Arkansas Wildlife Federation . Planning & Conservation League (CA) . Connecticut Forest & Park Association . Colorado Wildlife Federation . Conservation Northwest (WA) . Delaware Nature Society . Florida Wildlife Federation . Georgia Wildlife Federation Conservation Council for Hawaii . Idaho Wildlife Federation . Prairie Rivers Network (IL) . Louisiana Wildlife Federation . Natural Resources Council of Maine . Conservation Federation Missouri . Montana Wildlife Federation . New Hampshire Audubon . New Mexico Wildlife Federation . Association of Northwest Steelheaders (OR) . PennFuture . South Carolina Wildlife Federation . South Dakota Wildlife Federation . Texas Conservation Alliance . Virginia Conservation Network . Wyoming Wildlife Federation
July 21, 2017
The Honorable Tom McClintock), Chairman,
House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands
The Honorable Darin LaHood, Vice Chairman
The Honorable Colleen Hanabusa, Ranking Member The Honorable Bruce Westerman
The Honorable Don Young
The Honorable Niki Tsongas
The Honorable Steve Pearce
The Honorable Alan Lowenthal
The Honorable Glenn Thompson
The Honorable Norma Torres
The Honorable Raul Labrador
The Honorable Ruben Gallego
The Honorable Scott Tipton
The Honorable Jimmy Panetta
The Honorable A. Donald McEachin
The Honorable Anthony Brown
The Honorable Daniel Webster
The Honorable David Rouzer
The Honorable Raul Grijalva
The Honorable Jack Bergman
The Honorable Liz Cheney
The Honorable Rob Bishop
Re: H.R. 1349
Dear Subcommittee Chairman, Vice Chairman, Ranking Member and Members:
Our Federations collectively represent hundreds of thousands of hunters, anglers, wildlife viewers, and other conservationists across the West. We write to express our strong opposition to the referenced bill.
H.R. 1349 was introduced on March 2, 2017 by Congressman Tom McClintock, and was referred to your Subcommittee on Federal Lands on March 17 pursuant to your jurisdiction over the The National Wilderness Preservation System. The bill seeks to amend Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)) with the following language: "Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheel-chairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area."
Our organizations support appropriate bicycle access to public lands. We have worked collaboratively with mountain bikers in various aspects of resource and travel management planning to help promote and expand sustainable bicycle access alongside hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and other recreational activities. We have contributed to identification and resolution of many issues on public lands managed by federal agencies, for example, in Colorado, California, Montana and New Mexico. By working together, we have been able to ensure extensive access for bikers to public land. 98 percent of all the trails on non-wilderness public land the US Forest Service manages are open to bicycles; only an estimated three percent of trails on federal public lands are located in designated wilderness areas.
The purpose of the Wilderness Act, as stated in Section 2(a), is "to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition . . .." Wilderness is described in the Act as having "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation." The Act specifies that only primitive travel by foot or horseback be allowed in designated wilderness areas, with the exception that, after the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), wheelchairs are permitted. It established the National Wilderness Preservation System to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness."
Biking bears a marked distinction from primitive outdoor recreational travel activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, camping, and horseback riding. Biking is a mechanized mode of travel which presents several challenges to the concept of wilderness. Bicycles tend to involve far greater speed, especially in descending terrain, than the non-mechanized modes of transportation contemplated by the Wilderness Act. Bicycles can cause erosion to primitive trails, damage habitat, and disturb wildlife, which depend on Wilderness Areas for refuge. Allowing bicycles in Wilderness Areas has the potential to increase conflict with other users.
As noted above, although the bill references wheelchairs, they have been allowed in Wilderness Areas since enactment of the ADA in 1990. Section 507(c)(1) of the ADA specifically provides that "Congress reaffirms that nothing in the Wilderness Act is to be construed as prohibiting the use of a wheelchair in a wilderness area by an individual who disability requires use of a wheelchair...." In that respect, the bill is unnecessary.
We thank you for your attention to our concerns.
Suzanne O'Neill, Executive Director, Colorado Wildlife Federation
Dave Chadwick, Executive Director, Montana Wildlife Federation
Ellen McNulty, President, Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Howard Penn, Executive Director, Planning & Conservation League (CA)
Eric Hammerling, Executive Director, Connecticut Forest & Park Association
Brian Winslow, Executive Director, Delaware Nature Society
Manley Fuller, Executive Director, Florida Wildlife Federation
Mike Worley, Executive Director, Georgia Wildlife Federation
Marjorie Ziegler, Executive Director, Conservation Council for Hawaii
Brian Brooks, Executive Director, Idaho Wildlife Federation
Carol Hays, Executive Director, Prairie Rivers Network (IL)
Rebecca Triche, Executive Director, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
Brandon Butler, Executive Director, Conservation Federation Missouri
Doug Bechtel, President, New Hampshire Audubon
Garrett VeneKlasen, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Bob Rees, Executive Director, Association of Northwest Steelheaders (OR)
Jacqui Bonomo, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, PennFuture
Ben Gregg, Executive Director, South Carolina Wildlife Federation
Chris Hesla, Executive Director, South Dakota Wildlife Federation
Janice Bezanson, Executive Director, Texas Conservation Alliance
Mary Rafferty, Executive Director, Virginia Conservation Network
Mitch Friedman, Executive Director, Conservation Northwest (WA)
Dwayne Meadows, Executive Director, Wyoming Wildlife Federation
Collin O'Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation