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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Sep 05 2019

Overriding Public Input

Sec. Bernhardt allows motorized bikes on non-motorized trails in national parks, wildlife refuges, and on BLM lands

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On August 29th, Interior Secretary David Berhardt issued an order that opens non-motorized trails to all classes of motorized electric bicycles (e-bikes) on lands administered by the Department of the Interior (DOI). That means that all national parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands across the country will now allow motorized e-bikes on trails that allow bicycle use but are designated as non-motorized.

E-bikes can reach up to 28 miles-per-hour.  

The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the BLM have historically required that motorized use on public lands be limited to roads, trails, and areas explicitly designated as allowing motorized use. Not anymore. 
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Opening non-motorized trails to e-bikes will fundamentally diminish the experience that millions of hikers, hunters, horsemen, and many other users go in search of in the remote backcountry.

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Bernhardt made this abrupt decision without giving the public any opportunity to weigh in, continuing the alarming trend at DOI of cutting the public out of decisions that will determine the future of lands we collectively own. Earlier this summer, the administration proposed changes to the National Environmental Protection Act that would significantly reduce the public’s opportunity to weigh in on the management of public lands. 

Opening non-motorized trails to e-bikes will fundamentally diminish the experience that millions of hikers, hunters, horsemen, and many other users go in search of in the remote backcountry. Allowing motorized bikes that can travel 28 miles-per hour on trails that have been specifically designated as non-motorized could also very well pose a threat to the safety of other trail users. Moreover, it will hasten the degradation of those trails, at a time when funding for trail maintenance is woefully inadequate. 

In the past, decisions like this one about e-bikes would have first been preceded by some public process conducted by public land managers, a process that would have involved all impacted user groups and allowed them to lay out their concerns. The process would have also involved a site specific analysis of how the use of e-bikes could affect safety, water quality, wildlife, other trail users, and natural and cultural resources. 

Over the last few months, the DOI under Sec. Bernhardt has made a series of decisions that make it clear that it cares little about managing our public lands for the public good. It has released resource management plans favoring industry above all else. It has begun moving BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado in an attempt to displace staff and weaken the agency. And it has named William Perry Pendley as acting director of the BLM, even though Pendley is an outspoken advocate for selling off our public lands.

This latest news about e-bikes therefore doesn’t come as a big surprise. Still, we have to fight back.

Add your name now to stay informed on actions you can take to fight back the dangerous decisions being made at the Department of the Interior. 

- Emily Cleveland, MWA senior field director