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"Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation: Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area"



 
 
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Old November 13th 07, 04:45 PM posted to alt.mountain-bike,rec.bicycles.soc,rec.backcountry,ca.environment,sci.environment
Mike Vandeman
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Default "Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation: Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area"

Dear Dr. Marion:

I just finished reading your paper, "Assessing and Understanding Trail
Degradation: Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreation
Area". It was advertized by IMBA (unjustifiably) as support for
mountain biking. You may find the attached paper of interest. Please
pay particular attention to the analysis of Wilson & Seney and
Thurston and Reader. Their conclusions don't follow from their data,
so they should not be taken at face value.

Your paper is useful for drawing attention to the way trails are
harmed. But it is not the best design for drawing some of the
distinctions you make. For example, to compare types of use, you need
to create an experimental design, not a survey design. And you need to
control for all major confounding factors. For example, to compare
hiking with mountain biking, you need to apply both treatments to
identical soils on either the same trail, or very similar trails, and
measure before and after. You compared hikers and mountain bikers on
completely different trails! So the differences found could be due to
the differences in the trails or soils, the weather during use, or the
past amount of traffic. After applying typical hiking and mountain
biking treatments to identical soils under identical conditions, you
would be able to compare their impacts. You also made the same error
that all other researchers have made: ignoring distance travelled. If
(let's suppose) hikers and mountain bikers caused the same erosion PER
FOOT (which is what you measured), you have to multiply by typical
distances travelled, to get the total per-user impact. Mountain bikers
travel several times as far as hikers, and thus have several times the
impact.

You also threw away data (cross sectional area of erosion), converting
measured area to binary (on/off) data. I understand that you had
limited time & resources, but I think it would be better to use all
the data you can get.

You also accept without question that all forms of recreation are
acceptable. That decision is up to the politicians, and is not
supported -- or supportable -- by science. All options should remain
on the table, including banning mountain bikes and other ORVs, as well
as horses. Mountain bikes and other ORVs are machines, and have no
right to be on trails (for the court case, see
http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/mtb10). They greatly interfere with
both the wildlife and the other trail users. Horses are exotic
species, but arguably have a right to be here because their genus
evolved in North America. However, when they are being used as
vehicles, they undoubtedly have much greater impacts. The best way to
ensure equal access (the essence of our democracy) is to ban all
vehicles from the trails, including animals used as vehicles.

I understand that you had time- and resources constraints, but I would
like to encourage you to do an experimental study, if you want to draw
defensible conclusions.

Sincerely,

Mike Vandeman

--
I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to
humans ("pure habitat"). Want to help? (I spent the previous 8
years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)

Please don't put a cell phone next to any part of your body that you are fond of!

http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande
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