By Justin Vander Pol, Board Member of the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club
I love our forests and mountains, and deeply value a “small w” wilderness riding experience.
At times mountain bikers like me have a complicated relationship with what we call designated Wilderness proposals, as mountain bikers are excluded from using Federally designated Wilderness. It is with smart planning and an open dialogue, that mountain bikers can support Wilderness bills that protect our land and preserve our human-powered recreation opportunities.
Ultimately, we are all in this together and have the same goal — to preserve our precious natural resources for the next generation. Mountain bikers and Wilderness advocates are working together closely these days, and have a large amount of cross-pollination in our supporters.
There are many ways in which our groups can benefit from each other. Mountain bikers can help develop the next generation of conservation-minded outdoor enthusiasts. Wilderness advocates can continue their efforts to preserve our forests and wild lands.
I was proud to be able to support, on behalf of the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club (BBTC), now Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) , the recently introduced Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Wild Pratt River Act. BBTC represents mountain bikers in Washington, and does volunteer trail maintenance all over the state. The broad support of this Bill was possible due to a smart proposal that accomplished the goals of most interested groups.
By aligning the Wilderness boundary just a few vertical feet upslope of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Trail, mountain bikers could wholeheartedly support the Bill as it will not only protect the surrounding forest as wilderness but will also ensure continued use of the non-wilderness trail corridor by mountain bikes.
I hope to see mountain bikers and Wilderness supporters come together and work together on similar proposals in the future. By using tools such as smart alignment and non-Wilderness trail corridors we can work together on proposals that may otherwise face large political hurdles.
We must always remember that our groups have much in common and both want to protect and enjoy pristine mountain environments. It gives me great joy to watch two of my deepest interests – mountain biking and saving the environment – come together on a common cause.
Justin Vander Pol is a Board Member of the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club, as well as a King County Trustee for the Cascade Land Conservancy.