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An Update from the Sustainable Trails Coalition

Here at SDMBA we fully support the efforts of the Sustainable Trails Coalition and we wanted to share with you their most recent update on their lobbing efforts for H.R. 1349.

 Dear Supporter,

It is time for a status update and a long-term perspective on our progress.


H.R. 1349 – The House Bill

As most know, we have a bill circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1349. The author, Rep. Tom McClintock of California, is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands of the House Committee on Natural Resources. One could scarcely ask for a more influential author of the legislation STC seeks, or one more committed to getting it passed.
Working in close coordination with Chairman McClintock and his staff, as well as other interested parties supporting the bill, we are now underway with a broad lobbying campaign throughout the House to recruit cosponsors for the bill. As we add more sponsors to H.R. 1349, we will amass the requisite support to move the bill through committee and ultimately to the House floor.

One person expressed concern that Chairman McClintock’s bill goes too far the other way by forcing Wilderness land managers to open trails to mountain biking. It doesn’t. Numerous rules and guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations and federal agency policy manuals and handbooks allow the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management to regulate when, where, and under what circumstances people can visit federal land. The bill merely puts mountain bikers in the same category as campers who can’t camp by certain lakes, hunters who can hunt only in season, hikers who can’t hike if a trail is damaged or it would disrupt a species migration, or canoeists who can’t bring in a boat contaminated with invasive species.

What We Need People To Do !!!

Once again we ask everyone to write, e-mail or call your member of Congress asking him/her to support, co-sponsor, and vote for H.R. 1349. This is CRITICAL. Please do this even if you already did it last year or earlier this year, pointing specifically to H.R. 1349.  Politicians listen to their constituents.  If you want to get rid of the biggest no bike sign on earth, make yourself heard.

This link shows how to identify and e-mail your member of Congress, with talking points. It takes less than three minutes.

S.3205 – The Senate Bill

As for the U.S. Senate, last year Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced S.3205, the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act.  This was wonderful, but it came too late in the session for the bill to advance.  We expect them to be introducing similar legislation in this new Congress, and we’re working to secure bipartisan sponsorship.  Toward this goal of having both Republicans and Democrats on the bill, we urge you to write your two Senators. Here are talking points.

You might also consider writing a letter to the editor of the largest newspaper in your area. Again, talking points can be found on the STC website.


Assessment of Our Long-term Progress

When we started STC in 2015, two lobbyists for the bicycle industry assured us we wouldn’t get anywhere and we were wasting our time.

That assessment didn’t surprise us, since no one else had ever tried before, including those jaded critics, who didn’t try even when we had a mountain biking president in George W. Bush. Those members of Congress who had heard of Wilderness at all probably didn’t know bicycling is excluded. Same for the Pacific Crest Trail.

In 2015, frustrated mountain bikers facing trail losses were doing desperate things like writing online petitions, which get no traction on Capitol Hill.

Since then, we (meaning you and STC) have:
  • Lit a fire on Capitol Hill. Whether a U.S. Senator or member of Congress is for or against us, almost everyone knows about the bicycle bans. It has become part of the national agenda.
  • Received huge amounts of press coverage. Two years ago even most regular backcountry visitors probably didn’t know about the bicycle bans. Stories and op-eds in many newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times and Washington Post to Outside, National Geographic, and Men’s Journal, as well as various regional newspapers in the West, have alerted the whole country to these unfair bans.
  • Probably made it much more difficult for another Boulder–White Clouds loss to happen. Hundreds of you have written your senators and member of Congress. Reporters are asking questions. Congressional staffs read newspapers containing articles about the bicycle bans. Boulder–White Clouds got through because Wilderness bicycle bans were sufficiently uncontroversial and invisible that power brokers could ignore mountain bikers. No longer is that so true.
Still, we wish to be candid. Our professional trail access lobbyist—the only paid lobbyist who has ever tried to get the Wilderness and Pacific Crest Trail bicycle bans overturned—tells us the current main problem is the politically toxic climate in Congress. Lawmakers are angry with one another, whether it’s over health care, Supreme Court appointments, foreign relations, travel restrictions, ethics—you name it. We, like many other good causes, are swept up in a tide of partisan ill will.

Let’s put it this way: If Congress could vote by secret ballot on these bills (which isn’t allowed) or by voice vote (which is), they’d pass overwhelmingly. But votes on the legislation will likely be formally recorded and not be done by voice, so it’s politics that govern, not reason.

For example, the staff of one liberal western Democrat recently let our lobbyist know they understand and like what we’re doing. But their boss may still feel unable to go on the record in support of access reform. We won’t understate the difficulties.

Finally, and as always, we thank you for your generous financial support. If you’d like to help us keep pushing, please consider donating again , or buy a shirt, and ask three friends to do the same. We’re fund-raising among prospective major donors, so please don’t feel we’re asking you, our loyal crowd-funders, to bear the whole burden.

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