Wednesday, December 15, 2010

West Virginia Mountain Bike Association Action Alert


West Virginia Mountain Biking Association

Our mission is to develop preserve, and maintain land for multi-trail use and to promote sanctioned mountain bike racing in the State of West Virginia.

December 14, 2010

Picture below: Duane Jones of Parkersburg, WV enjoying the North Fork Mountain Trail.


North Fork Mountain

Action Alert

The West Virginia Mountain Bike Association and the International Mountain Biking Association are sending you this email to provide an update on H.R.5965 - Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act of 2010, which, if passed, would ban mountain bikers from the North Fork Mountain trail.

As of this notice, the bill has not moved forward and we are encouraged BUT we need to continue to be diligent. A phone call or email to representatives asking that they please do not support the inclusion of H.R.5965 - Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act of 2010 into the Omnibus public lands billcould help ensure this remains the case. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

WVMBA did not and does not endorse the 6,000 acre wilderness nor did they collaborate or approve to reduce and support the West Virginia citizen’s proposal modification from the 9,000 acres to the Redmen Run Trail boundary and the resulting 6,000 acre proposal as it stands in HR 5965.

The reduction, while it does keep bicycle access open to Redman Run Trail, was solely to keep the proposed Wilderness boundary in Representative Mollohan's district so there would be no congressional opposition. The original proposal of 9,000 acres would have gone south into Grant county and out of Representative Mollohan’s district.

Since this proposal has been introduced into congress WVMBA has become aware of future threats for natural gas exploration in this region. WVMBA has prudently taken steps to be involved with strengthening land protection to abate this and other threats to this amazing region of West Virginia, while still allowing bicycle access to West Virginia’s most popular National Forest trail – The North Fork Mountain IMBA Epic Trail.

Losing access to this trail would severely impact bicycle tourism in West Virginia. This trail is not only a showcase trail for WVMBA but it is a destination trail for the entire mid-Atlantic bicycle community that is not replaceable.

Rep. Nick Rahall
Washington Office
2307 Rayburn HOB
Washington,DC 20515
(202) 225-3452

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Rep. Shelley Moore Capito
Washington, DC Office:
2443 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2711
Fax: (202) 225-7856

avenue to contact via email

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
531 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

avenue to contact via email

Sen. Joe Manchin
Washington, DC
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Phone: 202-224-3954
Fax: 202-228-0002

avenue to contact via email

What can you do?

Every voice counts

Call and/or write your representative. It makes a difference!

Sign this petition: Click here



Monday, December 13, 2010

Lame Duck Congress and Senate Omnibus Bill of 2010

Looks like an Omnibus Bill has been introduced in the Senate and contains a handful of Wilderness bills throughout the country that seem mostly compatible with the interests of mountain bikers. Politico got their hands on a draft of, "The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2010" last week. Thus far the draft does not include Wilderness on the North Fork in West Virginia. There is a possibility that Rockefeller would add the North Fork to this Omnibus bill at the last minute. As of now, Wilderness on the North Fork is looking less and less likely. However, we need to stay vigilant over the next two weeks and make sure that it is not included as a last minute addition.

Remember to Sign the Petition to preserve bicycle access for North Fork Mountain if you have yet to do so.

If you are a West Virginia resident, please continue to Contact Senator Rockefeller and let him know that you do not want to see the North Fork Wilderness proposal included in the Omnibus Bill.

Monday, December 6, 2010

West Virginia Highlands Voice Article about North Fork from a Mountain Biker

An article from the West Virginia Highlands Voice


By Todd Romero

As a second home owner in Canaan Valley, it is with fresh eyes and the passion of a convert that I have embraced the outdoors of the West Virginia Highlands. I have come to have an even greater appreciation for the wonderful area as I become more in tune with it and discover and experience all the hidden gems.

I care deeply about this place and have volunteered many hours giving back to it, participating in such things as red spruce restoration projects and trail work in the Wildlife Refuge. I am also the secretary (and a major worker) for the Tucker County Trails organization. The four-season recreational opportunities coupled with some of the most exhilarating and breathtaking trails in the East are why I (and many others) have chosen to call the area “Home”.

As an avid cyclist, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to explore these great areas; using my pedal-power for the rigorous exercise, testing myself, being able to wander and reach the highest heights and taking in the breath-taking views along the way. Nobody understands more than I how precious the places are that I get to enjoy travelling by bicycle, and the need for them to be protected against exploitation from logging, gas drilling, wind farms and even ATV travel which can degrade the trails.

The “gold standard” in the United States for land conservation is Congressionallydesignated Wilderness and there is no denying that fact. This becomes a catch 22 for myself as an avid mountain biker who wants to preserve these places just as much, if not more, than most. If they are exploited by resource extraction, the damage cannot be reversed and both physical and philosophical qualities are degraded. But if they become Wilderness Areas, they can no longer be enjoyed on a bicycle either.

Wow, that’s a tough place to be!

But Wilderness is supposed to be a tough, hard, remote place, so it is fitting. I do think you will find that most folks in the cycling community are passionate about land conservation also. There will always be a few voices that come across as brash and tactless in any situation, but that’s just life. In this new political climate, the partnerships between environmental groups, recreationalists and community organizations need to be strengthened to protect the places we love. For this to happen, we need to work together in a new and open way, one of communication and building trust. New designations, such as National Conservation Areas or National Scenic Areas will need to be considered in conjunction with Wilderness to protect larger areas.

I think we will start to see that the voice and actions of the cycling community in the state of WV (WVMBA) is as sincere about land conservation as they are about cycling and have been extending hands to other groups such as WV Wilderness Coalition to begin working together to provide the need for protection of areas of the national forest all for the same reasons. As cyclists are beginning to carry an ever growing and more organized voice into the 21st Century, it is my hope that their support of land-conservation will be able to be harnessed by major landconservation groups by establishing a great working relationship together. Many of us cyclists think we all have a chance to do something great here and think everyone working together will be nothing but a positive for everyone involved! So stay tuned!



Here is some background on how bicycles became prohibited in Wilderness areas. The 1964 Wilderness act did not actually include bicycles. 36 CFR § 293.6 prohibits “use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, motorboats, or other forms of mechanical transport.” It defined “mechanical transport” as transport that is powered by a non-living power source:

“(a) Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device” 36 CFR § 293,6(a).

It was not until 1984 that the Forest Service re-interpreted that to include bicycles as mechanical transport. There is no doubt they are, but at that time, the cycling community did not extend into mountainous areas as it is a relatively new sport. As a result, that ruling was made without the input of any cyclists because there were almost none at the time.

However, times have changed and mountain biking is a well-established recreational activity and often a preferred option for millions of people who want to explore the natural beauty of our country.

More important to this debate, and what is clear after 30+ years of the existence of our sport, mountain biking is consistent with the values for which Wilderness areas are established – it does not “dominate the landscape,” nor does it cause change to the natural condition of the land any more (and often less) than permitted forms of recreation, such as hiking and especially the use of pack animals. Not just setting aside land for preservation, the Wilderness Act was intended to provide places for people to recreate in an atmosphere of adventure, challenge, “tolerable discomfort,” solitude and “a difficult to achieve sensory experience.” Who can argue that mountain biking doesn’t perfectly embody and promote those recreational values?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

West Virginia Gazette Article about Mountain Bikers and North Fork

The West Virginia Gazette did a piece on the North Fork Mountain Wilderness Proposal. Below is a short section of the larger article. While not necessarily showing our concerns in the most favorable light the article at least publicly acknowledges the fact that many MOUNTAIN BIKERS DO NOT SUPPORT the current version of the wilderness proposal. If you feel especially moved then please weigh in on the comment section of the article but please do keep it civil.

Some points to keep in mind as you read the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition's arguments presented by Mike Costello:

-"Some pretty drastic changes were made to address mountain biker concerns," said Costello. "Nearly one-third of the land in the original wilderness proposal was taken out. Bikers still have access to the vast majority of North Fork Mountain Trail."

While we appreciate that we would still have access to many miles of trail, it is not all about miles. The remaining 17 miles of trail are far less popular for cyclists, the northern end of the North Fork Mountain trail happens to be the most popular section for bikers. Not only is it the D.C. metro area's closest access point to the Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks IMBA Epic trail system, but it is also contains the highest concentration of pristine single-track trail versus the old roadbeds that compose many other parts of the trail. Furthermore, IMBA and WVMBA are both confused as to which mountain bikers were able to establish their concerns with the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition. Again, we appreciate that they are making attempts to address our concerns but mountain bikers instead hope to be at the negotiating table for similar land protection initiatives in the future.

"We don't know why the wilderness designation is needed," said Coram. "The area is already protected as part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area."
While the area does fall under the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, Mr. Costello is correct when he points out that "Forest Service management prescriptions other than wilderness could be changed under updated management plans or through new agency policies."

As the first National Recreation Area to ever be created on National Forest land, the National Recreation language does not prohibit extracting resources from land that falls under the designation. Nevertheless, the existing Congressional designation provides a perfect opportunity to increase the level of land protection within the confines of the National Recreation Area designation. This would continue bicycle use and could easily be billed as a means to further promote remote West Virginia outdoor adventure tourism. Currently, the North Fork falls under a Forest Service management prescription that prohibits extraction of resources, but management prescriptions are reviewed roughly every 15 years when a forest undergoes a revision of the master forest plan. Which makes it even more important that mountain bikers rally behind the idea of further protection for the North Fork if the current Wilderness bill does not pass through Congress.

Costello said the North Fork Mountain Wilderness proposal made an effort to "address some of the major concerns of mountain bikers. Some of them are very supportive of it. They will be able to ride two-thirds of the North Fork Mountain trail, and the land at the northern end of the mountain will be preserved forever."

We desperately need to move past the perception that mountain bikers as a whole are somehow on board with this proposal. While many mountain bikers are only familiar with the North Fork as a result of the Gnarly North Fork Race in the 1990s and since that historic course will not be impacted by the proposed wilderness I can understand the confusion. Once more, the area where mountain bikers want to ride is the northern portion.

Hopefully, mountain bikers can get involved in the beginning for the next piece of West Virginia land protection. If the North Fork Wilderness bill fails to secure Congressional approval in the next month than Mountain bikers and other advocates of America's public lands should rally this momentum behind increasing the protection within the existing National Recreation Area.

December 4, 2010
Wilderness proposal draws fire from mountain bikers
Kenny Kemp
Cliffs line the western slope of North Fork Mountain, site of a proposed 6,042-acre wilderness area in Grant County.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A plan to create a 6,042-acre wilderness area on North Fork Mountain in Grant County is drawing fire from mountain bikers who would lose access to a segment of the scenic North Fork Mountain Trail under a wilderness designation.

The proposed North Fork Mountain Wilderness would be created through passage of the Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act of 2010, introduced earlier this year in the House by Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., later introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The proposed wilderness area is a downsized version of a 2004 proposal that failed to win congressional approval. The earlier wilderness plan called for a 9,171-acre wilderness area on the Monongahela National Forest ridge.

Under the current wilderness proposal, the northernmost seven miles of the 24-mile North Fork Mountain Trail would lie within the wilderness boundary, making that segment off-limits to bicycling -- not allowed in federally designated wilderness zones.

"It's a very popular trail for bike riders," said Kimberly Jo Coram of the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association, who added that the International Mountain Bike Association includes the trail on its national "Epic Rides" list as part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks trail system.

Both the WVMBA and the IMBA are opposing the wilderness proposal, and have launched online petition drives to let the state's congressional delegation know their feelings on the matter.

The two organizations hosted two well-attended rides along the North Fork Mountain Trail in the proposed wilderness area last fall.

"The trail has always been open to us, but with the wilderness designation, we would be the only user group eliminated from using it," Coram said. "You can have a horse-drawn sled in a wilderness area, but bikes aren't allowed."

The seven-mile segment of North Fork Mountain Trail included in the proposed wilderness extends northward from the Pendleton County line to the trail's northern terminus on Smoke Hole Road (State Secondary 28/ 11) near its junction with W.Va. 28/ 55. The 1.5-mile-long Landis Trail would also be closed to mountain bikers if wilderness status were approved.

Mike Costello of the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition said more than 3,000 acres were removed from proposed wilderness boundaries to accommodate mountain bikers. Redman Run Trail, which connects Smoke Hole Road to North Fork Mountain Trail near the Pendleton County line, was excluded from the wilderness area, giving bikers trail access to 17 miles of North Fork Mountain Trail, and making loop rides possible.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bob Goodlatte: Virginia Congressional Representative for the Sixth District's Response to Our many letters against the Proposed Wilderness

Response from Bob Goodlatte of Virginia's Sixth District Concerning the Proposed Wilderness bill for North Fork Mountain, WV

Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 5965, the Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act of 2010. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concern.

As you are aware, H.R. 5965 would require Congress to designate 6,042 acres on and around North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest as wilderness. I am very concerned by this potential designation. A Congressional wilderness designation locks up the affected land in perpetuity and does not allow any flexibility to change management prescriptions due to changes in forest conditions. It also prohibits access to existing trails that have long been enjoyed by folks who ride mountain bikes and other types of recreational vehicles.

I believe that our national forests are a national treasure. Our national forests were created to serve multiple uses and should be accessible to everyone for a variety of activities. While I believe that it is important that our national forests, including the Monongahela, have areas that retain their natural character, I do not believe a wilderness designation is the proper prescription for this area.

By locking land into the restrictions of a wilderness area, we also remove the Forest Service's ability to treat these areas for fire prevention and invasive species, which have been important concerns in recent years. We must also ensure that all groups have equal access to the pristine views of North Fork Mountain, and not relegate this area to a select group.

H.R. 5965 has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, as well as the House Committee on Agriculture, on which I am a member. The Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on September 16, 2010, to review several public lands bills, including H.R. 5965. There is no further action scheduled on this bill at this time in either committee. Rest assured, I will keep your views in mind as this legislation is considered by Congress.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We need you to write your Congressional Representatives and tell them that you oppose Wilderness for the North Fork Mountain

Things you can do to help preserve bicycle access to on the North Fork Mountain Trail

1. Sign the Petition to Preserve Bicycle Access, we want 2,000 signatures:

2. Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you oppose Wilderness designation for North Fork Mountain in West Virginia. Specifically, you oppose
House bill: H.R.5965 - Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act of 2010
Senate bill:S.3863
Talking points to bolster your email can be found here: North Fork Talking Points
Find your representative here: IMBA's latest North Fork Alert

3. Post pictures and anecdotes on IMBA's new Public Land's Campaign Web page for the North Fork by emailing them to Kristy at IMBA:

4. Please take time to complete the all new online Monongahela Trails Survey: and let them know which West Virginia Trails you ride on a regular basis. We specifically need you to comment on the North Fork Mountain Trail (Trail # 501) and show the Monongahela National Forest that bicycles use this trail on a regular basis. While you are on the site please also take the time to establish bicycle use on another area targeted for Wilderness by the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, Seneca Creek Trail (Trail #515)

5. Keep posted on the latest North Fork Happenings by Checking out the Blog or joining theNorth Fork Mountain Facebook group

6. Plan a trip to ride the North Fork in the future!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monongahela National Forest Trails Survey Needs your help to establish bicycle use on the North Fork Trail

If you are like many of us, a cyclists who frequently uses trails on public lands, then you are probably all too familiar with the public input meetings that public land managers often hold. These meetings work well for local parks where the vast majority of the trail users live within a relatively small radius. These meetings do not work nearly as well for remote, yet popular renowned back-country destinations where people will often drive several hours just to experience the magic of such places. The IMBA Epic North Fork Trail is a just such a place where many of the trail users would not be able to attend a public input session concerning trail use of this iconic ridge trail.

As such, the Monongahela National Forest has created an online trails survey where you can tell them which trails you use in the Forest (no matter where you live). Specifically we need you to tell them that you bike on the North Fork Mountain Trail. The process on their site is not as clean as one might hope but here is the quick and dirty:

1. Look at the Google Earth map of your Monongahela ranger district of interest. In this case it is the Potomac District

2. Take the FULL SURVEY and be sure to properly reference the North Fork Mountain Trail by name and trail number (501)

3. While taking the Survey make sure that you establish the use of bicycles on this shared use trail. We want the Forest Service to know that cyclists love this trail and want to maintain access.

4. If you are feeling frisky then please fill out the survey again but instead of the North Fork Mountain Trail please reference the Seneca Creek Trail (Trail # 515). This area is also targeted for future Wilderness designation