A recent story published in The Aspen Times (“Aspen cyclists opposed to national group’s push for bikes in wilderness,” Jan. 25) is simultaneously disconcerting and reaffirming. It is disconcerting because the article describes efforts by a new group called the Sustainable Trails Coalition to amend the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes in wilderness areas. They propose to do so by hiring a D.C. firm to lobby what they describe as a Congress that “favor(s) limited government and oppose(s) severe and overzealous regulation.” I’ll be blunt: Opening up designated wilderness areas to mechanized travel of any kind, be that mountain biking or anything else, would be a disaster for conservation.
The reaffirming part of the article is the response from local cyclists and our country’s pre-eminent mountain-bike organization. Neither the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association nor the International Mountain Biking Association supports what it sees as unproductive efforts by the Sustainable Trails Coalition to amend our country’s strongest conservation law. As Mark Eller, communication director for the International Mountain Biking Association, recently wrote, “For some, … there is no value in wilderness if it prohibits their bike access. Respectfully, (the International Mountain Biking Association’s) view differs: Wilderness is a proven land-protection measure that can be used to effectively safeguard landscapes from extraction, development and other threats.” I couldn’t agree more.