other one takes place partly across the border in Canada). Anyway, there's a trail up there called the Pow Wow Trail, and a hiker, somewhat foolishly, decided to go on a hike of the trail in October, by himself. Long story short, he took a wrong turn onto an old part of the trail and got lost. The correct part of the trail was overgrown, along with the rock cairn that might have helped the guy, named Jason Rasmussen. Rasmussen was found after an exhaustive search (by that time they had ordered cadaver dogs), nearly dead, after having written a goodbye letter to his parents and taking one more photo on his disposable camera waving goodbye. So I have some sympathy for this signage issue, and it sounds like the people Stroll mentions were not so lucky.

Along the North Country Trail, I've seen some times where they say that blazes are not allowed in wilderness areas, but this doesn't seem to always be the case. We have a wilderness trail in northern WI that is marked by blazes, so this seems inconsistent to me.

The bottom line for me is that if we are going to establish trails and encourage recreation on these trails, even in wilderness, it doesn't seem to me to be too much to ask that we try to make sure people know where they're going. I don't think a little paint here and there or a wood post really intrudes on wilderness any more than the trail itself does. Frankly, I wonder if it's easier for the cash-strapped USFS to throw up their hands not because it's wilderness, but maybe because it's easier and cheaper to not maintain and put up signs (even sparingly) on the trails in remote wilderness.

My two cents

It's not just the Forest Service that seems opposed to Wilderness signage, for example:
http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2007/jul/23/mr-outdoors-seabury-blair-jr-park-should-invest/

For years, Olympic and other Northwest parks have been removing the 3" square red metal tags on trees that marked trail routes frequently covered by lingering summer snow. Also gone are the numerous signs that gave the names of streams and other landmarks along trails and many of the mileages at trail
junctions.

In my experience, perhaps the most common question from hikers encountering NPS staff on trails is some variation on 'Where are we/How far is...?' The Olympic trail crew used to joke that the park could save money by having just two standard signs at junctions, 'Road' and 'Further'.

This sign policy seems a bit inconsistent to me, since the Wilderness Act prohibition against permanent structures in Wilderness is widely ignored in many National Parks. These backcountry ranger stations do provide benefits such as safety and resource protection, but are also popular destinations for management desk-jockeys unwilling or unable to carry a full overnight pack.

Really, again?
Kurt out hammering the mountain bikers for trying to gain access to the "Hallowed" ground.
It's dirt Kurt and the wagon trains rolled over it long ago. No one is asking for a Taco Bell to be given access to sell veggie burrito's.
Mountain Bikers hmmm, what about a 5 year old on a push bike? Would you have them strung up for rolling along a wilderness trail as they pass you fumbling with your iPhone/GPS/Ipod thingamajig trying to get a picture for a citizens arrest?
It's a path in the woods just like it was 200 years ago, albeit more groomed.

How's that GPS working for ya, or your camera for that matter?

" I don't think a little paint here and there or a wood post really intrudes on wilderness any more than the trail itself does."
Exactly - If it's wilderness then there should be no trail or funding used to maintain it.

Go walk in the wilderness, and leave all of your mechanical items at home.

Another great article from the NPT whereby the author gets to increase prejudice against another user group.

dont go.its wilderness,lets keep it the way it is..no place for a bicycle.lots of other places to bike.

In his posting, Jim Davis argues for mountain biking.
1. Davis states, “It's dirt Kurt and the wagon trains rolled over it long ago.” Yes, wagon trains rolled a long time ago and before the wilderness act. Davis wants mountain bikes to have access now, not "long ago". Something that happened before the wilderness act is irrelevant to what is allowed and prohibited under the wilderness act.
2. Davis states, “your iPhone/GPS/Ipod thingamajig”. They are mechanical, but not transport. The law prohibits “mechanical transport”. This difference is not a technicality. The law prohibits mechanical transport, not all things mechanical.

Ted Stroll is not honest enough to admit that he is a mountain biker promoting mountain biking (he euphemistically called it "trail cycling"). Nor the fact that mountain bikers are capable of walking, just like everyone else -- just too lazy to DO it.

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1994:
http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/mtb10 . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes.
They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see
http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/scb7 ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and (worst of all) teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

For more information: http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/mtbfaq .

Isn't the Wilderness Act a "Living Document?" I mean, if it's good enough for what used to be "the Constitution" ........

A Yosemite ranger told me a story about a wilderness mgmt training course he attended. A question was posed during the course: If a hiker is severely injured in a designated wilderness area is it appropriate for a helicopter to be used to save him? The dilemma posed was that the hiker might die if the helicopter wasn't used.

The park ranger was stunned when several NPS employees said,"No."

"Wilderness" is an abstract ideal. One worthy of obtaining. To a certain extent. A helicopter landing on a small patch of ground, causing 30 minutes of unnatural noise in the wilderness vs a human life. I'll choose the human life, every time.

If a small sign will prevent fatalities, if a small sign will prevent the necessity of a helicopter rescue in the wilderness, then a small sign is a reasonable compromise. In fact the sign may do more to protect the wilderness than not having the sign does to protect a strict ideal.

I believes exceptions for helicopter use in wilderness for just this thing have been granted, no? And let's not forget that exceptions are granted to ferry crews and tools into wilderness for work details.

I was told that when there was a big storm that went through the BWCAW years ago, they had to have Congress pass legislation to grant a one-time exception to the Wilderness rules so they could go in there to clean it up, it was that bad.

It is the same Ted Stroll in both cases, and he was right in both cases. The 2.7% argument is a nice way of deflecting the obvious: 50M acres in the lower 48 is a huge amount of land off limits to bicycles, and a number that is continually growing and taking away more and more trails away from us.

The ban of bicycles is moronic and irrational. So pack of horses (non native to the US) can trample trails, but a few cyclists can't go in the back country. The intent of the Act was to ban motor vehicles, not bicycles. So strollers are forbidden, but paddle boats are not (ain't it a form of mechanical transport?).

The current interpretation is too litteral to make it any sense, but it's a great way for hikers and equestrians to keep the trails to themselves. And this is really what it's all about.

As for the signs on the trail: obviously GPS, which weren't around in the 60s, can make up for signage, but how are a few signposts taking away the wilderness experience?

Kurt Repanshek:
I believes exceptions for helicopter use in wilderness for just this thing have been granted, no? And let's not forget that exceptions are granted to ferry crews and tools into wilderness for work details.
Emergency use of motorized vehicles or aircraft is written right into the Wilderness Act.
PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES
(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.

In 16 years of discussing the issue of mountain biking with mountain bikers and others, I have never heard a single good reason to allow bikes in natural areas. Every mountain biker is capable of walking. The prohibition of bikes and other mechanical forms of transportation is a very humane way of keeping the human footprint small, while still allowing everyone access to Wilderness. I would include boats in that. People don't have to go everywhere! I don't personally support the use of animals as vehicles, but horses evolved in North America, and arguably have a right to go wherever they want to. Bicycles are pieces of MACHINERY, and have NO rights. Mountain bikes, with their multiple gears and knobby tires, are very destructive, and are incompatible with wildlife conservation as well as the safety of other trail users (including the bikers themselves).

For more on Mr. Vandeman:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/crime/detail?entry_id=64903
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/01/18649474.php

Apparently, Mr. Vandeman does not oppose carrying small tools into the wild to use it on unsuspecting cyclists.

Wilderness areas are supposed to stay wild. The same people who want signage, bikes and
instant rescues also want solitude.

You can't have it both ways. Danny
http://www.hikertohiker.com

In my opinion it is not a lack of signage that is getting these people lost...it is lack of backcountry skills.

But I think a main point of the article is that the "lack of signage" argument is being used as a wedge issue in an attempt to relax the strictness of the Wilderness Act. Those of us who value the Act as it stands should not be complacent about these types of attempts, because there are many special interest groups out there who don't value Wilderness, and will use any means to gain access to it.

On the other hand, there is a much finer line dividing backpackers from mountain bikers, than there is between backpackers and lumber interests, or backpackers and mining interests. Protectors of Wilderness should at least reflect upon whether it is desirous or necessary to reach out to groups whose interests are more allied than not. In some cases, the interests of Nature groups could have been better realized had they allied themselves with Hunting/Fishing groups, instead of remaining "purists".

Danny,

One can ride a bike, want a few signs and a rescue helicopter once in a great while and have solitude. They're not exclusionary concepts.

I was certainly surprised by the use of the word "just" 109 million acres of wilderness and the phrase "only" 5% of the United States (equal to California!) and "only" 2.7% of the contiguous U.S. (equal to Minnesota!) as protected and designated wilderness.

So, I decided to do a little bit of research and came across the following study on Land Use in the United States from the Dept. of Agriculture:
http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/EIB14/eib14.pdf

Here are some highlights from the abstract...

The United States has total land area of nearly 2.3 billion acres. Of that:
-651 million acres (28.8%) are forest-use (excluding Parks and wilderness)
-587 million acres (25.9%) are grassland pasture and range land
-442 million acres (19.5%) are cropland
-297 million acres (13.1%) are "special uses" (242 million for parks and wildlife areas)
-228 million acres (10.1%) are "miscellaneous uses" (includes some "rural residential", and other unprotected tundra, desert, and wetlands)
- 60 million acres ( 2.6%) are urban land uses

So, if you only consider the forest-use, Parks and wildlife areas, and generously include all "miscellaneous use", you get 1.121 billion acres. The 109 mllion acres of wilderness then becomes over 10% of the "natural lands" of the United States.

I am a supporter of wilderness, and am glad that we have the National Wilderness Preservation System. At the same time, I think the enthusiasm for creating as much designated wilderness as possible, has to be tempered by a couple of factors:
- the concept of a wilderness is in some sense inherently hostile to frequent and regular visitation... for that reason, I don't think wilderness is appropriate anywhere and everywhere in the National Park System where it is feasible, as the National Parks are supposed to be, at least in part, "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people"
- wilderness areas are often, by their inherent nature, inaccessible to many persons with disabilities, as well as to many older Americans
- wilderness areas may also provide barriers to enjoyment by Americans in lower income brackets who may not have access to much of the latest backpacking equipment, or to Americans who have not yet developed a great deal of outdoors experience

Again, all this is not to say that we should have *no* wilderness. Far be it! Indeed, I strongly believe that having preserves of wilderness in this country is a very good thing.

But back to the issue at hand, I think the issue may almost come down to one of semantics - and perhaps the perceived existing flexibility of Federal land designations. First, I think we can all agree that mountain-biking should not be completely banned in the United States (or at least I hope we can all agree on that!) Secondly, I hope we can all agree that mountain-biking provides a unique outdoors experience, one that is inherently different from hiking, and one that is inherently different from off-road vehicles (biking is clearly far more active).

It seems easy to me that some areas of land could preserve a very high degree of wilderness characteristics if they were open to current wilderness uses *and* recreational mountain-biking. On the other hand, it does not seem obvious to me that the only places where mountain-biking should be permitted are those places with motorized off-road vehicling is permitted - or other places that are otherwise deemed inherently unsuitable for wilderness designation.

Sabattis, thanks for the find. Reading the study, I believe that the proper read is:

National and State parks and related recreational areas, national and State wildlife refuges,and national wilderness and primitive areas: 100M acres in the lower 48, 242M acres for the whole country.

So basically, mountain biking is excluded from over 50% of all recreational land in the lower 48, and that does not take into account the local restrictions. It's even worse than I thought!!

Sabattis,

Doesn't your point about measuring the 109 million acres of wilderness against the *remaining" natural lands actually lean in favor of wilderness designation and protection? After all, the figures you cite demonstrate that we've already lost half of the natural lands in the country to development, making it even more important to preserve what little is left, no?

And still, even if "over 10 percent" of the remaining natural lands are protected wilderness, the flip side is that "nearly 90 percent" of remaining natural lands are not protected as wilderness.

I'd also be curious to see how many of those 1.121 billion acres of that "forest-use, Parks and wildlife areas, and generously include all "miscellaneous use" are open to recreation in all its various forms.

Beyond that, I would argue that official wilderness is preserved, foremost, for preservation's sake, not for recreation's sake. Parts of it will always be inaccessible to various groups depending on their abilities. Does that make it wrong to preserve those places?

As to your other points, I don't think anyone is arguing against eliminating mountain biking as a form of recreation on public lands. I've enjoyed it myself and would be disappointed to see a total ban.

I also would argue that there is flexibility in current land-use management, both state and federal. And I also would argue that on many of those lands -- Forest Service, BLM, Park Service, and state and local -- that are open to mountain biking you can find wilderness-quality characteristics and experiences.

Zeb,

I'm trying to follow your math, but I'm struggling (perhaps because the coffee is still perking). I looked at that report, and see where you pulled 100 million acres and 242 million acres, but I wonder if those should really be 1 billion and 2.4 billion, as the figures are cast in "million acres." Even then, I don't see where there's a breakdown of how much of that acreage is closed to mountain biking and so don't see how you reached your conclusion that 50 percent of recreational land is off-limits to mountain biking. After all, just because a place is labeled "national" or "state" park, refuge, etc, doesn't mean biking is excluded.

Kurt,

I simply looked at the table 1 on page 4 and it is in million of acres, so 100 would be 100 M acres.
You stated earlier that approx 53M acres of wilderness were in the lower 48, and all those are closed off to bicycles, hence my 50% comment (i.e. 53/100). My high level % does not take into account other exclusions (i.e NPS and other local agencies especially in CA).

Personnally, it seems that 50% is a bit high, but I suspect that the real number is somewhere north of 20%, and obviously growing since there is no end in sight to the growth of wilderness.

I have knees that are arthritic, and I cannot hike more than 4-5 miles at a time without it becoming painful. If I were given the chance to mountain bike in a wilderness, I could go much farther, because there is less impact on my knees. Llamas and horses have more of an impact than bikes on designated trails.

If a sign is "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)"

To say that the suggestion an agency place signs in certain locations is a wedge that will allow mountain bike in the wilderness is a ridiculous leap.

I see the USFS using wilderness designation as great excuse for a lazy district to not to put in the effort to post signs at troublesome trail junctures.

Zeb,

The line in the table on page 4 that you're referencing refers only to "National and State parks and related recreational areas, national and State wildlife refuges,
and national wilderness and primitive areas."

It does not include another 98 million acres of "forest land in parks and other special uses," 425 million acres in Forest-use Land that is not grazed, and some unknown amount of 723 million acres that is "bare rock areas, desert, and tundra..."

What cannot be discerned from this table is how much of that acreage -- your initial 100 million figure or the other 1.2 billion acres -- is open or closed to biking.

"Something will be lost, no doubt, when many pilgrims follow the mountain trails - when this wilderness, like Switzerland, is smoothed and carved for the foot of man and dotted with lodges for his comfort. It must be, and on the whole it is best; but the facile tourists of the future will be less happy than we adventurers , who found nature virgin and inviolate, and braved her beauty and terror in the mood and manner of the pioneers."
~ Harriet Monroe
Sierra Club Bulletin
June 1909

haunted hiker wrote:
To say that the suggestion an agency place signs in certain locations is a wedge that will allow mountain bike in the wilderness is a ridiculous leap.

I'd say that considering the person who made such a suggestion is who he is, it is not so ridiculous as one might think.

I think that Mr. Stroll article clearly articulates how the USFS overly litteral interpretation of the Act has yielded some absurd practices: removing a few sign posts made a trail more dangerous (not that anyone would argue that wilderness is safe to begin with, but that was not the point), and banning cyclists from wilderness while keeping other modern mechanical contraptions (apparently the wheel is what defines mechanical transport...). The whole thing is pretty much absurd, but many are hanging on to this, despite the obvious lack of rationale, because they don't want to share the trails.

When talking about 53M acres of open land in the lower 48, you'd think we'd be able to accomodate cyclists without turning the trails into a LA rush hour highway.

to address your point, in most cases horses and pack animals and bikes should really be banned from federally designated wilderness-and boo hoo there is 50 m acres you can't ride-i am sure there is 5 times that amount on USFS BLM and sundry other agencies land you can ride on to your heart's content. Keep some wilderness free of mechanical transport!

It makes no sense to allow equestrian use but not bikes in wilderness. The numbers of bikers in these areas would be small. The trails used by bikes are not much different than ones used by bikers. It's a dirt trail, not a paved path. Hiking creates "damage" too.

Hikers just want to keep the trails to themselves, it's selfishness pure and simple.

Not saying we should have MT bikes on all wilderness trails, but how are they more destructive than a team of horses? Horses leave way more behind that backpackers and MT bikers. MT bikers might widen corners and rut trails, but horses dig them deeper, kill tree roots, scar rocks, scat everywhere, kick up dust, ect. So if there are horses, why not bikes? It should be horses and bikes or neither. If those old farts and fatties can't ride in on the back of an animal, oh well, then SAR won't have to send choppers in when they keel over. As far as signs, who cares, don't go into the wilderness if you can't navigate. Who knows when trail signs will get destroyed by the elements, horses or people.

If nothing else the recent posts regarding mountain biking have made it clear the main issue is opening up wilderness single track trails to mountain biking. IMBA and others have often said that is not their goal and that may be their official position. But the reality is their desire to see mountain bikes on all trails on all public lands. Those opposed are sitting on their hands and losing the battle. Since I am old and can only hike about 20 miles a day I might buy an electical assisted mountain bike to experience the wilderness when all the trails are opened to mountain bikes.

An electric bike is not human powered and therefore irrelevant to this discussion Roger,but we are getting used to your propensity to lump together bicyclists with ORV users.