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IMBA questions California wilderness bill provisions

The original 1985 Kamikaze downhill course would be part of the 2.7 million acres to be added to California’s 14 million acres of federally designated wilderness closed to cycling under Sen. Barbara Boxer’s recently introduced California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, according to Gary Sprung, senior national policy advisor with the International Mountain Bicycling Association.The California Democrat’s bill, S2535, introduced in late May and forwarded to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is labeled as a measure “to designate certain public lands as wilderness and certain

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By Patrick O’Grady

The original 1985 Kamikaze downhill course would be part of the 2.7 million acres to be added to California’s 14 million acres of federally designated wilderness closed to cycling under Sen. Barbara Boxer’s recently introduced California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, according to Gary Sprung, senior national policy advisor with the International Mountain Bicycling Association.The California Democrat’s bill, S2535, introduced in late May and forwarded to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is labeled as a measure “to designate certain public lands as wilderness and certain rivers as wild and scenic rivers in the State of California, to designate Salmon Restoration Areas, to establish the Sacramento River National Conservation Area and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and for other purposes.”Those other purposes, according to IMBA, include stripping mountain bikers of some of their favorite backcountry trails, including routes near Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass, around Mammoth Mountain, in the northern Coast Range and southern Sierras, and north and east of Los Angeles.“Probably most Californians support wilderness, but they don’t necessarily know what that means,” said Sprung. “Very, very few understand that it means bicycling is prohibited. We’ve got to get our message out to the public.”Boxer already has. In introducing her proposed legislation, which she said “preserves our most important lands, prevents pollution, and protects our most endangered wildlife,” she made it clear that S2535 draws no distinctions between mountain bikes and motorized vehicles.“While wilderness designation means the wilderness areas are closed to mountain bikers, they remain open to a myriad of recreational activities, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, cross country skiing, and canoeing,” she said. “Mountain bikers and motorized vehicles have 100,000 miles of road and trails in California that are not touched in my bill.”IMBA has been working with Boxer’s staff and wilderness advocates since August 2001 to shape a more cycling-friendly bill, suggesting boundary changes that would keep important trails open to cyclists.“We work with Congress members and environmental groups to find as much cooperation as possible,” said Sprung. “We have the same basic goal: protect the undeveloped lands from development. The issue is how we do it. IMBA likes wilderness and alternatives to wilderness, like national conservation areas, protection areas and national parks and monuments.” And cyclists apparently are divided on Boxer’s bill, pressuring IMBA both to support and to oppose it, Sprung said. Thus, he said: “We’re taking a middle course. We analyze each area and come up with a position. If it’s not a problem for bicycling, we endorse wilderness. If it is, then we look for solutions such as boundary adjustments or alternatives. So we’re not in the same bed as the people who just say, ‘No,’ to more wilderness.”As things stand now, however, IMBA can only endorse about half of the new wilderness areas contained in Boxer’s proposal, and roughly 20 percent of the measure’s problem areas cannot be resolved by simply redrawing boundaries.IMBA is urging concerned cyclists to phone or fax Sen. Dianne Feinstein,D-California, whose support is considered crucial to the measure, and to contact other lawmakers and their local news outlets.


On the web:IMBA’s Californiaaction alert web siteThe office of California SenatorBarbara BoxerThe office of California SenatorDianne FeinsteinThe U.S. Senate Committeeon Environment and Natural ResourcesIMBA advocacy director Jenn Dice, jenn@imba.com(303/545-9011).Care to comment? Send letters to WebLetters@7Dogs.com