POCATELLO, ID (July 12)–The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national trail-based recreation group, applauded a move by the National Park Service (NPS) early this month that could allow additional mountain bike recreation in National Parks across the U.S.
On July 5, 2012, the NPS released revised regulations (known as a “rule”) giving park superintendents the ability to allow bicycles on roads that exist on the ground but have been closed to motorized vehicles. The rule could, if approved via planning and environmental analysis, also allow mountain bike use on some existing trails.
Brian Hawthorne, BRC’s Public Lands Policy Director, praised the decision saying that the NPS needs to recognize that its dual mission requires it to fully consider meaningful and diverse recreation activities. “When creating the National Park System, Congress mandated that the Park Service ‘promote’ and ‘provide for the use and enjoyment’ of park resources and ‘leave unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.’” Hawthorne noted that these coequal mandates require the NPS to balance both interests when making management decisions for national parks. “Allowing Park Superintendents to allow mountain bikes is the right thing to do,” he said.
Environmental groups and NPS advocacy organizations howled in opposition, saying the agency “slithered” the new policy in on Independence Day, insinuating mountain biking in National Parks is somehow unpatriotic. The Center for Biological Diversity joined the National Parks Conservation Association and the Association of National Park Rangers expressing grave concerns the rule would circumvent public involvement and environmental analysis.
In reality, the new rule will open nothing. It simply eliminates a blanket prohibition on bikes and adds possible bike use to the list of topics local officials are empowered to address through local planning. The new rule requires rigorous environmental compliance requirements and mandatory public comment on proposals to open existing or new trails to bikes. In addition, new trails outside of developed areas will continue to require a park-specific special regulation, and the NPS will continue to prohibit bicycle use in eligible, study, proposed, recommended and designated Wilderness areas.
Greg Mumm, BRC’s Executive Director was not surprised these groups oppose the new rule. “That is why we call them anti-recreation groups,” he said. Mumm stressed the National Park System was never meant to be managed as Wilderness. “Through lawsuits and high-dollar political lobbying environmentalists are tilting the balance. This new rule is entirely appropriate. The National Park System needs to be willing to provide Americans with recreational access,” he added.
The final rule, 36 CFR 4.30, was published in the Federal Register on July 6 and will go into effect 30 days later.
The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib – www.sharetrails.org
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