When the Boulder-White Cloud mountains were declared a wilderness by the United States Congress earlier this year, Idaho mountain bikers may have had the most bitter reaction.
"It is a tragic time for the Boulder White-Clouds" wrote former Outdoor Alliance Regional Director Tom Flynn in a blog posted by the Wood River Bicycle Coalition. "It is tragic because we will never be able to ride these trails again."
In his post, Flynn wrote he supports existing and future wilderness designations but thought a national monument status would have been a more inclusive action for the Boulder-White Clouds, because mountain bikes could still be allowed. Wilderness designations, meanwhile, forbid any mechanized transport.
"My heart breaks for future mountain bikers that will never get the chance to ride Castle Divide, or to have their breath taken away when they pedal to the ridge overlooking Ants Basin," he wrote. "These rides have a near-mythical status for Idaho mountain bikers, inspiring us to explore and care for big, wild landscapes. We mourn their loss."
The broken hearts of bikers may be healed by a new piece of legislation called the Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2015, which aims to open wilderness areas to mountain bikers. If the bill passes, bike access would granted on a case-by-case basis by land managers such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, depending on jurisdiction.
According to British publication Mountain Bike Rider, some research shows mountain bike wheels actually do less damage to trails than hikers and horses—both of which are allowed in wilderness areas.
"Jeff Marion from the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 125 [kilometers] of trail in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and Kentucky, comparing equestrian, walking, [mountain biking] and ATV trails. And lo and behold, [biking] trails had the least erosion," the article stated.
Without a sponsor, the bill still faces a long climb to get to Capitol Hill. However, according to Outside Magazine, the Sustainable Trails Coalition raised $70,000 and hired a lobbying outfit to push the measure through Congress. The draft legislation is currently being revised by congressional staff.