Thursday, June 7, 2018

Friends Of Allegheny Wilderness Join Conservation Groups In Telling Congress: Keep Bikes Out Of Wilderness Areas

The Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, joined 149 other conservation groups Thursday in opposing legislation in Congress “to reject an unprecedented call to weaken the Wilderness Act to allow for the use of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness.”
The sign-on letter from 150 organizations was prepared in response to two Republican bills (S. 2877 and H.R. 1349), which would open up all of America’s 110-million acres of Wilderness to mountain bikes and other sundry wheeled contraptions within 2 years of passage.  The Senate bill was just recently introduced in Congress.
“Tionesta, Pennsylvania native and Wilderness Act of 1964 author Howard Zahniser during his long career wrote chapter and verse emphasizing that all forms of modern mechanization must be prohibited from wilderness areas in perpetuity,” stated Friends of Allegheny Wilderness executive director Kirk Johnson. “For example, as early as 1949 Zahniser wrote the following to Congress.”
“Wilderness areas must be forever kept free from the sights and sounds of mechanical civilization, and all the influences which clash with the primeval environment or detract from its full enjoyment.” — Howard Zahniser, in The Wilderness Society’s 1949 report to Congress, A Statement on Wilderness Preservation.  
“Any honest person can readily see what the original intent of the Wilderness Act was in this regard. Zahniser would be spinning in his grave in Tionesta’s Riverside Cemetery along the banks of the National Wild and Scenic Allegheny River were these two obtuse and hostile, overtly anti-wilderness, bills to pass,” Johnson concluded.
“Mountain bikes are exactly the kind of mechanical devices and mechanical transport that Congress intended to keep out of Wilderness in passing the Wilderness Act. Bicycles have their place, but that place is not inside Wilderness areas,” explained Kevin Proescholdt, Conservation Director of Wilderness Watch.
“For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected wilderness areas from mechanization and mechanical transport, even if no motors were involved with such activities. This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of mechanization and mechanical transport. [We] believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the ‘benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness’ would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas,” the 150 organizations wrote Congress in the sign-on letter.
“We see this for what it is: an assault on the very idea of Wilderness and the values of the Wilderness Act,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “At a time when wilderness and wildlife are under increasing pressures from increasing populations, growing mechanization, and a rapidly changing climate, the last thing Wilderness needs is to be invaded by mountain bikes and other machines.”
Supporters of S. 2877 and H.R. 1349 disingenuously claim that mountain bikes were allowed in Wilderness until 1984, but then banned administratively by the U.S. Forest Service. This claim is simply not true.
“The 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) banned all types of mechanized transport, including bicycles, in designated Wilderness. Section 4(c) of that act states, “[T]here shall use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.” [Emphasis added.]
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness website.

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