By Charles Pekow – It could become easier to open federal land to mountain bikers if legislation introduced by Utah's senators passes. Utah's two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, have introduced the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act (S. 3205), which would cut red tape. The bill would allow local federal officials to determine whether or not to open up officially designated wilderness areas to non-motorized transit.
The provision would apply to all land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife Service designated under the National Wilderness Preservation System. While the bill would amend the 1964 Wilderness Act to allow local discretion, it would not authorize any activities otherwise prohibited by law. But it does not require public participation; such as comment periods, open houses and hearings; which the agencies usually engage in before opening lands for recreational or other use.
The bill would allow officials to regulate use; such as limiting the number of mountain bikers, times of day or seasons trails could be open, making routes one-way, and distinguishing between types of trail users (hikers, bikers, equestrians). The bill would also end the ban on use of motorized equipment such as chainsaws ans wheelbarrows to improve trails and their surroundings.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. Lee sits on the committee, which hasn't scheduled any action on it. No companion has been introduced in the House and no other senators have cosponsored it so far.
Lee's philosophy of legislation involves increasing local control of federal land. He has introduced legislation, for instance, that would limit the president's power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate national monuments. He introduced a bill a year ago that would limit a presidential national monument designation to three years unless Congress or a state legislature approves it. Congress has not acted on it.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition pushed S 3205. This non-profit incorporated as a 501 (c)(4) non-profit, a designation that allows it to do unlimited lobbying. Its website says it is incorporated in California but it leaves a San Jose, CA post office box as its mailing address.