Trails are useless to mountain bikers when they’re off limits. But that access also needs to be balanced with the needs of other user groups and especially the environment.
“Crossing the Divide, Protecting the Places We Ride”, produced by Grit and Thistle Film Company, documents how IMBA and its chapters work with the conservation and recreation communities to create bike-friendly land protection designations. The goal is to both protect the natural landscapes and ensure the continuation of thriving recreation-based economies, including mountain biking. The film focuses on pending federal legislation that seeks to protect land in Colorado’s Summit, Eagle and Pitkin Counties.
Beginning in 2010, IMBA began a campaign to secure bike-friendly adjustments and companion designations, helping to shepherd those designations through the legislative process.
“Most mountain bikers support land conservation measures to protect natural resources and the backcountry experience,” said Aaron Clark, IMBA Conservation Manager. “But there’s considerable concern in our community when that protection comes with closures to otherwise sustainable and highly prized trails.”
The Wilderness Workshop is one of a number of conservation groups that have worked to incorporate the interests of IMBA’s chapters as a way to enhance public support.
“The challenges to successful public land conservation efforts are daunting,” said Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Sloan Shoemaker. “Now more than ever, people who share conservation as a common core value need to join hands and work together if we are to protect the natural areas that sustain us.”
IMBA has worked closely with the legislative sponsors of the recent land protection proposals. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) is expected to reintroduce his 2011 bill again in 2014 with new adjustments, while Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is actively reviewing public comments, making adjustments and crafting legislation that closely resembles Polis’ bill, but adds Pitkin County.
The video shows how several IMBA chapters—specifically the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association, Summit Fat Tire Society and Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association—have partnered with land protection proponents to enhance the congressional proposals. Working closely with conservation groups, they’ve had success in suggesting joint adjustments, including bike-friendly Special Management Areas that enhance recreational values while protecting natural resources.
By adjusting proposed Wilderness boundaries and maintaining a critical role in negotiations, world-class trails that were previously threatened, will remain open for mountain biking. The negotiated boundaries will also allow for potential expansions and logical connections to existing trails that would create multi-day rides over mountain passes by connecting numerous high-elevation, backcountry trails and rural Forest Service roads.
“There is still more to be done in each of the counties to ensure that future legislation for these areas are more bike-friendly while providing the necessary protections that we all rely upon for keeping these places beautiful,” said Clark. “This video shows that we are well on our way to making that happen.”
Find an advocacy toolkit for bike friendly companion designations and more on IMBA’s resources page.