Mountain Pursuit Challenges Increased Mountain Bike Activity In Shoal Creek and Palisades Wilderness Study Areas
By Mountain Pursuit
April 18, 2019
Today, Mountain Pursuit submitted a letter to the USFS Bridger-Teton Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Conner challenging exploding mountain bike activity in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area in Teton and Lincoln Counties, and mountain bike and destructive ATV/UTV activity in the Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area in Teton and Sublette Counties.
Both the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas were established by the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The ’84 Act requires that the Forest Service does not allow activities such as ATV/UTV use and mountain biking to adversely affect the wilderness character that existed in Palisades and Shoal in 1984, nor the potential to designate both WSAs as Wilderness.
It’s Mountain Pursuit’s position that the Forest Service is legally bound by the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act not to allow any summer motorized/mechanized activity in the Palisades and Shoal WSAs beyond what was occurring in 1984.
However, mountain biking in the Palisades WSA, especially, has exploded in recent years, to include Forest Service - approved new trail construction for the extensive and growing system accessed off of Teton Pass. The fast-growing bike packing activity, hard-to-detect electric mountain bikes, and the rapidly increasing population in Jackson and subsequent social media marketing is continually pushing mountain biking deeper into the Palisades interior and south to the Shoal WSA, in direct violation of the ’84 act.
Likewise, the improving technology of ATV/UTVs has significantly increased their motorized use in the Shoal WSA above and beyond what was occurring in 1984 - in violation of the ’84 Act.
The negative impacts of motorized and mechanized (mountain biking) travel on big game, specifically elk and deer, are significant.
A 2004 study conducted by the Forest Service at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in northeast Oregon, “Effects of Off-Road Recreation on Mule Deer and Elk” found that ATVs and mountain bikes caused a greater flight response amongst deer and elk than horseback riding and hiking. Importantly, the Starkey study found that the impact to wildlife from ATVs and mountain bikes was similar, despite mountain bikes being quieter.
“Our big game populations in Western Wyoming are under threat on multiple fronts,” said Mountain Pursuit Board President and Founder, Rob Shaul. “Deer, moose and antelope herds are far below Game & Fish population objectives, and elk herds are under looming threat from chronic wasting disease.”
“Exploding mountain bike use in the Palisades WSA off of Teton Pass has been allowed to go on unabated in direct violation of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. While bike packing activity deep into the Palisades interior and day trips into the Shoal Creek WSA are a direct threat to the big game populations and other wildlife which summer in these remote places.”
“ATV/UTV activity in the Shoal WSA during the summer, and especially during hunting season, is out of control,” he continued. “ To the detriment of the elk, deer and antelope populations found there.”
Mountain Pursuit is committed to fighting for healthy big game populations and habitat, and today’s letter to Supervisor O’Connor is the first step to potential litigation which may follow. “We’re pursuing our legal options,” confirmed Shaul.
“It’s long past the time when hunters rolled up our sleeves and got into the fight for wildlife in the Western states,” he concluded. “Mountain Pursuit will lead the way.”