House Committee approves dangerous bill that undermines the Wilderness Act

Dec 13, 2017
Elliotsville Plantation, Inc
More than 100 outdoors groups oppose HR 1349, “Wheels over Wilderness” bill

The Wilderness Society will work to prevent H.R. 1349, the “Wheels Over Wilderness” bill, from becoming law. The bill, approved today by the House Natural Resources Committee, is opposed by more than 100 outdoors groups including Back Country Horsemen of America, American Hiking Society, National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Statement by Michael Carroll, The Wilderness Society, Senior Director, People Outdoors Program:

“H.R. 1349 is yet another assault on our nation’s public lands and would fundamentally rewrite one of our most important public land conservation laws. There are far better ways to improve access to trails and the backcountry for mountain bicycles. Unfortunately, this bill does little to improve access and will only result in further dividing trail users. It’s bad for public lands and wilderness, bad for outdoor recreationists and bad for mountain bicyclists.”   

Introduced by Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA), H.R. 1349 carves a gaping loophole in the 1964 Wilderness Act, which has stood for a half-century as one of America’s bedrock conservation laws.  The bill would open America’s 110 million acres of wilderness areas to mountain bikes, an unprecedented assault on wilderness nationwide. 

The Wilderness Act prohibits the use of motorized vehicles, motorboats, and “other forms of mechanized transport” in wilderness areas.

For five decades Congress has resisted efforts to undermine the Wilderness Act by opening wilderness areas to uses that are currently prohibited. These efforts have failed due to strong public support for wilderness. This latest effort deserves to fail as well.  See op-ed in The Hill from backcountry outdoors groups.

For years, broad coalitions that include wilderness advocates and mountain bikers have worked to find common ground to accommodate a wide variety of activities on public lands.  For instance, in southwest Colorado, a series of meetings involving a lot of give and take among diverse community stakeholders resulted in the designation of both a wilderness area and a special management area.  The agreement set aside roughly 70,000 acres for mountain biking, dirt biking, snowmobiling and other purposes and about 37,000 acres of designated wilderness. 

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Contacts:

Michael Carroll, The Wilderness Society, Michael_Carroll@tws.org, 970-946-9043

Randy Rasmussen, Back Country Horsemen of America, WildernessAdvisor@bcha.org, 541-602-0713 Mark Larabee,

Pacific Crest Trail Association, mlarabee@pcta.org, 503-880-5987