Above: Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area
By Mountain Pursuit
This week Mountain Pursuit filed a complaint against the US Forest Service in federal court over mountain biking in the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in western Wyoming, and over ORV/ATV use in the Shoal Creek WSA.
The Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs were established by the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The act requires that the Forest Service manage the WSAs to "maintain their presently existing wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System."
This requires that any mountain bike, e-bike, or ATV/OHV use be limited to trails and use levels that existed in 1984 when the Act was passed and previous court rulings concerning Palisades have confirmed this.
Neither mountain biking, or ORV/ATV use is mentioned in the 1984 Act, and mountain biking in the Palisades WSA and ORV/ATV use in the Shoal Creek WSA have both exploded in the years since.
Scientific research has shown that the impact to wildlife from both MTB and ATV/ORV use is significant and far greater than hiking or horse travel.
A downhill MTB trail within the Palisades WSA is heavily marketed and advertised by the mountain bike industry, outdoor recreation industry, and social media, and continues to see more and more use. As well, the rapid growth of bikepacking and subsequent social media marketing is pushing this use further and further into both WSAs - negatively impacting wildlife.
Few ORV/ATVs exited in 1984 when the act was passed. These narrow, 4WD vehicles can go places passenger vehicles can't, resulting in significantly increase motorized use in the Shoal WSA - especially during hunting season. As well, unethical hunters often create new roads and significantly expand existing roads during the often wet and muddy hunting seasons, tearing up the country and adding to erosion.
"For too long the hard fights for wildlife have been led by environmental groups," said Mountain Pursuit Founder Rob Shaul, "while the traditional hunting groups were happy to sit on the sidelines, out of the controversy. Mountain Pursuit isn't your father's hunting group. We represent hunters ready to roll up their sleeves, and jump into the arena, and fearlessly fight for wildlife."