News » Mountain News

Mountain News: Can e-bikes in Yellowstone make America great again?

by

comment

MEEKER, Colo. – In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to "Make America Great Again," a slogan that supporters have distilled to MAGA when trumpeting his talking points on Facebook and other social media.

But what made America great? That seems open to question. The Trump administration has been rolling back restrictions, lowering every bar except for immigration.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it was easing regulations governing oil and gas extraction on public lands. The rules enacted during the Obama administration seek to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 80 times the heat-trapping property of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years, although it quickly dissipates thereafter.

The federal regulations were modelled on those adopted in Colorado, where they have been credited with reducing but not eliminating methane leaks. The federal rules also mirror those adopted by Wyoming to cover drilling in the upper Green River Basin south of Jackson Hole. A rural area, it had air quality rivaling that of the worst cities. Several of the major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, supported the existing regulations.

Just before the weekend, new Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt announced that electric bicycles are now allowed on trails in more than 400 national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges previously restricted to human-powered bicycles, hikers, and horses. The intent, he said, was to make the trails more accessible to pedal-assisted bikes with a top speed of 28 miles per hour.

In Colorado, this drew a rise from Michael Carroll, an avid mountain biker from Durango who is a senior program director for The Wilderness Society. He told The Denver Post that the rule change is an attempt to divide the outdoor recreation community.

"There's a reason for there being non-motorized trails," Carroll said. "People like being able to enjoy the backcountry free from motorization."

No National Park Service policy governed e-bikes previously. In Yellowstone National Park, both electric and pedal-assisted electric bicycles have been allowed only on those roads where motorized vehicles were allowed. Now, e-bikes may be allowed on those roads in spring and fall, times when the roads are closed to motorized vehicles, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide. The newspaper noted that the new memorandum does not strip superintendents of their authority to determine where bicycles, including e-bikes, are allowed.

Still, in a general way, the new policy represents a deference to short-term economic interests.

A century ago, a different metric was used at Trappers Lake, in northwest Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service in 1919 assigned a new hire named Arthur Carhart to survey lots along the shores of the lake for summer cabins. He was a landscape architect by training, although the Forest Service called him a recreation engineer.

Doing his work at Trappers Lake, he encountered two sportsmen. "Do you have to circle every lake with a road?" they supposedly asked him. "Can't you bureaucrats keep just one superb mountain lake as God made it?"

Returning to Denver, Carhart advised his superiors to rethink their plans. "There are a number of places with scenic values of such great worth that they are rightfully the property of all people," he wrote to them. "They should be preserved for all time for the people of the Nation and the world. Trappers Lake is unquestionably a candidate for that classification."

They agreed, and today Trappers Lake is within the Flat Tops Wilderness, the lake accessible not just to cabin owners but to everybody on the same terms.

That is not the thinking of Trump and the crowds he hangs around with. He's one of exclusive resorts, places of ornate design. Golf is Trump's sport, not wilderness trails, in places where the grass is clipped just so.

Rick Reilly, the sportswriter from Denver, recently wrote a book called Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Donald Trump. Reilly's conversations with caddies and others revealed Trump's dishonest ways. But one that was not dishonest is the most surprising.

Trump has publicly said repeatedly that climate change is a hoax. But as Reilly reveals in his book, in Ireland, where Trump owns a golf course, he applied to local officials for a sea wall, citing the effects of global warming in producing rising waters.

Banff supports overpass for wildlife across Trans-Canada

CANMORE, Alta. – Banff municipal officials have announced their support for another wildlife crossing over the Trans-Canada Highway, this one east of Banff National Park.

If built, it would be the seventh overpass along with 38 underpasses in an 82-kilometre highway segment in the Canadian Rockies.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that highway fencing coupled with overpasses and underpasses has resulted in 80 per cent fewer wildlife-vehicle collisions in the park and, for elk and deer alone, 96 per cent fewer collisions.