As Wyoming Back Country Horsemen, whose seven chapters in ten Wyoming cities have donated more than a million dollars in service projects to Wyoming public lands over the past decade, we voice grave concern over a bill before Congress that would destroy our way of life. H.R. 1349 introduced by a California Congressman would drastically change the wilderness experience enjoyed by people who hunt, fish, hike, backpack, and in our case, use horses and mules. The bill would allow mountain bike use in all federally-designated Wilderness areas, something that was considered but rejected by Congress when it passed the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Representative Cheney voted against H.R. 1349 in the House Committee on Natural Resources. For that, the Back Country Horsemen of Wyoming are grateful. However, the bill was passed by the committee and now moves to the full House of Representatives.
A pack trip using stock in Wyoming represents a relaxing and traditional way to enjoy Wyoming’s magnificent back country. Wilderness provides refuge from the frantic pace of modern life. Yet, even the best trained stock are spooked when surprised by fast-moving mountain bikes. We would be constantly in fear for our safety, and that of our animals, if mountain bikes are allowed in wilderness.
A key tenant of the 1964 Wilderness Act is to preserve wilderness character, which emphasizes primitive recreation. Only 2.7 percent of the Continental U.S. is currently designated as Wilderness. So we don’t think it’s asking much that our dwindling wilderness lands be devoted to those who choose to enter on foot, horseback, canoe or wheelchair.
Something important would be lost if the last vestiges of our wilderness heritage became just like any other place. We need to keep wilderness wild by honoring the vision Congress held when crafting the Wilderness Act over 53 years ago. We thank Representative Cheney for recognizing that important fact.