The U.S. Forest Service has upheld its 1988 order closing the Pacific Crest Trail to mountain biking. In a Nov. 25 letter to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Regional Forester Randy Moore states that the order is consistent with legislation, regulations, directives, the recommendations of the PCT Advisory Council and the PCT Comprehensive Management Plan.
“In order to continue to protect the trail as a resource and to provide a safe and unique recreation experience for the primary users – hikers and equestrians – the continuance of Regional Order 88-4 is needed,” Moore wrote.
Meanwhile, a national partnership of trail leaders, recreation advocates and federal land managers has opened a dialogue on how, when and where mountain bike use fits into the National Trails System.
PCTA continues to believe that the PCT is best used and protected as a resource for hikers and horseback riders. That said, PCTA believes mountain bikes are an integral part of the National Trails System. PCTA supports quality recreational experiences for bikers on public land and we are committed to working with cycling groups to ensure that they have equal opportunity to develop long-distance riding opportunities.
We look forward to participating in the national dialogue in 2014.
In early November, PCTA staff attended the 14th Conference on National Scenic and Historic Trails in Tucson, Ariz. The biennial conference sponsored by the Partnership for the National Trails System, included representatives from scenic and historic trail groups from around the country, federal officials, and others interested in the development, protection and expansion of our national trails.
There has been much discussion of late about the push by mountain biking groups to gain new access to some National Scenic Trails where they have been historically prohibited, including the Pacific Crest Trail. The topic was front and center during the conference. Representatives from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) attended. They participated in meetings about the issue and gave presentations on best practices for building new bike trails and how varying user groups have worked together on some trails.
Most notably, representatives of the Partnership for the National Trails System, PCTA, IMBA, the Backcountry Horsemen of America, American Hiking Society and other trail advocacy groups sat down with leaders from the Federal Interagency Council on Trails. The council includes officials from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and other federal land management agencies. Among many responsibilities, it’s the council’s role to develop policy for the National Trails System and to ensure quality experiences for all trail users.
The group has agreed to discuss the issue from a system-wide perspective, and will consider a variety of factors and perspectives. We are working as leaders within the Partnership and we are committed to the partnership approach of thoughtfully addressing the issue in collaboration with other stakeholders.
The Partnership recognizes the complexity of this issue and that one size does not fit all. Partnership members have agreed that appropriate uses for each scenic trail will be different depending on a variety of factors. We are committed, as individual partner groups, to supporting one another as we work independently to address issues concerning the nature and purpose of each trail.
The diversity of experiences offered within the National Trails System and the uniqueness of each trail is an important part of ensuring quality recreational experiences for generations to come. For example, the newest National Scenic Trail, the 800-mile Arizona Trail, was designed with bikes in mind and was built by hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Most of that trail, except where it runs through wilderness and the Grand Canyon National Park, is accessible to bikers.
In tandem with our primary partner in the management of the PCT – the US Forest Service – PCTA is committed to working within the Partnership for the National Trails System on developing a meaningful dialogue around the mountain bike issue. We feel it’s imperative that this conversation be civil, thoughtful and deliberate. We urge people to be respectful of those with different recreational desires and to remember that our long-term interests – protecting wildlife and the environment, creating quality opportunities to have fun and being good stewards of public lands – are universal.
Liz Bergeron is the executive director and CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. She currently serves as president of the board of the Partnership for the National Trails System.