Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Mountain bikers should respect new Boulder-White Clouds wilderness, stay out unless they are on their feet

I recently returned from a seven-day journey through the newly designated Boulder-White Clouds wilderness area, enjoying the serene beauty of Castle Peak, Boulder Chain Lakes and mountain goats grazing in Ants Basin. My enjoyment was interrupted by two groups of mountain bikers breaking the law and riding through the wilderness.

Let there be no doubt: The democratic process has spoken and the regulations protecting this new wilderness area are in effect. Signs prohibiting mountain biking are posted at the trail heads and at the wilderness boundary. There is no grandfathering in. Mountain bikers should respect the wilderness designation and the Forest Service needs to enforce the new law.

The Forest Service needs to do more than post signs. It should set an example early on and enforce the new law by issuing citations to those who trespass the wilderness on bikes. The bikers cannot become accustomed to openly disobeying posted signs. The longer they ride past those signs, the more difficult it will become to enforce the regulations. We do not need Cliven Bundy vigilantes of the mountain biker variety stationed on the wilderness boundary.

The Forest Service should post a few rangers on weekends to curb any initial resistance. It likely won’t take more than a few citations for word to get out. Other hikers who encounter bikers in the wilderness should politely remind the bikers of the new regulations and of the fact that the law is in full effect.

I understand that some mountain bikers are disappointed with the new wilderness designation. However, it is clear from the legislative process that their voices were heard. The final protected areas were significantly reduced from earlier proposals. This reduction left plenty of options for biking in the Boulder-White Clouds, and I saw multiple groups using those no-less-spectacular trails. And of course, the bikers can still access the wilderness areas on their two feet instead of their two wheels.

Mountain bikers should support the new wilderness. Their ability to access these wild areas is due to the conservationists who have worked for decades to protect this pristine area. Without these original conservationists, it is likely that the bikers would have no pristine areas to ride in at all. The bikers should accept the loss of a few trails and realize the net benefit of conservation to their recreational activity. This includes recognizing the restrictions that come with a wilderness designation.

Boise’s Paul Rogge recently moved here, excited by Idaho’s wilderness opportunities.