Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Midwinter Mountain Bike Report

Well the snowpocalypse is finally burying us in snow, so you might be wondering why I posting about biking rather than skiing.  Two reasons: first, tomorrow is powder Thursday and secondly I tend not to post about the backcountry skiing in the area. I'm willing to share great trails. Powder stashes stay secret.

The first bit of biking new is not of the happy sort.  Clearwater National Forest has released their Travel Plan for motorized recreation and somehow they decided to close trails to the clearly non-motorized, but rather human powered mountain bikes in recommended wilderness to maintain these areas wild character.

When you read the summary you might be surprised by this after all it says:

(1) complete a local analysis;
(2) designate roads, trails and areas where motorized travel will be permitted; and 

(3) display those designated routes on a motor vehicle use map. 

A little later the summary it says:

5. Protect wilderness character in recommended wildernesses.
6. Remove over-snow and bicycle restrictions that do not have a clearly identifiable purpose.

Somehow this has been interpreted to keep bikes out of recommended wilderness.  It would have been nice  if they had been honest and said so, rather than "Protect wilderness character in recommended wildernesses."  It would have helpful if they had discussed how bikes destroy wilderness but they didn't.  There are over a thousand pages of documentation, and somehow they neglected to document this, other than burying the trail closures in an appendix.

Interestingly in the final record of decision, this is the section on bicycles:

The Existing Condition: Some trails and roads currently have bicycle restrictions, and the objectives for those restrictions are not clear. Some MAs in the Forest Plan include direction for the management of mechanized uses, and bicycles are a form of mechanized travel that has not been previously managed in these areas.
The Desired Condition: The desired condition is to meet Forest Plan goals and objectives without unnecessarily restricting bicycle recreational opportunities.
Need: There is a need to remove bicycle restrictions that do not serve a clearly identifiable purpose, and to manage mechanized travel as necessary to address Forest Plan goals for certain Management Areas.

Funny how there is not mention of closing any trails. Later on a passing mention of bikes. No mention of trails openings. Only closures

Bicycle Actions Common to All Action Alternatives
The following bicycle actions were described in the FEIS as common to all action alternatives, and are included in Alternative C Modified.
Appendix B lists all system trails where bicycle travel will be restricted.
Two new bicycle restrictions are common to all action alternatives. They are on Trails 790 and 790-A near the Lolo Pass visitor center. 

One bit on honesty

Eliminate motorized and bicycle travel in recommended wilderness except for summer motorized travel on Fish Lake Trail 419.

Wondering if there is a map of the closures.  Of course not. 

Enough on Clearwater.

In other news.  We have organized an official mountain bike club for the Bitterroot.

The Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists

Go ahead and join, and help us protect the trails of the Bitterroot.

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