Sunday, November 21, 2010

West Virginia Mountain Bike Association Releases Public Statement Opposing Wilderness Designation for North Fork Mountain

Picture above: Brette Swarr of Walker, WV enjoying the North Fork Mountain Trail.

Press Release

The West Virginia Mountain Bike Association represents clubs and race promoters throughout the state, helping thousands of people every year to enjoy the beauty that is WV. We encourage responsible riding and conservation of the land, ensuring that we can enjoy our sport for years to come.

Mountain bicyclists are passionate about the outdoors. We believe in managing public lands as a public trust and a priceless national treasure. We cherish the places where we can still take epic forays into the backcountry. We love our trails and are often the first to volunteer to build and repair them. We share a concern with other trail users that the pressures of growth and industry threaten the qualities that make our favorite rides special.

Mountain bikers want to see the forests and mountains where we ride protected in their natural state, with clean air and clean water, so we welcome opportunities to join with others to protect America's shared public lands to ensure current and future generations can enjoy high-quality outdoor experiences away from development, noise and pollution.

That's why Wilderness is such a difficult issue for us. Existing Wilderness protections near some of our favorite trails contribute to the peace, quiet and solitude that make them special. At the same time, Wilderness expansions and new Wilderness designations can take away access to those same trails.

North Fork Mountain is already protected as a National Recreation Area, and as Deputy Chief of the Forest Service Joel Hotrop stated in his testimony before Congress on HR 5965, “ …the area is already managed under stringent guidelines. The major impacts would be to the mountain biking community who would no longer be able to ride in the area.” Close to 9 miles of trail would be lost to the creation of this Wilderness area, and those seven miles represent some of the most scenic and beautiful sections of the trail. Additionally, the southern access to the mountain is not guaranteed, as the North Fork Trail passes through private land at several points, which could create future closures.

The West Virginia Mountain Bicycling Association, along with the International Mountain Bicycling Association and other regional organizations, has been encouraging people to ride this trail to be better understand what is at stake. In the last 6 weeks alone, some 400 people have travelled to the area to ride. Losing such an iconic riding experience would surely impact local businesses dependant on mountain bikers traveling to the region.

It has been suggested that mountain bikers support this trail being designated as Wilderness. The West Virginia Mountain Biking Association does not support the designation in its current language, and feels that compromises or easements to the current proposal could be made that strengthens the protection of the area while keeping all current users’ access intact. We would love to sit down with representatives and wilderness advocates to work something out that works for all."

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