Backcountry Sportsmen Oppose ‘Bikes in Wilderness’ Bill

BHA members support conserving America’s most remote and valuable fish and wildlife habitat

Bike Trail
Mountain Biking
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Missoula, MT -( As hunters head into America’s wilderness in search of game and lawmakers struggle through the final weeks of the 114th Congress, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is criticizing a Senate bill that would open federally designated wilderness areas to mountain biking.

S.B. 3205, the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, would open the door to bicycles in all wilderness areas in the United States. Under the 1964 Wilderness Act, bikes and other forms of “mechanical transport” are explicitly banned in wilderness areas, which are set aside to preserve their pristine waters, fish and wildlife habitat and opportunities for solitude. Today, hunters on foot and with traditional pack stock treasure wilderness areas for those same values.

BHA President and CEO Land Tawney cited studies demonstrating the outsize impact of mountain bikes on areas frequented by big game.

“From Alaska to Florida, wilderness areas provide hunters and anglers with unmatched backcountry adventures that are part of the fabric of the American experience,” said Tawney. “Wilderness areas encompass some of our rarest, most precious lands and waters, and their existence prevents the fragmentation of invaluable fish and wildlife habitat. While mountain bikes are enjoyed in appropriate places by many BHA members, they have no place in our wilderness.”

Sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, S.B. 3205 is eliciting a negative response from sportsmen, even those who generally enjoy and support mountain biking.

“Mountain biking is an increasingly popular form of quiet and healthy recreation – one that has a place on public lands,” said Jay Banta, a BHA board member from Grover, Utah. “But wilderness designations work well as currently stipulated in the Wilderness Act. BHA is committed to defending traditional use of wilderness areas, in Utah and across the country.”

“I’m a passionate hunter and mountain biker, and I believe the mountain biking community deserves to have their voice heard in helping determine future wilderness area proposals,” said Josh Kuntz, a BHA member from Boise, Idaho. “However, this particular bill would deliver far too many very bad consequences.”

“Given that designated wilderness areas in the Lower 48 encompass less than 3 percent of our land mass, an abundance of places are available for mountain bikes outside of formal wilderness,” said BHA member David Lien of Colorado. “BHA supports wilderness management that minimizes the impacts of mountain biking and other growing recreational demands. Opening our wilderness areas to bikes would disrespect the very tradition of wilderness.”

“I love my mountain bike,” concluded Ben Long, a member of BHA’s national board from Kalispell, Montana. “I love the Bob Marshall, Cabinet Mountains and Mission Mountains wilderness areas, too. Bikes and wilderness don’t really go together, however. Luckily we have plenty of public lands that are open to mountain bikes, giving all us of places to experience and enjoy the outdoors.”

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. 

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About Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:

Formed around an Oregon campfire in 2004, BHA is the sportsmen’s voice for our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With members in all 50 states and Canada, 18 state-based chapters and a chapter in British Columbia, BHA brings an authentic, informed, boots-on-the-ground voice to the conservation of public lands.

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Instead of opening up even more trail to mountain bikes, I would like to see some trails closed to pack stock. I fully embrace the idea of multiple use, but I also understand that different people are looking for different types of experiences from their public lands. Personally I think that some wilderness areas should be accessible by foot only. I know that some day I won’t be able to hike 5 or 10 miles into the backcountry with my camp on my back, but I will be happy knowing that the opportunity to do so remains for my children… Read more »


You trust agency land managers to decide what’s right for everyone, that’s a joke right. please don’t tell me you have trust in state/Fed clowns. I like the way things are now. No change needed.


Pat, You “like the way things are now?” You mean with some federal bureaucrat sitting at a desk in Washington DC (in 1984, by the way) deciding what’s best for the trail in your neighborhood? Oh boy do you love those “clowns.”

Vince Black

Horses and bicycles should be banned from wilderness trails. They cause too much damage. Horses can even transmit diseases and their feed if not weed free can introduce invasive species. Not to mention the crap they leave on the trail. Cycling causes less trail damage. (FACT) I see it every day here in Oregon. I must admit a lot of Mountain Bikers act like asses on the trail. In fact I hate them. This is coming from a 20+ year mountain biking veteran.


Vince, If we have extensive examples of sustainable trails that are used intensively by bicycles outside of federal Wilderness, why do you think that we wouldn’t be able to create similar situations on at least some Wilderness trails?

Wild Bill

@TL, If I am not mistaken, Vince’s main reason for wanting bicycles banned is that the riders act like asses on the trail. I, too, would withdraw my objection to bicycles on the trail if the bicycle riders could be eliminated.


Well, I’m a hunter/shooter/fisherman who also rides a mountain bike in Colorado. When I’m riding a MT trail, I love it. When I’m hiking the backcountry I love it. What do I HATE? When I’m hiking with my dog on a “No Bikes allowed” trail & some asshat comes flying through on his mountain bike at breakneck speeds forcing me off the trail with a panicked, now hyped up dog. There SHOULD be and needs to be designated areas that are off limits to certain things. Yeah, MT bikes are great, but just like Indy Cars & my ADV Motorcycle…… Read more »

Wild Bill

, “I threw my hiking staff, spear like, into the spokes of his onrushing mountain bike in self defense!” comes to mind. No ballistics evidence to a hiking staff.


A threat of violence. Absolutely nothing to do with “self defense.” Par for the course.


I have hiked, biked hunted and taken family outings on many of our park trails and the one thing that comes to mind isn’t the damage that comes with over use but the accompanying consequences. Wild life is pushed further into the wilderness and though I’m sure members of PETA are all for that, it doesn’t help with the management of those same species that compete for a finite amount of natural feed. I also can’t count the times that I’ve nearly been run over by mountain bikers on trails that feel that they have a God given right-of-way. In… Read more »


First, the proposed legislation does NOT do what you just asserted. It does NOT open all Wilderness trails to bicycle use. It simply frees local agency land managers to make those decisions based on specific circumstance. Second, I would urge you not to impose your broad anti-bicycle prejudice on the rest of us. I can’t count the times hunters, hikers, equestrians and other backcountry trail users have violated the rules, threatened the ecosystem and endangered other users. Will you support me in excluding them all from the public land? Bicycles and other trail users co-exist very well on thousands of… Read more »

Wild Bill

@TL, and Brad, and the other liberals, I thought about what all you folks wrote, and came to the realization that I needed to write to my Senator about preventing this, and I attached a two thousand dollar check to his campaign fund. I am writing my other senator, in the same manner, this afternoon after my ranch chores are done.


I see this is a bad idea all around. First off cyclists would scare not only the horses used to get to a backcountry hunting spot but they would also scare the game your trying to hunt. Because of noisy cyclists you didn’t get to put Bambi or that big bull Elk in the freezer. Or worse yet your have your prey in your sights you break the shot and a split second later a cyclist rides past and gets his ticket punched by your bullet accidentally. Now instead of being the victorious big game hunter you’re a convicted felon.


I’d be interested to know more about the basis for BHA’s opposition. Virtually all the science on this topic indicates that bicycles have similar (or less) ecological impact than foot travel and generally less than horse travel. BHA should explain itself by pointing to more than a single elk and deer study with significant limitations clearly highlighted by the study authors. But if BHA would like to rely on that single study (at the exclusion of all others) then the obvious conclusion is that ALL human activity should be excluded from elk and deer habitat, not just those activities that… Read more »


Don’t need mountain bikers blasting down trails where there are people and horses that are the mode of transport.

Wild Bill

, I concur, and bicycles leave ruts behind that should not be there, then drainage that should not be there develop. What ever happened to leave no trace behind. The only thing that bicycles in the wild are good for is leaving a clear trail to find the city dwelling knucklehead when they crash, get eaten, or otherwise in trouble.


It’s exactly this type of recreational bigotry and stereotyping that has inspired cyclists to want to restore their access to Wilderness and to many other places where they have been excluded for reasons that have nothing to do with science or sound land management practice.


I pretty much agree with leaving the wilderness lands off limits to mountain bikers even though I am a mountain biker. However, the argument that mountain bikes do more damage than horses is utterly ridiculous and only shows your ignorance on this issue. Go have a look at mountain bike only versus horse only trails, I think you’ll be surprised at the difference in condition and sustainability.


Brad, If you “pretty much agree with leaving the wilderness lands off limits to mountain bikers” then this legislation is perfect for you. Local land managers – in consultation with folks like you and utilizing current land management science – will finally be able to determine exactly which Wilderness lands or trails should or shouldn’t include some level of bicycle access. In some places, the answer will be zero. In others, it will be “pretty much” zero. In other areas, bicycles may be deemed ok. Personally, I think that’s a reasonable way to manage public land.


Cyclists are successfully sharing thousands of miles of recreational trails all over the country every day. The problems you are alluding to are few and far between despite the perception created by those who would like to preserve the public lands for their exclusive use.

Wild Bill

I don’t know TL, I have heard nothing other than reports of bicyclists not understanding what scares horses. Thus the behavior of the bicyclists is the cause of many spooked horses and all those bad results that comes from spooked horses. I have also heard that bicyclists don’t really care about the problems that they cause. Conflict can be avoided by having “foot and horse only trails” and “wheeled trails”.


But we’ve had bad behavior and poor etiquette within the recreational trails community since the beginning of time. And, in general, the way we’ve addressed and mitigated those issues has been through inclusion and education…and a relatively tiny amount of enforcement. Separate trails work well, and are feasible, in some places but not in others. The legislation in question seeks nothing more than to allow local land Wilderness managers to make decisions appropriate to specific conditions on the ground rather than relying on a blanket ban across 110 million acres of federal Wilderness. Conflict can still be avoided or mitigated… Read more »