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International Mountain Bicycling Association

IMBA to Address Wilderness Issue at Outdoor Retailer

Boulder, Colorado

With nearly 30,000 industry professionals in attendance, the Outdoor Retailer (OR) tradeshow (Aug. 7-12 in Salt Lake City) presents an important opportunity for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to advance awareness of how land protection bills - especially federal Wilderness designations - affect mountain biking.

Hill Abell, IMBA's president, says that mountain bikers are ardent supporters of strong protections for public lands. "Our activity brings us closer to nature and fosters a desire for environmental protection," says Abell. "IMBA has a long history of partnering with outdoor industry groups, as well as like-minded recreational users and conservation organizations. We are bringing a full team of IMBA staff to OR this summer to strengthen those partnerships, and to make sure that IMBA's position on Wilderness is well understood in the outdoor recreation industry."

Mountain Bikers a Powerful Constituency

According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation (OIF), mountain biking is one of the most popular activities in the U.S., attracting nearly 40 million participants annually. The OIF identifies bicycling as a highly influential "gateway" sport because of its power to draw people to an active lifestyle. Bicycling brings $132 million to the U.S. economy and employees more than one million people. Further, mountain bikers are dedicated to public lands volunteerism. IMBA's 750 affiliated bike clubs and 80,000 supporters conduct almost one million hours of volunteer trailwork on federal, state and local public lands each year.

"IMBA represents the interests of a huge group of outdoor enthusiasts," says Abell. "Young people are particularly attracted to mountain biking, which provides an opportunity to introduce a new generation to the values of land stewardship. We urge other recreation groups to consider our needs so we can all work together to protect wild places."

Bicycling Banned in Wilderness Areas

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that bicycles are not allowed in Wilderness areas. When newly proposed Wilderness areas include significant, existing mountain biking opportunities, IMBA pursues boundary adjustments and alternative land designations, such as National Scenic Areas and National Protection Areas. "These are proven designations Congress uses to provide stringent, lasting protection for our trails and surrounding areas," says IMBA Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice.

IMBA does not seek changes to the Wilderness Act, or ask that bikes be allowed in Wilderness. "Although Wilderness is often seen as the gold standard in land protection, Congress can, and does, use other designations that preserve the land, allow bicycle access and may be more relevant to local uses and needs," says Dice.

Current Wilderness Bills Shaped by Cyclists

Wilderness bills in Colorado, Georgia, Oregon and Virginia have been written with mountain bikers' needs in mind. Because of the proactive approach IMBA and its affiliated clubs have taken, and our willingness to work with other groups, these bills represent a more inclusive approach to land protection legislation.

The new crop of legislation reflects the hard work and dedication of local IMBA advocates who have worked with other stakeholders to build consensus on designations, boundaries, trails and other provisions. In Virginia, mountain bikers helped include nearly 12,000 acres for National Scenic Areas, while Oregon leaders were instrumental in negotiating for a National Recreation Area designation to protect their favorite trails. IMBA supports the inclusion of Wilderness designations in these bills.

IMBA and the Outdoor Industry

"We applaud the outdoor industry's initiatives to strengthen protections for public lands," says Mike Van Abel, IMBA's executive director. "However, IMBA is committed to protecting trail access for bikes. With the awareness we're creating at Outdoor Retailer, we hope to see more support for land protection bills that are friendly to bicycling. The goal is protecting the land. Wilderness is a tool, among others, that Congress can employ to accomplish this."

One current Wilderness program, the Keen Hybrid.Pedal Ride has garnered support from the Conservation Alliance and other outdoor industry group. "IMBA and our members want to help protect the places specified by Keen's program, says Van Abel. "But there is a painful irony to an event that features a bicycle ride to promote Wilderness protection of land that will then prohibit bicycles."

Visit IMBA's staff at booth #60073 during the Outdoor Retailer show.


International Mountain Bicycling Association

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