The U.S. Forest Service has notified its employees that going forward, mountain biking is to be managed in the same way as hiking and equestrian rather than motorized travel, according to a presentation made at the IMBA World Summit by Jim Bedwell, Forest Service director for recreation, heritage and volunteers

At the summit, Bedwell said a memo written by Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop is a significant step in the evolution of mountain bike management on Forest Service lands, and has been distributed to agency staff at the regional and local levels.

At the core of the letter are important clarifications on the nature of mountain biking and how this activity is addressed in management plans.

Holtrop writes, “I want to emphasize that mountain biking is a non-motorized use of National Forest System trails, along with hiking and horseback riding. In our planning and policy documents, a distinction between mountain biking and motorized uses…should be made.”

As Bedwell explained, “The Forest Service uses letters to communicate quickly to field units about important issues they may face, and to promote consistent understanding about how to approach them. In some cases, such as this one, the letter precedes desired policy revision, which requires a longer and more involved process to complete.”

Bedwell’s announcement comes at a time when some national forests have applied similar restrictions to bicycles and motor vehicles. IMBA believes most Forest Service staff understand bicycling is a quiet, non-motorized, low-impact activity, and hopes the letter provides the guidance necessary for consistent treatment of mountain biking on every national forest.

“Deputy Chief Holtrop’s letter also acknowledges the important and productive partnership between IMBA and the U.S. Forest Service,” says Bedwell. In 2006, the two entities renewed their Memorandum of Understanding for the third consecutive time and mountain bikers are prolific stewards in many national forests. The volunteer National Mountain Bike Patrol works to inform, assist, and educate mountain bikers and other trail users on Forest Service lands across the country.