By: Noelle Battle, Executive Director

Last month, I got the opportunity to represent Bikepacking Roots in our first ever trip to Washington D.C. The trip was organized by the International Mountain Biking Association’s (IMBA’s) Director of Government Affairs, Todd Keller, who I have been liaising with regularly on policy and advocacy issues that impact both of our organizations. In addition to several IMBA representatives, we were joined by leaders of local trail advocacy groups from around the country. It was especially exciting to connect in-person with folks like Gabriel Tiller, founder of the Orogenesis Collective, who was in D.C. to advocate for the development of the longest mountain bike trail in the world. And Nick Ybarra, founder of Save the Maah Daah Hey, focused on the preservation of this historical trail in North Dakota.

This powerhouse group had gathered in the Capital with a few key priorities. First, we were continuing our advocacy for the Biking on Long Distance Trails (BOLT) Act. The BOLT Act creates a catalog of ten existing, long-distance bike trails at least 80 miles long and identifies opportunities to develop or create ten more long-distance trails. It also directs federal land managers to coordinate with stakeholders to develop resources to complete long-distance trails. The BOLT act passed through both the House and Senate last year, but since it was a stand-alone bill in the House and part of a package in the Senate it was unable to move forward. The bill has been re-introduced in both chambers, but still has the same challenge of being mismatched in the House and Senate. The bill has bipartisan support, but our strategy now is to continue to add formal co-sponsors with the aim of ensuring the bill has the momentum to move forward and be aligned across the chambers within the current congressional session.

In addition to a packed agenda of Congressional meetings, our group had a chance to meet with representatives from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to discuss their new proposed Public Lands Rule – Conservation and Landscape Health. Both IMBA and Bikepacking Roots submitted feedback on the rule during the recent public comment period. At Bikepacking Roots, we support the conservation efforts in the new rule, and we view trail-based recreation by bike as a tool to support conservation on public lands. Our comments on the rule focus on asking for clarity in some of the rule’s language, so that bikepackers’ access to trails on BLM land is not dependent on interpretation from different administrations.

Our third major talking point across meetings was advocating for increased resources for land managers. Local BLM and United States Forest Service (USFS) offices operate with limited budgets, which can cause major delays for trail infrastructure projects, even those already funded through grants. As we frequently engage with these land managers for both bikepacking route creation and event hosting, we understand the importance of ensuring they have adequate resources.

The time in D.C. was packed with back-to-back meetings and scooter rides zigzagging around town to make it to the next meeting, plus some after-hours time to de-brief and get to know all of the other great advocates on the trip. It was great to see the talented IMBA policy staff in action and to learn skills from them that I can use in future advocacy on behalf of the bikepacking community. It also felt like quite a privilege to be able to promote a bi-partisan issue, with support for mountain biking and bikepacking on both sides of the aisle. We happened to be in the Capital the week that everyone was bracing for a potential government shutdown, and it really seemed like we got to serve as a bit of fresh air amidst all of the chaos. It was especially awesome to meet some powerful champions of bikepacking and mountain biking such as Senator Lujan and Representative Vasquez from New Mexico!

I’m looking forward to continuing the great advocacy collaboration that we have built with IMBA. I’m also excited to continue to grow Bikepacking Roots advocacy work at the national, regional and local levels through the development of our Regional Advocacy Stewards Program in 2024.

This work isn’t possible without the support of our membership. If you want to help Bikepacking Roots continue to advocate for the bikepacking community and protection of the public lands through which we ride, consider making a donation today.

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