Friday, April 29, 2022


 (Apologies for not continuing my "what works" posts, but the weather in MinneSNOWta has not been conducive to stream fishing. We keep hoping!)

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has consistently been a leading voice within the hunting, angling and conservation community for managing motorized vehicle use on our public lands responsibly and with wildlife in mind. As motorized bicycles, commonly known as “e-bikes,” have grown in popularity, BHA has actively engaged with land managers, decision makers and conservation partners who will help shape how future e-bike use on public lands is planned and managed.     

A recent decision by the U.S. Forest Service on e-bike use in national forests and grasslands has some good and some bad components. Where does BHA stand? 

First, here’s a breakdown of what this recent Forest Service decision means: 

What we like: 

  • E-bikes are categorized as motorized vehicles – something for which BHA has strongly advocated. 
  • It establishes new guidance for reclassifying non-motorized trails to incorporate e-bikes and combining mechanized vehicles and e-bikes on single trails where user conflicts are likely to exist. 
  • It establishes polices for avoiding impacts to fish and wildlife habitat. 
  • E-bikes on national forests and grasslands will now be limited to 750-watt motors and 28 miles per hour. 
  • Allowances for game retrieval using e-bikes will remain. 
  • It requires that development of any new trails and routes be contingent upon additional funding for administration and maintenance. 

What we remain concerned about: 

  • Illegal user-created routes are not adequately addressed. This remains one of the most concerning issues for state wildlife management agencies as they address impacts to ungulate populations in particular. Guidance should address unauthorized user-created routes more directly, as well as concerning trends over the years from some in the biking community to leverage these into authorized use. 
  • Monitoring and enforcement policies are conspicuously lacking in this guidance for establishing priorities for investing resources to monitor impacts on national forests and grasslands, in addition to enforcing illegal use. 
  • This guidance creates a new specific e-bike only trail category. We are concerned that user conflicts and advocacy from the well-organized conventional mountain biking community will drive pressure for establishing new, separate-use trails under this category instead of combining uses on existing trails. 

BHA has been engaged in decisions regarding the management of e-bikes at both the local and national level. E-bikes, while offering a way to see parts of the backcountry that might otherwise not be accessible to many, are also known to cause major distress to wildlife and offer an ease of access to the backcountry that removes its wildness. The bikes make it easier for people to go deeper into the woods, which has an effect on animals such as deer and elk and their habitat.  

BHA believes e-bikes should be kept in zones designated for them, which this Forest Service guidance addresses. However, the difficulty of enforcing e-bike rules, identifying e-bikes at a distance, and allowing e-bikes to be officially accepted in national forests and grasslands is a problem that will cause more conflict between humans and wildlife and impact our wild public lands and waters.  

While improvements could be made, we are glad to see the U.S. Forest Service proactively develop guidance to better direct the use of e-bikes on public lands. We are hopeful that the Interior Department will follow the U.S. Forest Service’s lead and proactively help safeguard critical wildlife habitat and migratory corridors from ongoing motorized intrusions caused by the existing rules, which allow e-bikes anywhere traditional bicycles are allowed.  


It looks like my Cogburn fat-bike just got a new lease on life. Most of my backcountry bikefishing is done on non-motorized Forest Service trails in MN/WI. This should be a wake-up call for the ebike community, policy is made by those who show up. 25-30 years ago hikers and equestrians used these same arguments against mountain bikes. Now they’re allies. Is there a group advocating for e-bikes? Did they have a seat at the Forest Service table? There are some good things in these rules but they are still pretty exclusionary. What is the next step, after Unity?

I think too, that the e-bike industry has let it's community down. They're so busy being competitive that they fail to see the need to be cooperative. I've been a BHA member for over a decade, and on their Facebook group, the discussion is hot and heavy the opposite direction. I don't happen to agree with their position on this, but most of them, even those who use mountain bikes aren't old enough to remember the battles that took place to even allow MTBs on public lands. Today, mountain bikes have an advocacy organization, IMBA, and the industry recognizes that they are stronger together than separate. I would include the manufacturers in the group that couldn't/didn't find the time to respond, react, or engage when the Forest Service asked for input. Sadly, the results are what they are. Most National Forests have Hunter Walking Trails that are wide enough for, and used by hunters (Duh!), hikers, skiers, snowshoers, mountain bikers, and others. They should be open to e-bikes as well, but they aren't. They never showed up.

I’m 67 years old, have a bum left knee, ankle, and foot from various incidents since 7th grade forwards. Around 1993, I discovered mountain bikes and my outdoor world changed. I could go places faster, farther, deeper into the backcountry than my already damaged leg would previously allow. Along came the fat-bike. I’ve never been into motorized, it's just the way I came up in the Adirondack backcountry. The fat-bike was my ATV. I had a Pugsley, then QBP introduced the Cogburn, and it was love at first ride. Sadly, it was a short ride. Driven by whatever marketing factors do so, the Cogburn vanished from Q’s lineup after only three years. I kept mine; it is my primary bike these days.

Now there's the e-bike, and I admit that I’m intrigued, because I am going to have ankle replacement surgery later this summer. An e-bike may be in my future sooner than later. I really don't relish being relegated to the status of a second-class citizen, particularly by the agency I wish I had worked for as my career, and the organization I have belonged to and supported for over a decade. Accepting that "it is what it is" doesn't necessarily mean I'm happy about it.