Next leg: Back into Montana – Red Lodge through Bozeman
A precedent-setting decision by made by U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy condemns 150 miles of trail in the heart of Montana to closure and threatens over 700 more miles of singletrack throughout the state. The trail closures stem from a lawsuit filed by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society alleging that, by allowing mountain bikers to use the trails, the Gallatin National Forest Service failed to preserve the wilderness character of the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn wilderness study area (WSA). This ruling sets the stage for possible closures of trails in other WSAs around the state (and the greater US).
This loss is personal for me. The Hyalite trail system was the solas I fled to during one of the lowest points of my life. I often headed out after work. Since I was on a mountain bike, I covered the distance to overlooks in the short hours before sunset that would have taken far too long on foot. I have many fond memories of watching the slanting rays of the sun light up raw peaks and tree-carpeted valleys in crisp alpenglow. Being in the center of all that beauty gave me the strength to wake up and go through it all again the next day.
The Gallatin Forest Service office’s mountain bike-friendly policies make the trails surrounding Bozeman easily the best trails I have ever ridden. They built sustainable trails long before “sustainable trail-building” became a buzzword. Their trails consistently show less wear and less erosion than other trail systems around the US and should be a model for trail-building. Instead, it makes them an easy target for lawsuits.
The IMBA and Montana Mountain Bike Alliance have vowed to continue the fight through appeals. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Become an IMBA member.
- Make a donation to IMBA’s Legal Advocacy Fund.
- Donate to the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance.
- Be cool, and politely share the trail with other users.
Remember, this fight will soon extend into your own neighborhood trail system. Joining your local trail advocacy group is essential. The opposition is organized, we must be, too.
Here are some links to articles on the trail closures: