Legal Mountain Bike, All-Terrain Vehicle, Off-Highway Vehicle Access In Wilderness Study Areas Threatened By New Lawsuit

AMPL believes Wyoming Wilderness Study Areas should be released

October 2019 Powersport News

Jackson, WY - In an effort to inform its members and all recreationists affected, Advocates for Multi-Use of Public Lands (AMPL) is issuing the following statement regarding the lawsuit, Mountain Pursuit vs. U.S. Forest Service, Bridger Teton National Forest and Caribou Targhee National Forest, filed on Sept. 26, in U.S. District Court, State of Wyoming.

The plaintiff alleges mechanized and motorized use in the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) go beyond the original intent of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act, and are asking the court to suspend all mountain bike use in the Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs as well as all ATV/OHV use in the Shoal Creek WSA.

AMPL would point interested parties to the 1990 Forest Plan of the Bridger Teton National Forest (BTNF) to answer the complaints made by the plaintiff. The Forest Plan specifically notes the allowance of “existing uses … such as snowmobiling and mountain biking” for all WSAs in the BTNF.

For almost three decades since the 1990 Forest Plan, these historic uses have continued within the WSAs. This lawsuit is clearly an attempt by a small user group to remove other recreationists from our public lands. AMPL believes everyone has an equal right to access and enjoy our public lands and no one recreationist group has a higher right than any other.

“Jackson is a community with more mountain bikes than television sets and more bike shops than car dealerships which speaks volumes to how important mountain biking in both the Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs is to our community,” Jesse Combs, president, AMPL, said. “AMPL is 100 percent behind the Bridger Teton National Forest in its position that mountain biking is a legal and allowed use on the historical trail network in both of these areas. AMPL rejects any special interest group who tries to push other recreationists out in the pursuit of an ‘all for me’ ideology when it comes to our public lands.”

AMPL stands in strong opposition to this attack against recreation in the Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs and it supports all of the more than three decades of historic, allowed use including hiking, mountain biking, heli-skiing, dirt biking, snowmobiling and ATV/OHV recreation.

“The very limited legal and historical dirtbike/ATV trails in these WSAs provide recreational opportunities to users of all ages and stages of health and allow access for everything from camping out with family and friends to hunting access in the fall,” Mike Mielke, vice president, AMPL, said. “It’s unfortunate that a group in our community would try and restrict these user groups from accessing our public lands, when their access is already some of the most limited in the US.”

AMPL also believes this lawsuit is yet another example of why the Wilderness Study Areas have been held in limbo for far too long and why Congress must act to release them. AMPL intends to stand in support of the U.S. Forest Service and its work to ensure the continued and proper use of public lands. The organization will also work with area partners, including the Teton Freedom Riders (Jackson, WY) and Mountain Bike the Tetons (Victor, ID) to ensure access for all recreationists are not taken away.

“AMPL will also continue to collaborate with other recreation groups locally and nationally to protect multi-use recreation on our public lands,” Amy Edmonds, executive director, AMPL, said.

“Mountain Pursuit’s engagement at this level is unproductive, self-serving and counterintuitive to the spirit of collaboration we share when meeting challenges on our public lands,” Tony Ferlisi, executive director, Mountain Bike the Tetons, said. “The Palisades is a special place for myriad reasons and its overall value rises above any one individual, group or cause. Our community has worked together since the inception of the Bridger-Teton and Carobou-Targhee National Forests to advocate for and sustainably manage that landscape, navigating real conflict, an evolving and ever-changing local population and shifting stakeholder expectations. We are better than this.”

“Mountain Pursuit’s agenda behind this lawsuit is emotionally charged and self-serving,” Kevin Kavanaugh, president, Teton Freedom Riders, said. “It is a lawsuit that is aimed to harm the greater good of our community by eliminating our urban interface to our natural environment, all to satisfy their agenda. Close to home recreational opportunities cultivate a mentally and physically healthier community, which such engagement yields a broader community stewardship of our public lands. Our tourism-based economy is strongly driven by recreation which provides quality jobs, enabling people to permanently reside and raise families in Wyoming, while contributing to Wyoming.”

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