It’s no secret that the outdoors is shared by a number of user groups – from conservationists to anglers and from hikers to campers. And it’s no secret that people get, well, testy about being on one another’s turf. But a recent lawsuit might give planners of outdoor events pause – particularly since it’s a lawsuit brought by hunters. At the same time, though, trail enthusiasts say their use of connected devices proves trail use isn’t as bad as it’s being painted.
According to Singletracks, read by mountain bikers, Mountain Pursuit (a nonprofit hunting advocacy group originating in Jackson, Wyoming) has filed a lawsuit against the Bridger Teton and Caribou Targhee National Forest for allowing mountain bike use in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and ATV use in the Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area.
Mountain Pursuit’s correspondence asserts that the Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs that were established with the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act, require the Forest Service to manage the WSAs according to the language specified in the Act. Since mountain biking was not explicitly mentioned in the act, Mountain Pursuit finds the BTNF’s travel management plan inconsistent with the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Wyoming Wilderness Act.
According to a letter from Mountain Pursuit, the Forest Service “is legally bound by the Wyoming Wilderness Act not to allow any summer motorized/mechanized activity in the Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs beyond what was occurring in 1984.” Mountain biking, as well as ATV use, have both exploded in popularity in the area, and are spurred on by social media – something that Mountain Pursuit says is creating even more of a problem.
Mountain Pursuit says the impact of mountain bikers, for example, on big game (including elk and deer), is extremely damaging to the interests of hunters, and that it goes on year-round. However, the Teton Valley News notes, MBT, Teton Freedom Riders, and Advocates for Multi-Use of Public Land say the use isn’t year round; as proof, they are using the ride-documenting app Strava, which provides an overview of the penetration of cyclists in area.
If the app’s data is to be believed, very few cyclists (at least those using the app) are doing winter fat biking in the area; additionally, the app’s data concludes that not many mountain biker users penetrate to the core of the Palisades in the summer. This area of the Palisades is described in the hunters’ complaint as a “rugged, remote, undeveloped area that is a stronghold for big game and other wildlife, in addition to being recognized by biologists as an important wildlife migration corridor.”
But, say the cyclists, while they do not believe mountain biking will be popular that far into the Palisades, they still want cyclists to be able to retain access to the area. And that has continued to raise the hunters’ ire.
Currently, most large mountain bike races take place in the nearby Jackson Hole Mountain Resort during the summer and fall months.