Home » Wildlife must be given top priority

Posted: May 9, 2020

Wildlife must be given top priority

Letter to the Editor

Re: May 3 op-ed commentary in e-KNOWRecreationists in denial.’

What were they thinking? Mountain biking and trail-building destroy wildlife habitat! Mountain biking is environmentally, socially, and medically destructive! There is no good reason to allow bicycles on any unpaved trail!

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in U.S. federal court in 1996. It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have exactly the same access as everyone else – on foot! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking.
A favourite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true.

To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts. I found that of the seven studies they cited, (one) all were written by mountain bikers, and (two) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favoured. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favour mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Mountain bikers also love to build new trails – legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat – not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail. Grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from five miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals’ full use of their habitat. See https://mjvande.info/scb9.htm for details.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about that?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this five-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous.

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the majority of park users — hikers and equestrians — who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are wildlife habitat, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about – an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to humans (“pure habitat”). Want to help? (I spent the previous eight years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)

Wildlife must be given top priority, because they can’t protect themselves from us.

Mike Vandeman,

Berkeley, California, USA

Article Share