This week’s interview is part two of a two part series exploring the impact of the recent Boulder White Clouds Wilderness Bill. Scroll down to the previous blog post for last week’s episode.
Idaho is a gifted state, gifted with the resource of public lands spanning thousands of square miles of rugged backcountry and mountain beauty. Some of these lands are wilderness – they are wild, remote and unbranded by congressional Wilderness designation. Some of these lands are Wilderness, officially designated by congress as Wilderness areas. 4,792,969 acres in Idaho are designated and managed as Wilderness to be exact.
Wilderness lands are managed with the highest level of conservation authority granted to our public lands and the Wilderness act itself is the most revered piece of land management legislation for many conservation advocates. However, an increasing percentage of wilderness lovers are finding themselves more and more conflicted over the Wilderness act. These wilderness lovers are mountain bikers, a user group that witnessed the Wilderness act amended in 1984 to ban the use of mountain bikes and watched in consternation as thousand of miles of trail in the most beautiful places of our country have been closed to the human powered endeavor of mountain biking. With ongoing additions, designated Wilderness totals 109,130,498 acres of U.S. public lands, an area roughly equivalent in size to the state of California. Mountain bikers who have been actively engaged in Wilderness advocacy are now wondering if the conservation movement isn’t shooting itself in the foot with the blanket ban on biking in Wilderness and a designate at all costs agenda that finds conservation groups aligning with unlikely bedfellows in the political arena, alienates potential conservation minded allies, and limits the recruitment potential of the conservation movement by disenfranchising the younger demographic.
The wariness built by years of exclusion culminated in the recently passed Boulder White Clouds Wilderness Bill. The BWCWB protects half the land of the original National Monument proposal, limits none of the existing higher impact activities of motorized trail use and grazing, and has created a rift in wilderness lovers that is spawning ongoing repercussions. Ultimately, mountain bikers are left with one nagging question – what was gained by their loss of access?
Our guests are Aaron Clark, former staff person with The Wilderness Society, and current Conservation Manager with the International Mountain Bike Association, Brett Stevenson, former staff person with the Idaho Conservation League and current Board Member with the Wood River Bike Coalition, and Marc Landblom, a former diesel mechanic and long haul trucker who has shifted his life’s focus to maintaining wilderness trails, and building bridges between backcountry user groups due to his love of wilderness (with a lower case w) mountain biking. Marc is now a co-owner of the Hub of Salmon bike shop and an active member of the Salmon Idaho Mountain Bike Association. Together, we discuss their take on what it means to be a wilderness lover with a taste for two wheels, and the impact of the Boulder White Clouds Wilderness Bill on the long term sustainability of the conservation movement and meeting our collective land preservation goals.
For a more scholarly take on this issue, we invite our listeners to review Congress’s Intent in Banning Mechanical
Transport in the Wilderness Act of 1964, submitted to the Penn State Law Review by attorney Theodore J. Stroll, and to explore Stroll et. al’s proposed solutions to maintaining balance, and eroding trail systems, in the backcountry at the Sustainable Trails Coalition website.
Our interview aired on Radio Boise Tuesday 9-8-2015. You can listen to live shows by tuning in to Radio Boise Tuesdays @ 3 PM on 89.9 FM or 93.5 FM in the Treasure Valley. Or stream online @ http://www.radioboise.org. Use the player embedded below to listen to a podcast of the show.
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