California Wilderness Bill may affect cyclists’ trail use

Back on July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a proposal to extend permanent protection to a portion of Northern California. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act (HR 233), would protect 289,000 acres of wilderness and 21 miles of the Black Butte River as wild and scenic. All of the lands in the bill are in the northwest corner of California, stretching from the Oregon border to Napa County.

The bill is championed in the U.S. House by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), who represents all of the areas included. “This bill will protect some of the finest remaining wild places in all of California. We hope the Senate will act quickly to pass this proposal and send it to the President,” said Sara Barth, California / Nevada Regional Director of The Wilderness Society.

Also in July, the Senate passed a companion bill, S. 128, with the backing of Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Changes were made to this proposal as it headed to the House floor so the bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration, since the House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill. As of August 2, S. 128 was referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is concerned that Representative Thompson’s proposal would close more than 200 miles of trails to mountain bikers. While I’m all for safety on the trail and prefer to hike trails that don’t get a lot of mountain bike activity, I’ve always believed in sharing and in multi-use; when I expect mountain bike activity, I tend to make sure my hikers are mentally prepared ahead of time. In fact, I share IMBA’s position on wilderness. It doesn’t matter that I used to ride the local Northern California trails for years before I began to lead hikes on them.

IMBA is working with Rep. Thompson to designate alternative trails and boundary adjustments, and the House Resources Committee maintains that it is “very interested in IMBA’s proposals for using more diverse designations to protect public lands”.

I hope IMBA is successful. We’ll see if they are should the bill pass.



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