Sportsmen and women are opposing an Interior Department decision to open millions of acres of public land trails to motorized e-bikes, threatening intact fish and wildlife habitat and undermining science-based land management strategies.
As framed via Secretarial Order 3376 from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, the administration move requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation to allow e-bikes on any trail where other classes of bicycles are allowed.
Sportsmen and women value the challenge, solitude and freedom offered by public lands and waters and have supported public land travel management plans that maintain non-motorized recreational opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat, are developed through public processes and integrate the best available science. A joint letter recently sent to federal land managers outlines their position.
“Of course people want to get out onto the landscape and enjoy it in as many ways as they can,” said Aaron Kindle, senior manager of western sporting campaigns for the National Wildlife Federation. “But we risk loving places to death and further overwhelming wildlife every time technology advances. Management that treats non-motorized and motorized recreation differently has worked well for quite some time. Let’s call it like it is. E-bikes are motorized vehicles and should be managed as such.”
“The new policy benefits primarily the makers of electric mountain bikes, whose websites encourage riders to blast throughout our backcountry trails and set new speed records,” said Darrell Wallace, chairman of the Back Country Horsemen of America. “Since land managers lack sufficient resources to limit speeds on trails, how can backcountry users expect to continue to enjoy a tranquil backcountry experience?”
“American hunting and angling families have long sought out our incredible system of non-motorized public land trails for the unparalleled opportunities they provide to unplug, challenge ourselves physically and restore ourselves spiritually,” said Tim Brass, state policy director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Categorically reclassifying non-motorized trails to allow for new motorized use robs traditional trail users and local communities with a needed opportunity to provide public input on how e-bike use is permitted on public lands. While we believe e-bikes have a place on our public lands, it is imperative that any impacts on fish and wildlife habitat be carefully considered through a scientific process – and that this information be used to guide land management decisions in a wildlife friendly manner. This top-down secretarial order is the wrong way to manage e-bikes on our public lands.”
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