…cycling advocates have claimed that riding their bikes in grizzly country does not cause serious impacts—certainly none worse, they insist, than hikers, horseback riders and motorized recreationists.

Todd Wilkinson

Mountain Journal

Griz Expert Says ‘Mountain Bikes Are A Grave Threat To Bears’

WHEN IT COMES TO SAFEGUARDING BEARS, SCIENTISTS SAY WILDERNESS-CALIBER LANDS, FREE OF RIDERS, ARE IMPORTANT TO BRUIN PERSISTENCE

Does mountain biking impact wildlife, any more than hikers and horseback riders do?


More specifically: could rapidly-growing numbers of cyclists in the backcountry of Greater Yellowstone negatively affect the most iconic species—grizzly bears—living in America’s best-known wildland ecosystem?


It’s a point of contention in the debate over how much of the Gallatin Mountains, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, should receive elevated protection under the 1964 Wilderness Act. The wildest core of the Gallatins, located just beyond Yellowstone National Park and extending northward toward Bozeman’s back door, is the 155,000-acre Buffalo-Porcupine Creek Wilderness Study Area.


Not only is the fate of the Gallatins considered a national conservation issue, considering its importance to the health of the ecosystem holding Yellowstone, but lines of disagreement have opened within the conservation community. 


The Gallatin Forest Partnership, led by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, The Wilderness Society, Montana Wilderness Association and aligned with mountain biking groups, is seeking to have 102,000 acres protected as wilderness in the Gallatins, but it doesn’t include the Buffalo Horn-Porcupine.

Meanwhile, another group, Montanans for Gallatin Wilderness and its allies, want 230,000 acres elevated to wilderness status, especially the Buffalo Horn-Porcupine. Their proposal has attracted widespread support from prominent conservation biologists, retired land managers and well-known businesspeople and citizens across the country. They say they aren’t anti-mountain biking; rather, they are “pro-grizzly bear” and favor foresighted wildlife protection in an age of climate change, a rapidly-expanding human development footprint emanating from Bozeman and Big Sky, and rising levels of outdoor recreation. 


One flashpoint playing out publicly has been an online forum called the Bozone Listerv, which functions essentially as a digital community bulletin board. There, cycling advocates have claimed that riding their bikes in grizzly country does not cause serious impacts—certainly none worse, they insist, than hikers, horseback riders and motorized recreationists. 

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