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"A Wicked Threat: Mountain Bikes in National Parks"

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Old October 29th 08, 02:38 AM posted to alt.mountain-bike,rec.bicycles.soc,rec.backcountry,ca.environment,sci.environment
Mike Vandeman
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Default "A Wicked Threat: Mountain Bikes in National Parks"

See also: http://www.wildwilderness.org/content/view/852/61/

A Wicked Threat: Mountain Bikes in National Parks

By Brian L. Horejsi , Guest Writer, 10-27-08

Perched like a vulture on a snag, the threat of mountain bikes in
National Parks stares down on the fraying edges and core of our
National Parks and the dream and vision of what National Parks can and
ought to be. Over the years, mostly years in which mountain bikes were
nothing but a worrisome blot poking over the horizon, the vast
majority of the American people came to see and believe that National
Parks could be enjoyed by walking the trails or riding the paved
roads, whether on your bike or in your Chevy. Americans came to that
understanding along with some parallel understanding that National
Parks were mostly natural areas. Not only are they a delight to lay
eyes on, but they protect what Americans vaguely understand to be
ecological integrity; things like clean air, native wildlife, plants,
all mixed into a largely protected landscape.

It seemed intuitive that such a exceptional idea, and the exceptional
places that brought that idea to life, should be free of mechanized
access. It was a given that it excluded motorized access, and we
should give thanks daily to the visionary and hard working people who
did spend their time and effort on protecting Park integrity,
particularly given the exponential rise is the abusive and destructive
use of off road vehicles. With snow machines already prying the door
open, an avalanche of mechanization, pollution, and conflict is
surging forward. Yes, the motorized recreation world is drooling over
access to National Parks and the Bush administration has been there
with their legislative and rule making pry bar, trying to force even
more commercialization and exploitation.

And now we have the prodding threat of mountain bikes. This is another
retreat from the notion of what a National Park represents, and what
role it has to play in the psyche of a free America. Along with
Wilderness, no human construct represents freedom of the masses like
National Parks. It may well be that America will continue to turn
National Parks over to the kinds of people that engineered the
financial and housing free fall in America*the anti-regulators, the
anti-democracy and the anti-science*the people who take extreme risks
with rights and your assets.

Most hikers are negatively impacted by even occasional, let alone
regular, flow of bikers on trails or walking roads. Bikes and bikers
are a physical threat, they are inherently aggressive, they kick up
dust, and they can impose a mechanical sound on the immediate area.
Other times they just sneak up and surprise hikers, and for a species
like us that is heavily visually oriented, mountain bikes are an ugly
intrusion of mechanization and urbanization.

Bikers, it is claimed, only ďwantĒ some front country routes, the ones
that receive concentrated routine use from day hikers, the ones that
older hikers use almost exclusively, and those that people with
children use almost exclusively. No conflict there, right? The claim
that people are going to use bikes more as they age, just when their
balance, eyesight and hearing is in decline, is nonsense. Just the
opposite is true. The front country routes are going to be
increasingly important for older walkers and families, so conflict
will increase. Seems like forcing conflict on your most intense use
areas is the goal.

Iíve personally had my share of the excuse that bikes are less of a
physical and psychological impact than some other kind of park use,
presumably making their cumulative impact acceptable. Some kinds of
park use involve natural means of travel*and yes, they have to be
tightly regulated, as in horse use*and some, as in the bike proposals,
involved artificial, man made means of off road travel. A bike on a
ridge top provokes a substantially negative and different
physiological, psychological and behavioral response from a person
than a horse or someone on foot. The distinction is dead clear.

Some people that have slipped into the great void of indifference want
to throw the bikers a ďbone.Ē All people have a right to have their
iron in the fire, but make no mistake about it, many are there to put
another brand, another form of privatization, on public lands, in this
case National Parks. Outright promoters of mechanization of Parks are
driven by the same behind-the-scenes political agitation driving the
off road vehicle set*manufacturers and dealers, corporations and
people who promote commercialization at any cost. Lets see how thatís
been going. First, renewed snowmobile use in Yellowstone, continuing
widespread slaughter of bison with its huge ecological and
psychological changes, then guns in all national parks (please donít
try to tell me the NRA doesnít speak for gun manufacturers and
sellers!), and recently a call for widely extended cell phone
use/coverage, towers included, in Yellowstone. Now, another step:
mountain bike mechanization of the park. Anyone see a trend here, or
the rumblings of an avalanche?

Itís a common ploy by promoters and the indifferent to call for
activists and citizens and scientists to ďlook the other way.Ē Itís
not worth our time and effort, they proclaim. And it works. Wilderness
activists and citizen supporters drop the ball when they think they
donít have to defend every inch of public rights, every public
principle and process, and every vision of public ownership. Americans
are again faced with another serious threat to public lands, but this
time itís mountain bikers in National Parks. Seems like itís time to
not just push back but reclaim the line that was wisely and rightly
drawn in the sand by early visionaries.

Brian L. Horejsi is a wildlife scientist, public process advocate and
frequent user of Yellowstone National Park.
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!


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