COTA has worked for many years with many different groups and while we have had many frustrations, we’ve also seen many positive outcomes. Since the inception of mountain biking in the early 1980’s, mountain bikers have had to prove over and over again our willingness to work within the system and to continually demonstrate a commitment to trail access and stewardship. We often sit down with groups that have historically not been our allies, but often times we find that our goals are indeed similar.
The Badlands Wilderness is a great example of how we stayed engaged with other user groups and land managers to achieve a measure of success with regards to trails. Local wilderness advocacy groups were engaged in a campaign to protect a large parcel of BLM land known as the Badlands. In the course of enlisting support, they met with COTA leaders and quickly realized that there was one trail that mountain bikers were passionate about riding – a trail that we definitely did not want to lose. A minor boundary adjustment was agreed upon, the Wilderness bill moved through, with COTA’s support, and we remained able to ride on our trails.
Other efforts are not so easy, such as the Lewis & Clark Wilderness Act that effectively closed 120 miles of mountain bike trails in the Mt. Hood area. Although this region is not in Central Oregon, COTA participated in advocating for continued access for mountain bikers. We learned some lessons there and will have a more coordinated approach next time this issue arises.
We think it is important to remain engaged and collaborative in our advocacy work and we have found that the future of land protection in the name of recreation, there is often times more in common between environmental groups, mountain bikers and other trail users.