Elks vs. e-bikes on public lands

To the editor,

During recent years, some of Colorado’s elk herds have been declining, if not collapsing, due to the proliferation of outdoor recreation, including mountain bikes and, more recently, e-bikes, on public lands. Unfortunately, a recent move by the Trump administration will open millions of acres of public land trails to motorized e-bikes, threatening intact fish and wildlife habitat.

If you’re not familiar with e-bikes, they’re motorized (battery-driven) mountain bikes. “The new policy benefits primarily the makers of electric mountain bikes, whose websites encourage riders to blast throughout our back-country trails and set new speed records,” Darrell Wallace, chairman of the Backcountry Horsemen of America, said. “Since land managers lack sufficient resources to limit speeds on trails, how can backcountry users expect to continue to enjoy a tranquil backcountry experience?”

Today, some 98 percent of the lower 48 states is within one mile of a motorized route. Ninety-two percent of all national forest lands in Colorado lie within one mile of a road and there are over 17,000 miles of roads in Colorado’s national forests. In the White River National Forest alone, there are some 5,000 miles of system roads and trails. In the San Juan National Forest, motorized road miles increased from 2,817 in the late 1990s to more than 6,400 miles in 2008. How many miles of motorized routes are enough?

Countless studies have shown that more roads and trails mean fragmented habitat and fewer elk. At some point, we have to stand up for wildlands and wildlife vs. our own myopic self-interests. As Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers founder David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot), said: “The three-part formula for assuring a rich elk hunting future ... could hardly be simpler ... Those three essential elements are: habitat, habitat and habitat.”

For additional information see: “Colorado BHA Report: Impacts of Off-Road Recreation on Public Lands Habitat.”

– David A. Lien, Co-Chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers