The US Forest Service announced their guidance on how to manage ebike use on National Forest Land on March 31, 2022. Since then, there has been a number of interpretations, questions, thoughts and critiques of the new decision. IMBA has been leading the informational charge on what the decision means and how it will affect access to trails. Their thorough job of laying out what the decision means in terms that is easily understandable to the common advocate is priceless. We suggest reading the articles on IMBA’s website; US Forest Service Releases Final eMTB Rule as well as Comparing Federal eMTB Rules and Directives.
So what does this mean for eBike access for National Forest in the Southeast? Below are a few Q&A to help answer some of the basic questions you may have on the new guidance.
Are eBikes automatically allowed on all multi-use trails in the National Forest?
The quick and short answer is no. Each trail will need to go through a NEPA analysis to make sure that allowing eMTB will be sustainable environmentally, economically, and socially. A public comment period will be required as part of the analysis. Essentially it will take a local eMTB advocate to suggest trails to be considered for the new designation.
How will eMTB be classified?
In the new guidance the Forest Service recognizes the three classes of eBikes. Each class of bike will be considered when choosing a new trail designation. However, eMTB access will include a change in trail designation from non-motorized to motorized. This designation does not automatically grant access to motorcycles and OHV. But it does cause some potential funding issues with certain grants. We suggest reading the “Comparing Federal eMTB Rules and Directives” linked above to dive a little deeper into this issue.
What is SORBA’s stance on the new decision?
As with any decision a land manager makes, we will work within the bounds of that decision. We are simply stewards of public land. However, we will support the decision our local chapter and land agency on their need to include Class 1 eBike access, and only Class 1, where it makes sense and will not impede the usage of traditional mountain bikes. SORBA does not support the usage of Class 2 or Class 3 eBikes in an off road scenario.
For more reading we suggest these well written articles on Singletracks.com
- The Forest Service’s new E-bike Rule is Clear: Wait and See What Happens
- USFS Releases new eMTB Ruling Requiring Reclassification of Non-Motorized Trails to Motorized for Access
Please feel free to contact SORBA staff to discuss further if you have any questions on next steps for you as an individual or your local chapter.