More than 100 million acres of America’s most rugged landscapes designated as wilderness are off-limits to mountain bikers, but two Utah senators have introduced legislation that would allow bikers to join hikers and horseback riders in those scenic, undisturbed areas.
The proposal is controversial within the biking community and opposed by conservationists who say bikes would erode trails and upset the five-decade notion of wilderness as primitive spaces.
The bill from U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, both Utah Republicans, would give local officials with the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and other federal management agencies two years to decide in each wilderness area if bikes will be allowed.
If no decision is made within two years, the bike ban would be lifted in that area.
The legislation, which has not yet had a hearing, comes from somewhat unlikely sponsors.
Hatch and Lee both represent Utah, where outdoor recreation and mountain biking are big business, but are supporters of the GOP state’s push to takeover public lands controlled by the federal government — something environmentalists and outdoor recreation groups oppose.