SDMBA's Response to IMBA's Stance on HR 1349
SDMBA is extremely disappointed in the action taken by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) in formally filing testimony that does not support HR 1349 sponsored by Congressman McClintock and supported by the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC).
On Thursday December 7, 2017 there was a hearing in committee in the US House of Representatives regarding HR 1349 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1349 ). HR 1349 was brought forward by Representative Tom McClintock with the support of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). The entire text of the bill is as follows:
“Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.''
Ted Stroll of the STC testified in front of the committee on issues surrounding the bill (http://www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org/congressional-te…/ ).
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), of which the San Diego Mountain Biking Association is a Chapter, submitted written comment to the committee on December 6, 2017 (https://www.imba.com/…/fi…/HR1349_IMBA-Testimony_12-6-17.pdf ). While much in the statement is positive and details very good work that IMBA and it’s chapters have done over several decades, one part of the comment is extremely troubling as it relates to the extremely broad issue of mountain bikes in the wilderness and specifically to the extremely limited scope of HR 1349. That comment is as follows:
“IMBA’s longstanding position on trail access in federally designated Wilderness is as follows: IMBA will continue to respect both the Wilderness Act and the federal land agencies' regulations that bicycles are not allowed in existing congressionally designated Wilderness areas. IMBA is not supporting H.R. 1349.”
Notwithstanding the history of perceived conflict between IMBA and STC over this issue, the STC is a single issue organization whose focus is as follows ( http://www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org/#home):
“The Wilderness Act of 1964 was a beautiful thing. It protected our most precious lands and celebrated the recreational opportunities they would provide for generations to come. The Act made it clear that things with engines were bad, and living power sources like humans and horses were good. The Act didn’t ban bikes; that happened twenty years later.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition is a nonprofit working to reverse the ban on bicycles in Wilderness areas. However, just as we’re opposed to the blanket ban, we’re also opposed to a blanket permit. We ultimately believe the trails in our Wilderness areas need a big dose of cooperation, common sense, and repair; living power sources like hikers, cyclists, equestrians, cross country skiers, snowshoers, etc., need to get along, work together, and partner with land managers to decide what is in the best interest of each trail.”
IMBA and STC issued a joint statement on 5/18/2017 https://www.imba.com/joint-statement-imba-and-sustainable-trails-coalition-stc .
SDMBA has supported STC since its inception both financially and in efforts to educate and inform our members and other community members about their legislative efforts. Ideally, IMBA would have taken lead, but in the vacuum, STC bravely took this on. The result has been bills in both the house and senate! Further, people are now speaking about cycling in wilderness. Where was IMBA? Doing everything possible to avoid this controversial stand.
Leadership is difficult, especially within an advocacy organization. This is why having a strong board and executive team is critical. The team will often be confronted with difficult decisions resulting in national benefits/consequences. Unfortunately, IMBA’s leadership style has been to avoid conflict - resulting in ignoring chapters and the desires of the majority of mountain bikers. The results of IMBA’s current leadership are dismal. In the last two years IMBA lost their biggest sponsors, has eliminated local representation, ran out of money (resulting in a 50%+ staff reduction) and today broke a promise to mountain bikers regarding wilderness. Shockingly, only ONE board member has been replaced. For true change to happen, change must happen at the top. Once again, SDMBA strongly supports IMBA’s board being dissolved and being replaced with elected mountain bike leaders with a strong, accomplished history of outstanding advocacy wins. SDMBA promises to continue our push for changes within this critical national organization.
The SDMBA Board of Directors is supportive of the focus of STC noted above as well as the version of HR 1349 currently being moved forward. We see no conflict between our goals and the goals of STC and HR 1349. We are baffled and very disappointed that IMBA would interject itself as a major representative of mountain bikers and voluntarily and in no uncertain terms say they are “not supporting H.R. 1349.”
IMBA has devoted decades to increasing access to and to building trails. We understand completely that this has been a long, challenging process as many of us (local chapter members) have worked at the local level to accomplish these same ends. In many cases being a part of IMBA has lent credibility to our local work and for that we are grateful. However, if an umbrella organization is perceived to be actively working against the interests of those under the umbrella the question of leaving the umbrella arises.
Earlier in 2017, the SDMBA Board of Directors voted to remain an IMBA Chapter (this is a year by year contract). We urge IMBA to modify their position to either come into alignment with what we believe is the overwhelming position of most mountain bikers or to simply withdraw their comments and move to a neutral position regarding HR 1349. We will be watching for developments to cue our future association with IMBA.
The SDMBA board will grapple again with the decision to remain a chapter of IMBA or not, with input from our members. Whatever happens know that SDMBA will continue to work locally for more legal trails in San Diego County based on the strength of our community and your input!
If national membership isn’t right for you at this time, consider setting up a monthly recurring gift with 100% of funds staying here in San Diego to help our trails and projects. You still will be included on all correspondence and invited to all events. We cannot stress enough how important your financial support is. Local or national - we need you!
Video Blog from SDMBA President Kevin Loomis posted 12/7/2017