When the Trump Administration originally moved in August to allow e-bikes on Department of Interior lands, particularly national parks and Bureau of Land Management ground, it did not apply to national forests. However, the boundary is beginning to blur as the Tahoe National Forest has quietly moved to allow e-bikes on 130 miles of trails previously considered “non-motorized.”
The original order was not relevant to the 180 million acres of national forest, because national forests are managed under the Department of Agriculture, but it appears that e-bikes will now be allowed in the Tahoe National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The forests around California’s Lake Tahoe are the latest flashpoint with supporters saying it will open up more trails to more people, but critics say the Tahoe move is a slippery slope that will gradually allow more and more motorized traffic on already busy trails and wildlife habitat. A contentious issue is the fact that the Tahoe move was done behind closed doors, violating federal sunshine laws like the National Environmental Policy Act.
“There was no public process,” said Alison Flint, director of litigation and agency policy for the Wilderness Society. “This was just the forest making the decision that it doesn’t need to follow its own laws.”
A coalition of environmental and recreational groups have already begun a lawsuit against the Forest Service over the new rule on the Tahoe National Forest, reports Outdoor Life. Darrell Wallace, Chairman, Back Country Horsemen of America, said:
“This decision sets the stage for motorizing America’s backcountry, which violates the principles and partnerships that we have worked so hard to secure over many years. We believe there is a place for motorized bikes, but non-motorized trails—by definition—are not the right place.”
Currently, Tahoe is the only national forest that has opted to allow e-bikes on non-motorized trails. Tahoe National Forest includes Truckee and extends northwest of Lake Tahoe, covering 850,000 acres of public land.