Letter: Proliferation of e-bikes is threatening elk habitat
During recent years, some of Colorado’s elk herds have been declining, if not collapsing, due to the proliferation of outdoor recreation — including mountain bikes and, more recently, e-bikes — on public lands. Unfortunately, a recent move by the Trump administration (Secretarial Order 3376) will open millions of acres of public land trails to motorized e-bikes, threatening intact fish and wildlife habitat.
If you’re not familiar with e-bikes, they’re motorized (battery-driven) mountain bikes. “The new policy benefits primarily the makers of electric mountain bikes, whose websites encourage riders to blast throughout our backcountry trails and set new speed records,” said Darrell Wallace, chairman of the Back Country Horsemen of America. A travel newsletter, the RobbReport, recently had this to say about e-bikes:
“To the untrained eye, Moto Parilla’s Ultra Carbon looks just like a gas-engine motorcycle. Instead, it’s actually a powerful electric mountain bike more than tough enough to tackle any trail its fuel-burning cousin can … it can turn any peak, no matter how steep and winding, into something that can be conquered with ease. … It may not be a motorcycle, but … still packs plenty of punch … a max speed of 50 mph.”
Today some 98% of the lower 48 states is within one mile of a motorized route. Ninety-two percent of all national forest lands in Colorado lie within one mile of a road, and there are over 17,000 miles of roads in Colorado’s national forests. In the San Juan National Forest alone, motorized road miles increased from 2,817 in the late 1990s to more than 6,400 miles in 2008. How many miles of motorized routes are enough?
Countless studies have shown that more roads and trails mean fragmented habitat and fewer elk. As Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers founder David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) said: “The three-part formula for assuring a rich elk hunting future … could hardly be simpler. … Those three essential elements are: habitat, habitat, and habitat.”
David A. Lien
Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers co-chair
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