In a new spirit of cooperation, mountain bikers and wilderness advocates -- two groups who have at times been at odds -- recently agreed on a set of working principles they hope will further both of their causes.
During March meetings in Reno, representatives of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Bicyclists of Nevada County, the California Wilderness Coalition as well as several groups from Oregon and Colorado created an agreement to guide future discussions between bicycle enthusiasts and environmentalists. In the past, the two have clashed over the protection of wilderness versus mountain bikers' access to those areas.
"Since mountain bikes aren't permitted in wilderness, we need to work together to find ways to accommodate both sides," said Dan Smuts, assistant regional director for The Wilderness Society in California.
Gary Sprung, who took part in the March meetings as a senior national policy adviser for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), believes the groups can work together - or at least be congenial.
"Since most mountain bike enthusiasts support protection of primitive federal lands through wilderness and other designations, there is no reason not to work closely with wilderness groups," he said. "This agreement signals the start of that cooperation."
The end product of the meetings, formally called the "Statement of Commitments," emphasizes early, open and continued dialogue on the issue of wilderness.
Under the heading "Commitments Reflecting Our Shared Values," the statement reads: "Because we value recreation and solitude in wild natural settings that preserve clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat for this and future generations: We commit to early collaboration leading to joint wilderness/protection proposals where possible."
The opening statement is followed by action steps, such as each group appointing a person in charge of communication between groups.
The meetings were sponsored by Patagonia and REI outdoors equipment manufacturers.