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Wilderness and Mountain Biking

Wilderness and Mountain Biking

rider in mountains
General Information
Resources, FAQ and IMBA's work

The Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson. As of 2015, there were 765 designated Wilderness areas, totaling about 1 million acres, or between 2 and 3 percent of public land in the U.S. Wilderness preservation has perplexed mountain bikers since 1984, when the U.S. Forest Service prohibited this form of non-motorized recreation from all designated Wilderness areas.

IMBA’s mission does not include amending the Wilderness Act and never has. In 2016, IMBA’s board of directors reaffirmed our position on this issue, which is to respect both the Act and the federal land agency regulations that bicycles are not allowed in existing, Congressionally designated Wilderness areas. This does not mean that we are content with the present situation on these vital and revered public lands.

IMBA has been involved in discussions about Wilderness and other forms of legislatively driven protections for public lands for decades. When mountain bikers are given a seat at the table in these discussions, important trails can be protected while finding common ground with those who are looking to create new conservation designations. IMBA is actively working with leaders in the conservation community to ensure this collaborative scenario becomes the standard across the country.

Some public land planning discussions are less inclusive of all user groups and, in those cases, IMBA will actively oppose new Wilderness and other designations that would negatively impact revered mountain biking opportunities. IMBA has recently raised specific concerns about the U.S. Forest Service’s management of recommended wilderness with the Secretary of Agriculture, and continues to work with partners to elevate mountain biking in planning processes nationwide. Mountain bikers are exemplary public land stewards and highly engaged advocates who should have a voice in the future of local trails.  

IMBA's materials at the links below explore a number of options for protecting wild places and bicycle access. They are intended to assist the mountain bike advocate in understanding and becoming involved in a Wilderness and public land protection campaign.

How IMBA deals with Wilderness at both a national and local level

Understanding Wilderness

Wilderness and IMBA, Frequently Asked Questions

Wilderness and Advocacy: options, tactics and more