Forest Service Issues Decision on Continental Divide Trail

 The U.S. Forest Service recently announced its updated comprehensive management plan for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The plan states that mountain biking is an acceptable use of the trail, and emphasizes that forest service offices should formulate strategies appropriate for their districts. During the comment period, the Forest Service received more than 8,000 comments.  Thanks to an IMBA action alert, many of the comments were submitted by mountain bikers who spoke in favor of bicycle access.

Steve Sherwood, Director of the Rocky Mountain Region’s Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness programs further explains, “An important feature of the new directive is that, while it establishes hiking and horseback riding as the primary uses of the trail, it clearly allows for other shared, non-motorized and human-powered uses—including mountain biking. The directive charges the local land managers with making the decision on which uses will be allowed based on an analysis of the local conditions. These decisions will be made under the auspices of NEPA and will allow for full public involvement.”

“As far as I am concerned, this is a very positive outcome that promotes shared use of the trail,” Sherwood continues. “We had a lot of push back on the issue of shared use beyond hiking and horseback riding and we still have strong advocates each way both within the agency and externally, but people need to understand that the CDNST is a 3,100-mile trail that can and needs to accommodate multiple uses.”

The amendment’s focus on district-by-district management strategies makes it imperative for mountain bike clubs to work closely with their foresters. “The decision provides a basis for Forest Service offices that are willing to maintain or even expand access for mountain bikers,” says IMBA Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice. “However, it also states that hiking and equestrian uses are the original intention for creating the trail, so mountain bikers are going to have to continue making a case for shared-use arrangements that allow citizens to get the maximum recreation value out of this wonderful national resource.”

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