by Joan H. Young
President Bush is an avid mountain biker, preferring the sport to running, which is hard on his knees. His blue and white Trek is nicknamed Mountain Bike One.
In an effort to promote the sport, Bush announced last week that he plans to issue a rule that will give more control to managers of National Parks to open additional trails to mountain bikes.
Presently, for trails to be opened to bikes a public process is required, in the same way that ATVs and other motorized recreation is handled.
Jeff Ruch of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) has called the idea a “lame-duck gift for the mountain biking lobby.” Ruch points out that bikes cause environmental damage, erosion, disturbance to wildlife, and annoy hikers.
The International Mountain Biking Association has countered by saying that they don’t believe the timing of the rule has anything to do with the president's interest in bicycling.
The President states that the proposal will only apply to non-controversial trails in parks, according to Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the National Park Service.
Yet, several of the National Scenic Trails are under the management of the National Park Service. Tom Gilbert, Superintendent for the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails says that the rule will be issued as an Executive Order, which has the force of law. Regrettably, that means that it will circumvent any requirement for public input and comment, or environmental impact analysis. Gilbert says that the rule could “undermine the superlative walking and hiking experiences that National Scenic Trails seek to provide.”
Anyone concerned about the possible ramifications of this rule should contact Steve Elkinton, National Trails Program Coordinator with the Park Service, and Gary Werner, Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System.
See "Bush to help open national parks to mountain bikes", an Associated Press Release, by Dina Cappiello, October 14, 2008.
See "Federal proposal would give national park managers power to permit mountain biking", Coloradoan.com, October 16, 2008.
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