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Dems say fat chance that fat tires will tread on federal wilderness areas

Author: Dan Njegomir - December 28, 2017 - Updated: December 28, 2017

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A cyclist with a fatbike. (ivandan, istockphoto)

Doesn’t matter that Republicans control both the U.S. House and (just barely) the Senate; minority Democrats are convinced a GOP bill that would allow mountain bikes inside federally designated wilderness areas, including Colorado’s, is going nowhere. That’s despite the bill’s passage Wednesday on a near-party-line vote by the House Committee on Natural Resources, reports the Aspen Daily News. (Hat tip to Colorado Peak Politics for pointing us to the story.) Here’s more:

The bill, HR 1349, introduced last March by Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), specifically states that it would “amend the Wilderness Act to ensure that the use of bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers and game carts is not prohibited in Wilderness Areas.”

Right now, able-bodied nature lovers are pretty much confined to hiking under the rules governing wilderness access; Democrats say wheelchairs already are allowed for the disabled.

And this is one time when the two parties aren’t splitting hairs or mincing words about their support for, or opposition to a policy. It’s flat-out, fundamentally philosophical:

“…We don’t believe bicycles belong in wilderness areas. That was the crux of the bill,” said Adam Sarvana, communications director for the committee’s Democrats. And Sarvana seemed pretty confident the ban on bikes isn’t going away anytime soon. As reported by the Daily Times:

“GOP leadership has to decide whether to bring this up for a vote of the full House, which we don’t expect to happen,” Sarvana said. “It’s not a priority for Speaker [Paul] Ryan, as far as we can tell.”

Sarvana said that’s not the only obstacle facing HR 1349.

“If it makes it out of the House it has almost no chance in the Senate,” he said. “There aren’t 60 votes for this as a stand-alone bill, and a Democratic senator would certainly filibuster it.”

Colorado contains over 3.5 million acres of federally protected wilderness spread across 41 distinct wilderness areas, according to the website Colorado’s Wild Areas.

Colorado’s Third Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton had to miss the committee vote due to a scheduling conflict, the Daily News reported.

 

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.


2 comments

  • Terry Jensen

    December 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    It infuriates me the progressives want to stop the citizens of the US from using the national forest land by expanding the wilderness areas across the country. Most of them have never set foot in the forest. All of that land is for all of us to enjoy. If anything, I am for the GOP to do what is necessary to nullify a lot of wilderness and put it all back under open national forest uses.

  • shawn

    December 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    All wilderness areas are not created equal, so I think it is okay to consider this idea on a case-by-case basis. For example, this summer I hiked the 485 mile Colorado Trail, which goes through several wilderness areas and therefore forces bikepackers to take extended detours. It seemed bizarre to me that cyclist who were trying to do the same route as me had to endure a 70+ mile detour around the Lost Creek Wilderness, especially when so many of the trails were completely fouled by the cattle grazing in this same wilderness. Odd.

    On the other hand, my detailed research as a road runner, trail runner, and backpacker show that fully 50% of mountainbikers (and a higher percentage of road bikers) are complete a$$holes. So maybe we should keep them out at least until their trail manners improve. Just sayin’.

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