By Ashley Korenblat
The below is an update from Ashley about the 30×30 America the Beauty initiative. The original blog on this topic focused on what it means for the bike community.
The Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative was inspired by the idea that we need to protect 30% of the earth’s surface by 2030, thus 30 x 30. This goal was first proposed by climate scientists from around the world. Yet some elected officials, particularly in Western States are painting this effort as a land grab. They see 30 x 30 in the black and white context of land is either available to use or it is locked up for the benefit of ‘nature’ not humans.
Of course, there is a natural tension between using the earth’s resources to improve the human condition and the inevitable disruption of our natural systems. The question is at what point does our short-term use of the land to meet today’s needs threaten our long-term survival? We can all probably agree that if we disturb 100% of the earth’s surface that it will be very difficult for the planet to produce the clean air and water critical to our survival. But at the same time, we need resources, including food, and our current systems require us to disturb natural ecosystems. The question is the ratio—how much of the earth can we disturb to meet our needs without throwing off the whole system?
For now, the answer is 70% since our best researchers have told us that we need to keep at least 30% of the planet in its natural state. This does not mean that all of the lands involved must be owned by the federal government or that they must be protected by the Wilderness Act. If we look at the problem from a county-by-county perspective, the question is what lands in your county are contributing to processing carbon? –to protecting water supplies? –regardless of who owns them.
We know that all people need access to healthy landscapes. Green space of all types is in high demand, a trend that the pandemic has intensified. Prosperous cities and towns across the country are planning with nature in mind for all of their citizens. Quality of life is a key component of economic progress and businesses of all types are investing in places where their employees can get outside. Land in its natural state has economic value that will only appreciate over time.
The America the Beautiful initiative is a framework we can use to break the dichotomy between development and conservation. We can find the right balance between use and preservation using these components of the program:
- Pursue a Collaborative and Inclusive Approach to Conservation
- Conserve America’s Lands and Waters for the Benefit of All People
- Support Locally Led and Locally Designed Conservation Efforts
- Honor Tribal Sovereignty and Support the Priorities of Tribal Nations
- Pursue Conservation and Restoration Approaches that Create Jobs and Support Healthy Communities
- Honor Private Property Rights and Support the Voluntary Stewardship Efforts of Private Landowners and Fishers
- Use Science as a Guide
- Build on Existing Tools and Strategies with an Emphasis on Flexibility and Adaptive Approaches
The administration has made clear that America the Beautiful is an opt in opportunity which nearly every county in America could use to their advantage. If you are a western county with large amounts of public land, are you optimizing that use to keep your air and water clean? If you are an eastern county with very little green space, what steps can you take to make nature available to your citizens? Today’s challenges require new ways of thinking about the land around us and America the Beautiful is an opportunity to do just that.
Tags: #mountainbiking, #OutdoorRecreation, #PublicLands, #WSC
When you travel with your family, it’s nice to have access to a variety of activities that allow you to take advantage of all that a destination has to offer—without too much research or mid-trip decision-making. Here are our three favorite resorts to take our family—and then a fun idea to take things to the next level!
Crested Butte, CO
At first glance, Crested Butte is a sleepy mountain town, nestled in the southwestern corner of Colorado. If you keep looking, you’ll realize it’s one of the most amazing natural playgrounds in North America. “CB” has year-round offerings for all ages. In the winter months, skiing and snowboarding bring visitors from all over the world to this uniquely situated mountain. While other Colorado resorts have grown to lose some of their character, Crested Butte has maintained its charm, even while boasting some of the best terrain in the state. If you’ve got a freestyle skier among you, they may also be interested in the Butte’s world-renowned terrain parks. In the summer, enjoy fly fishing in the legendary Gunnison Valley, or explore Colorado’s ranching roots on horseback. And if you haven’t heard, you’ll find some of the best mountain biking in the world. If you’re looking for a cycling-centric trip, we’ve got one of those for you too.
Whistler, BC, Canada
One of the awesome things about ski resorts is that most of them run their lifts in the summer, and this one has access to some of the most amazing alpine running and hiking terrain I’ve ever seen. Ancient glaciers, alpine lakes, and wildflowers will treat your senses as you make your way through the wilderness. Whistler-Blackcomb boasts the world’s longest gondola (the Peak 2 Peak) connecting the two mountains. It can be intense for those afraid of heights, but offers unparalleled views and connects two of Canadas most epic ski resorts. If you’ve got little ones, they’ll marvel at the giant snow walls that stick around through early summer. And there’s biking for all levels of riders.
If you’re looking for the full-on Appalachian experience, Snowshoe, WV has you covered. Standup paddleboarding, biking, and golf in the summer give way to a great family ski resort in the winter months. Smaller and slightly more manageable than its Rocky Mountain counterparts, Snowshoe is a great place to teach your kids to ski. They offer great deals on lodging and family packages for ski lessons, mountain bike lessons, and more. Summer concerts, festivals, and races fill the events calendar and offer something for everyone.
Resorts are great because they offer lots of options for your family, all in one place. At Western Spirit, we create this resort-style convenience, and take you on more rustic adventures that span a bit more area. We intersperse activities off the bike as well, and we’ve seen families take the opportunity to bond in pretty special ways. If that sounds up your alley, give us a call today to start planning your off-resort mountain bike adventure. You can also check out our family trips here.
Tags: Family, Family Trip, Travel
Telluride, Colorado is a town like no other, surrounded by peak after peak of amazing mountains with endless terrain to explore. Hiking is surely the most popular activity in the summer, and there’s plenty of great cycling as well. Here’s what you need to know about hiking in Telluride.
Allow for Plenty of Time
There are over 90 different hiking trails in the immediate vicinity of town, so if you are visiting from out of town, make sure you stay a little longer than you think you should. There are also tons of attractions to visit, from restaurants and shops to museums, and all kinds of special events like the Telluride Film Festival and Telluride Blues & Brews music festival.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Telluride is situated at the mouth of a box canyon, which can make for some sudden changes in weather patterns. In the late summer, afternoon thunderstorms are common, so be sure the sky is clear before you get too far above tree line.
Choose Your Adventure
Telluride hikes span a wide range of difficulty, from meandering trails through town to gnarly climbs up 14,000 foot peaks, known familiarly as “fourteeners.” Know your hiking group’s ability level and intention when selecting your hike. It is also a great area to put together a multi-day hiking and camping trip, similar to the ones we lead on bikes. You’ll need to pack in and pack out your own provisions in this case, of course. Here’s a basic map of the trails close to town. Keep in mind that the town of Telluride is at 8,750 feet above sea level, so if you’re coming from lower elevation you will feel the difference!
A Few Highlights
Rest assured that whatever type of hike you’re looking for, it exists in Telluride. Bridal Veil Falls is definitely one of our favorites. It’s the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado, and it’s a short hike from town. This is a fairly accessible hike, suitable for active families. If you’re looking for a challenge, Mt. Sneffels is said to be one of Colorado’s most beautiful mountains. The hike to the summit is short and steep, requiring a bit of class 3 climbing, but the views on the way up are absolutely stunning.
We love multi-faceted adventures. If you do too, start off with a few days hiking in Telluride, and then join Western Spirit for a point-to-point ride to Durango or Moab! Give us a call and we’ll break down the details.
Tags: Hiking, Telluride
I have seen bike love in many forms. When I was 27, I became the president of a small company called Merlin. I’d just graduated from business school and put everything I learned to work. I had to order titanium in the same quantities as Boeing, six months in advance. To do this I had to raise private capital and create a board of directors who were committed to cycling.
At the time, Merlin made arguably the best bikes int he world and for about five years we simply could not keep up with the orders. People sent us photos of the Merlin logo tattooed on various parts of their bodies. While I was flattered by their devotion, I have to admit the photos were kind of frightening.
I briefly dated a professional tennis player. We were at a party once and two men in their fifties found out I was the president of Merlin. They walked over, got down on their knees and bowed before me. My date was not impressed – what was I thinking, dating a tennis player?
After half a decade at Merlin I was ready for a new challenge, and Saucony, the shoe company, offered to buy the company. Hoping I had left it in good hands, I moved to Moab to run Western Spirit Cycling. My focus was no longer the bike itself, but where to ride it.
We run multi-day trips in the national park and forests. Many riders return year after year and so the pressure is on us to always find new places to explore. The trips range from fun and cruisey to five days above 10,000ft, and we have a very wide range of people, from core cyclists who have all the skills and fitness to those who really only ride once a year with us.
About half bring their own bikes. Sometimes when they arrive before a trip, the mechanic shakes his head. These bikes have been loved too much. We do worry that the bike won’t make it through the week, but we don’t want to tell the customer. So we just throw another spare on the support truck and hope for the best. The price of the bike has nothing to do with how much a person loves their ride.
When riders arrive they are usually a bit pale and nervous, wondering what they have got themselves into. When they return, they are glowing and it is not just the dirt or the sunburn. The trip has given them at the chance to reconnect with themselves, the planet and the bike.
And then we came up with the idea of Outerbike, a demo event for consumers. The bike manufacturers all build their new models for the autumn trade show in Las Vegas, but the public are not allowed to attend, and while you occasionally find a demo truck at a trailhead ro at big races, there really isn’t anywhere you can test out bikes on real trails. So when the Bar M trails were built in Moab – a classic stacked loop system with 10 to 15 miles of beginner, intermediate and expert trails, all from one starting point – we knew it was perfect for Outerbike.
At the first Outerbike in 2010, several hundred people showed up. At the second this autumn, it was over the top. It was 40°C and raining but by 7:30am there was a line to get into the demo area, which didn’t open util 9am. I was a bit worried that folks would be grumpy about waiting but when we opened the gates, they ran to the booths hooting and hollering. It was bike love in the form of 800 people charging through the desert in the rain.
I wonder what form it will turn up in next.
Tags: Bike Trips, Bikelove, Biking Trips, Experience, Lifeelevated, Moab, Mountain Bike Vacations, Mountainbiking, Outerbike, Travel
Getting away with your family is a great way to make memories, celebrate different parts of your kids’ lives, and have new experiences together. But let’s not forget that getting the family away together can be a big job! Here are five trips where you’ll have a little support with logistics, making it a bit easier to travel with your family this summer.
Any list of family vacations in the United States would be incomplete without mention of the Grand Canyon. Even if you’ve seen a million photos, nothing can prepare you for the majesty and absolute magnitude of this natural masterpiece. Given its popularity, it’s important to make reservations early at any of the area’s hotels and attractions. There are a number of ways to experience the canyon including on foot, on horses, or in a raft. Our favorite is by bike. A guided mountain bike trip with Western Spirit Adventures is the perfect way to show your family the canyon, and have someone else take care of the logistics. Our Grand Canyon family adventure explores the South Rim of the canyon. The terrain is perfect for beginning cyclists, and we include some hiking, to show off the canyon from a different perspective.
Yellowstone National Park provides an unparalleled combination of attractions for kids and adults of all ages. Geysers, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and forests provide a varied landscape that is home to hundreds of animal species. Tourism in the park has developed to include a wide variety of activities and educational opportunities. It’s also a beautiful place to just relax! Roads in the park provide ample opportunity to explore by car, and there are thousands of miles of trails for those who prefer to explore on foot or by bike. This is another of our favorite Western Spirit family trips. The Yellowstone and Gravelly Range trip begins just northwest of the park, and we explore the park on the last few days. Whether with us, or on your own, Yellowstone truly has something for everyone.
If your family is looking for an educational vacation, our nation’s capital is a great place to visit. D.C. is steeped in history, and can provide some great experiences to compliment what your kids might be learning in school. The cities innumerable museums provide opportunities to learn about history, art, science, and aerospace. And most of these attractions are very affordable. If your kids are middle-school-aged or older, this is a really navigable and interesting destination. Like many cities in recent years, D.C. has also implemented a bikeshare program, called Capital Bikeshare, which provides a fun and affordable alternative to the metro, or… driving!
If you’re interested in getting out of the city altogether, Redwood National Park is definitely a place to consider. It offers some of my favorite views in the whole country. Redwood trees are nothing short of awe-inspiring when viewed up close—especially for people who aren’t very tall! Hiking and biking are certainly the best way to learn about and appreciate the magnificent landscape, and it’s remarkably close to the coast as well, providing an amazing variety of terrain to explore. Western Spirit Adventure runs trips for families in Redwood National Park as well, and it’s certainly one of our classics.
San Diego, CA
And of course, there’s always the beach! Coastal towns have come to learn the benefits of catering to families, and San Diego is no exception. We love Coronado Beach for it’s great lifeguards, tame surf, and soft sand. It’s easy to play in the water with young kids, but there are enough attractions nearby to keep older kids entertained. The locals actually consider this peninsula to be very separate from San Diego, though it’s just over the bridge from the city. The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Legoland are close by, if you’re looking for some time away from the beach, but my kids could stay in the warm Coronado water all day!
So, the biking is our favorite, of course, but there are lots of ways to get your family out and about this summer—and lots of ways to make it more manageable. If you’re considering a bike trip, give us a call and we can help you choose the one that’s best for your family!
Tags: Family, Summer, Vacation
Telluride and Moab are two of the most charming destinations in the West. Destinations for adventurers, historians, and families alike, you’ve likely heard of them. Western Spirit’s ride from Telluride to Moab is one of our favorites. Here are five things to know before you go.
This is the perfect first off-road adventure
This ride is challenging, but not too technical, making it ideal for the road cycling enthusiast who is ready to try some dirt-road riding. If you’ve never ridden on fat tires and dirt before, prepare for an exhilarating experience, away from cars and the noise of other people as you roll through the beautiful landscape between these two adventure hotspots.
The terrain is challenging but accessible
Short climbs are intense, but allow time for recovery. This trip is awesome for pushing yourself with plenty of support from your guides and your fellow cyclists. The days are long, and altitude is a factor, so we recommend plenty of cardiovascular training before the trip. Just keep in mind that you won’t need technically advanced mountain biking skills.
The weather is predictably variable
The weather is typically sunny and dry, but the temperature can change quickly, and when storms come in they come with a vengeance. Packable layers are a must for this ride that spans from aspen forests to sagebrush deserts. When the sun goes down in the desert, it gets chilly! So bring warm layers for night time, and plenty of breathable, sweat-wicking clothes for daytime riding. Here’s a list of our recommended gear for desert riding.
Bring a camera
Okay. This one is obvious, but we mean it. The scenery on this ride is unparalleled and will make you look like a pro photographer—even if you’re just using the camera on your iPhone. The trip begins in the Colorado Rockies and crosses the Uncompahgre Plateau. Telluride’s wildflowers are incredible in the early summer and the yellow Aspens will take your breath away in the fall. As you ride down from the mountains into the desert, panoramic views will follow you the whole way. Plateaus give way to canyons as you get closer to Moab, completing the eclectic sample of western landscape.
There’s nothing like it
Have I mentioned that this is one of our favorite trips? That it is the best way to see the American West? That it’s a great way to bond with family and old friends, or to make a great group of new friends? If you’re on the fence about a mountain bike adventure, give us a call and we’ll answer any lingering questions. I have no doubt that you’ll have the time of your life.
Full details about this trip and many more are available at westernspirit.com or call us to talk cycling at 435-201-6310. Check out some stories and testimonials from riders past, and then get out there and start training!
Tags: Moab, Mountain Biking, Telluride
Cyclist in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
President Trump’s Executive Order on the Antiquities Act calls for a review of the national monuments designated over the last 20 years. As an outdoor business owner, I have had a front row seat for many of these monument designations and have seen the on the ground impacts.
In many cases local residents and stakeholders from mountain bikers to energy companies to environmental advocates began the process of updating plans for their public lands by asking for new laws. People worked together to understand each others goals and craft public land legislation that would protect key areas for conservation and recreation, while leaving other places available for development of oil, gas, and mining. And after all the blood, sweat, and tears of negotiating a deal, many communities in the last 20 years were stymied when congress failed to pass their bills.
Hell’s Backbone Grill at the Boulder Mtn Lodge feeds hungry people visiting the surrounding National Parks and National Monuments
You can’t really blame folks if they turned to the President and requested an administrative action in the form of a National Monument Proclamation to achieve virtually the same goals they were seeking through public land legislation. President Trump’s review will find that many communities are quite happy with their National Monuments, not only are they benefiting from outdoor recreation visitors, but they are seeing steady economic growth through new and diverse businesses who want to locate near America’s great outdoors. Competition for top talent is tight, and if you can boast access to everything from hiking and paddling to jeeping, hunting and fishing, plus treasured cultural resources and uniquely American landscapes, your community—and the businesses that locate there— have a competitive advantage.
Pictographs in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.
In reviewing these monuments, Secretary Zinke is also going to find a few places where people aren’t so happy, and while they are quick to complain about their public land managers, the real source of the problem has little to do with federal land ownership or monument designations. Macro economic forces and technological advances of the 21st century are playing out in commodity prices, and extractive industry jobs are disappearing on both public and private lands, while county budgets suffer due to sharply decreasing mineral royalties.
Western Spirit Cycling Adventures was started to run trips in Canyonlands National Park and today runs trips all thought out many of the country’s National Parks and National Monuments.
Meanwhile, the outdoor recreation industry continues to see steady growth generating $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs. America has a proud history of self sufficiency through living off the land, and our ranchers and coal miners have been major contributors to our country’s progress. Key leaders in congress are trying to find ways to honor this heritage. Pivoting to recreation economy jobs in product design, manufacturing, or retail can be challenging. For that matter, just getting along with the new neighbors can be hard. Change is never easy, but rolling back the clock is downright impossible.
Lower Calf Creek Falls – Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.
Monument designations jump start recreation economies and bring a wide array of reliable and growing business opportunities to rural residents and their children. This change is playing out in communities across the country whose economic development strategies are paying off precisely because they have set aside public land in its natural state for outdoor recreation.
Riders enjoying the incredible views the National Monument has to offer
If the President wishes to honor his promise to those who have lost their jobs in coal country and other rural areas that have been hurt by a changing economy, he should maintain all of America’s existing monuments, and use the powers of the Antiquities Act to create new ones.
Tags: #itsallyours, National Monuments, National Parks, Outdoors, Utah
There is no doubt that, whether we like it or not, the oil and natural gas industry plays a big part in our day-to-day lives. As oil and gas users, it is crucial that we take on the responsibility of asking our government and the producers to use best practices when developing oil and gas, as we all work towards a transition to more climate-friendly sources of energy.
Methane is a primary ingredient of natural gas, and when wells are drilled, methane escapes into the atmosphere. Methane traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide. (Note: Methane referenced here is specific to oil and gas. Cows do affect climate, but that is a different topic.) Methane from oil and gas production is responsible for around 25% of the environmental impacts we are experiencing today.
The oil and gas industry knows that leaking methane is a problem, and there are many companies working to produce better valves, piping, storage tanks, etc., to better control methane leakage. The Obama administration issued a Methane Rule that was established to require operators to use these improved products and techniques on their well pads. However, the Trump Administration rolled back this rule. In the past few weeks, both the House and the Senate voted to reinstate this rule, and President Biden is expected to sign the joint resolution.
Many bike trails around the west travel across and through active oil and gas fields where methane and other unhealthy gases are affecting air quality. It is therefore in the best interest of trail users to encourage and require oil and gas operators to put best practices in place to stop the leaks.
Additionally, by producing, installing, and monitoring new equipment to capture more methane, oil and gas producers will have more natural gas to sell while simultaneously creating jobs, and reducing the leak of Methane into the environment. The Methane Rule is a win/win solution for both the oil and gas industry and recreation, and we look forward to its reinstatement immediately.
Tags: #mountainbiking, #OutdoorRecreation, #PublicLands, #WSC
Earlier this month, the Biden Administration launched the America the Beautiful Initiative, a ten-year, locally led, voluntary effort to restore and conserve America’s lands, waters, and wildlife. This program was inspired by the goal of preserving 30% of America’s lands and oceans by 2030, dubbed the “30×30” initiative.
The goal is to make real progress on the climate crisis by protecting ecosystems and keeping more land in its natural state. By doing this, we can capture more metric tons of CO2, while simultaneously protecting wildlife habitat and providing more places for people to recreate. America the Beautiful is a nationwide project that incorporates existing efforts to protect and conserve land, while also encouraging new ones.
This effort focuses on both the quantity of land preserved – by adding some level of protection to federal, state, county, or private undeveloped land – and the quality of protections for the land; for example, bills that upgrade federally-owned BLM land to a National Recreation Area, or, if the acres qualify, to a designated Wilderness area. While the America the Beautiful initiative does include many such proposals, these areas have been examined by the bike community and no existing bike trails would be closed.
In fact, the America the Beautiful initiative is much more likely to provide additional acreage of all types where new bike trails can be built. Much of the emphasis is on providing access to natural places to more people, and this means more trails near more cities. With a nationwide push to preserve open space, we can protect the trails we already have and gain land to build new ones, and everyone in the biking community will benefit.
Tags: #AmericaTheBeautiful, #mountainbiking, #OutdoorRecreation, #PublicLands, #WSC, #WSCGuide
Why you need to know about public land: As mountain bikers, we are dependent on public lands. Through my career in bike manufacturing, racing, and as an outfitter I have had the opportunity to ride on trails of every description on public lands of every type.
Today there are increasing pressures on our public lands from all directions, so we here at Western Spirit thought it would be useful to use our blog as quick and easy place for mountain bikers to get informed on public land issues that are likely to effect the trails you love.
Land ownership through the ages: The first land owner was probably someone from a nomadic tribe that accidentally planted a seed and decided to stick around to watch it grow. Or maybe it was someone who found some type of ore coming out of the ground and figured he could trade it for food. For most of human history, land ownership has been the best way to generate wealth to take care of yourself and your family.
The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged immigrants to head west and claim some land. Lots of land did get claimed but quite a bit didn’t. Why not—nobody wanted to live there. In most cases the problem would have been lack of water, but in other place the topography itself just wasn’t very hospitable.
Thus more by accident than by design Americans ended up owning large sections of public land, primarily in Western States. These lands are in three major categories: National Parks—the jewels of the program, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management Lands. And in all three there are places that are considered: front-country—near roads, near towns and easily accessible; and backcountry—which are further away, usually you need to camp out there. In general more skills and experience are needed to reach backcountry places.
National Parks are the most unique and special places in the country and are also often historic locations. Front country lands within National Parks include visitor centers and short hikes to points of interest. Backcounty areas in National Parks are often sensitive landscapes where visitation is limited by a permit system. The good thing about a permit system is that when you do get out there, you have the place all to yourself! Like we do on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. National Parks are managed by the Department of Interior. Congressman Ryan Zinke from Montana was just appointed Secretary of the Interior and while we don’t know if he mountain bikes—he does hunt and fish so we are hopeful!
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is also managed by the Department of Interior. These lands include all kind of incredible deserts and canyons and are primarily designated for multiple use. That means oil and gas, grazing, and mining, as well as motorized and non-motorized recreation. In recent years, recreation on BLM lands has grown exponentially, partly due to strong partnerships between local BLM Managers, local mountain bike groups, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, IMBA. But conflicts between recreation and resource extraction like oil and gas and mining are starting to pop up around the country. Because oil and gas operators pay for leases on these lands, they have more rights than we do. We are making progress zoning some lands for recreation through the land planning process as business owners and trail users get involved, but when we don’t show up, resource extraction usually wins the day. More on this in future blogs.
National Forests are managed by the Department of Agriculture, primarily because much of the original focus was on harvesting trees. Today there are lots of trails on forest service lands and in some places near ski areas or other resorts ‘the trees are worth more standing up than they would be lying down.’ Timber management remains the focus of the Forest Service, but the Outdoor Industry Association along with other groups have recently launched a process for improving recreation management on Forest Service lands and this program is progressing.
These are the major categories of federal land managers. These lands are owned by you. Its all yours!! Next week Wilderness and National Monuments demystified!
Tags: #itsallyours, BLM, National Forests, National Parks
Important Public Land Designations: Wilderness and National Monuments
In Part 1 of our public land series we clarified the three major federal land managers: US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service. All three of these land management agencies manage different types of lands within their jurisdictions. In the forest and on the BLM most of their lands are usually open to multiple uses—that means they are available for harvesting trees, grazing cows, mining, and/or recreation of all types. But both agencies and the park service also have lands that are special for one reason or another.
Lands can achieve special status for many reasons: perhaps they are critical wildlife habitat, or they may have some special recreation status like a reservoir or motorized recreation area—in which case they many have a special name, a special color on the map, and special rules for visitors. Many of these special designations can be made by the agency itself through planning processes that include public input. But the two most special designations: National Monuments and Federally Designated Wilderness Areas are made by the president in the case of national monuments and by the Congress in the case of Wilderness.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 was the first time we as a species decided to put the needs of nature above the needs of man. Until this time, and for all of human history, the earth was here for us to use. By the early 1960s the pace of development around the globe became a concern and many people began to think that it would be wise to leave some portions of the planet in their natural state, thus the Wilderness Act of 1964 was born. The act itself is fairly simple in that the goal is to leave areas designated as wilderness ‘untrammeled by man.
Since the mountain bike was not invented in 1964, there is no specific mention of bicycles in the act. But the act does clearly state that mechanized transport is prohibited. Horses however were allowed continued access, partly because they are animals, partly because it was a historic use, and partly because the act would never have passed if horses had been excluded. Every act that congress has ever passed has includes compromises.
Many people have tried to slice and dice the wording to find a way to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas but none have succeeded. Instead many bike advocates have worked with wilderness advocates to sort out Wilderness boundaries in a way that keeps established and legal bike trails open. With one exception, none of the Wilderness bills passed since 2009 have closed bike trails.
This is one of the important distinctions between Wilderness designations and national monuments. When a Wilderness bill is proposed by a congressman to designate either BLM or Forest Service land as Wilderness, the process is long and detailed and the public is part of the process at every step. The public can see drafts of the bill, they can submit testimony at the hearing, and they can lobby members of congress to vote for or against the bill.
National monuments go through a process that goes through the executive branch rather than the legislative branch, and in some ways is the opposite because the public input come primarily after the designation has been made. The president was given the power to unilaterally issue a proclamation designating a piece of public land as a national monument by Congress when it passed the Antiquities Act. The purpose of this act is to protect places of historic or cultural significance. Many of our national parks started as national monuments. At first the locals were angry because they found themselves losing the right to use these lands for grazing or mining or other traditional ways to make a living. But over the years most (but not all) residents have come to appreciate their national parks.
Today, many people who live near public lands may agree that a particular place deserves a higher level of protection, but they would prefer achieving that protection using legislation—a bill in Congress that would include their input and ideas as it was developed. The national monument designation rankles some residents because the proclamation process does not officially include public input.
However—and there are two ‘howevers’ involved here. The national monument process DOES include public input in the management plan that is developed to sort out exactly how the new monument will be managed. In this process, many of the same types of decisions that are made about Wilderness boundaries and other public land designations, that are part of public land legislation, are addressed in the monument management plan and the public is involved.
The second ‘however’ involves gridlock in Congress that prevents any legislation from passing. In many cases locals have been working on public land bills that would designate some Wilderness and perhaps create some other designations, but Congress has failed to pass these locally supported bills. In those cases, the public had had no choice but to by pass Congress and ask the president to act unilaterally to implement the protections they have agreed upon via a national monument designation.
Whether these special designations are achieved via a public lands Wilderness bill or a presidential national monument proclamation—there are still people that think any increased protections are a bad idea. The current thinking of the Trump administration is that all regulation prohibits economic growth, and many of the recent updates in land management and environmental protections have already been rolled back. There are many ways that these changes could affect a mountain bike trail near you, but before we head down that dark path, our next post will be about communities that are prospering precisely because they have access to protected public lands.
Tags: #itsallyours, BLM, National Forests, National Parks
Gearing up for your first mountain biking adventure? Here are few tips from those of us who have been around the block a few times.
You Can Bring or Rent Camping Gear
If you are a seasoned and equipped camper, feel free to bring your own gear on your Western Spirit trip. If not, we’re happy to rent you some! We have North Face tents, 20-degree sleeping bags, and Thermarest pads to keep you comfortable and warm. Same deal with bikes, though we really recommend renting them from us. Most airlines charge extra for flying with a bike, and we’ve got great equipment that’s been diligently maintained. If you do bring your own bike, make sure to have it tuned up before you travel. Here’s a packing checklist for other things you’ll want to be sure to remember!
We’ll Bring the Food, You Bring the Booze
On Western Spirit adventures, we take care of all the food, from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day (and many guests tell us the food is a highlight of their trip!). We are also experts at storing and transporting your favorite alcoholic beverages, but we rely on you to supply them. Let us know if you’re flying in and need some advice on where to stock up before the trip.
It’s Going to Be Awesome
Okay, you might already know this, but if you’re not sure—trust us. There’s nothing better than getting outside with friends (new or old) and riding trails through forests, mountains, and deserts. No matter your skill level, you can find challenges, growth, inspiration, relaxation, and the best environment to connect with the people around you. If you’re looking to up your training game, we’ve got a few tips. But know that our guides will be there to support you at whatever ability level you’re at.
Like, really. Relax. We’ve got it! It always amazes me to watch people transition into vacation mode. So often we don’t even realize how excellent we’ve gotten at being busy! Shorten your adjustment period by mentally preparing yourself beforehand. Our guides will take care of everything. You just need to get on your bike and ride. At the end of the day, we’ll be waiting for you with a cold drink and a delicious camp-cooked meal. So leave your worker-bee mentality at home.
And, most importantly, we are happy to answer any questions that you have. Give us a call at 800-845-2453.
Tags: Mountain Biking Trip
It’s no secret that traveling with people can come with challenges. Leaving the comforts of home often brings out the best in people—and can also bring to light some less desirable traits. If you’ve taken trips with groups, you’ve probably learned lessons of your own, but here are some things we’ve learned over the years that might keep you from learning the hard way.
Choose Your Group Wisely
A trip really begins when the planning process starts. I find that trips focused around a particular activity can help to filter potential travel companions. At Western Spirit a focus on adventure, challenge, and being outdoors helps to bring together the perfect group for every trip. If you’re putting together your own group for one of our adventures, or a made-from-scratch adventure of your own, listen to your gut when extending invitations!
Communicate About Needs and Expectations
A pre-trip conversation, in person or via e-mail, can help to get everyone on the same page. Keep in mind that there’s a lot of variety in people’s self-care regimens, meal schedules, budgets, and physical shape. At Western Spirit, we clearly outline the itinerary for each of our trips, including sample menus, packing lists, and levels of physical challenge. We have particular trips that cater to multiple ability levels, including custom trips, and we let people know about the options available to them long before their bike tires hit the trail. So if you’re planning your own vacation, remember that there are no silly questions. Find out what the people in your crew are expecting and hoping for, and communicate clearly about the plan. Here are 10 of the most common questions we get about our trips.
Don’t Be Afraid to Do Your Own Thing
Resentment in a group of travelers usually comes from someone (or a few someones) ignoring their own needs in efforts to accommodate someone else. Know yourself and build in time to do the things you need. Make sure to eat when you need to, get enough sleep, and take time to yourself when you need it. Making these self-serving choices will keep you functioning at your best in the full group activities. If you join us for a Western Spirit adventure, your guides can help you to get just what you’re looking for out of your trip. But don’t forget to ask!
Have Plenty of Food
The number one way to make a group grouchy is to let them get too hungry! Every group seems to have a person or two who are particularly prone to getting “hangry” (hungry+angry). Whether that person is you or someone you’re traveling with, it can’t hurt to throw a Clif Bar or some extra trail mix in your luggage! At Western Spirit, we’ll be sure to keep you well-fed. We’ve been doing this group travel thing for a while.
When you start planning, you may realize that different people have varying skill sets or priorities for the trip. Capitalize on your group’s diversity by delegating responsibility. Make one person in charge of certain meals—whether it’s grocery shopping or dinner reservations. Choose someone else to organize transportation, group activities, and accommodations. If you’re traveling with Western Spirit, the good news is that we basically take care of everything. We plan the itinerary, and our world class guides make decisions during the trip, so you and your fellow travelers don’t have to worry about it.
So the short answer is: travel with us! But these tips are the ones we keep in mind for our adventures and we hope they might help you plan your own as well. Let us know what other lessons you’ve learned in your travels. And we hope to see you soon! Get in touch today.
Tags: Biking Trips, Groups, Traveling