Wilderness Act is clear on bikes

Print Article

On Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1928, Bob Marshall, a Forest Service employee and wilderness champion, started a walk at Echo Lake near Bigfork. By the end of the day, he arrived at the Elk Park Ranger Station up the South Fork of the Flathead. It was a 30 mile hike. He hiked 40 miles the next day to the Black Bear Ranger Station. The day after that, he did another hike, up and over Pagoda Pass, then off-trail through the woods to the top of the Chinese Wall and then back to Black Bear Ranger Station. That hike was 42 miles.

And so Bob walked.

Over the course of eight days, he went 288 miles, through what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountain Wilderness. He ended up at the Seeley Lake post office.

He averaged in the neighborhood of 36 miles a day. He did not use a bicycle.

But earlier this month Montana Congress-man Greg Gianforte, with the support of some mountain biking advocates no doubt, voted for an amendment to the Wilderness Act that would allow bicycles in the wilderness.

This amendment is contrary to the very core of the Wilderness Act itself, which states in its preamble, ďIn order 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...Ē

The Act did not come about easily. Advocates worked on it for decades before it was passed into law in 1964, long after Bob Marshallís death.

Marshall died on Nov. 10, 1939, just short of his 38th birthday. In 1940, the Forest Service created the Bob Marshall Wilderness in his honor ó but it was an administrative action, and wasnít codified into law until the wilderness act passed.

The wilderness act, contrary to some belief, does not make it easy to create designated wilderness. Each individual parcel has to be approved by Congress. Montanaís last wilderness addition came with the passage of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act in 2014. Prior to that, Montana hadnít designated wilderness for about 30 years.

I have hiked a lot in our local wilderness. It can be pleasant and can also be downright maddening. Trails disappear on whim. And once youíre out there, youíre really and truly out there. But thatís the whole point. Itís not supposed to be easy. Itís not supposed to be for everyone. And itís definitely not supposed to be exploited by mechanical means, of any kind.

The law is clear on that. To wit:

ď...there shall be no temporary road, no 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.Ē

It doesnít get any clearer.

To suggest that bicycles were somehow allowed under the Act is simply folly.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

Print Article

Read More Columns

The talent show

October 10, 2018 at 8:25 am | Lake County Leader Editorís note: George Ostrom is still on the mend and asked us to run this column from April 17, 1970. This was the week of the annual Hedges School Talent Show wherein 45 or 50 small members of t...


Read More

The North Fork Forum

October 10, 2018 at 8:19 am | Lake County Leader A little of a year ago, a new group calling themselves the North Fork Forum was formed. To my knowledge, they have not elected officers. They are just a loose group of North Fork landowners who talke...


Read More

An ode to big red

October 10, 2018 at 8:08 am | Hungry Horse News So the boy and I were wandering around in the woods the other evening when I heard a distinctive knock-knock-knock on a piece of wood. There is only one bird big enough to make this knock ó the pile...


Read More

On golf

October 03, 2018 at 7:47 am | Lake County Leader Editorís note: George Ostrom is still on the mend. He wanted you to read this piece from 1968... My father-in-law, Bill Wilhelm, likes to golf, so once each year I borrow a set of clubs and play 1...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 892-2151
PO BOX 189, 926 Nucleus Avenue
Columbia Falls, MT 59912

©2018 Hungry Horse News Terms of Use Privacy Policy