An E-Bike Secretarial Order

A New E-Bike Secretarial Order

On August 29th, US Dept. of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt issued a game-changing order that gave BLM and National Park Service managers 30 days to craft new trail rules that no longer classify e-bikes as motorized and eliminate rules that ban them from nonmotorized trails. 

That Order can be viewed HERE.

photo: mbr Magazine

The Order effectively permits e-bikes on any existing non-motorized trails and pathways where pedal bikes are currently allowed in any Department of Interior unit. This includes the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US National Park Service, US Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management – administered lands. A few examples of BLM and NPS system trails where eMTBs were not previously allowed and are now allowed are Captain Ahab in Moab, Phil’s World in Cortez, Johnny Behind the Rocks in Lander and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park pathways.

The Order then directs managers of each Park, Refuge, BLM District or Reclamation Area to seek public input, evaluate their individual trail network’s suitability and craft rules for e-bikes moving forward within two weeks.

The policy change came as a bit of a surprise to agency officials and industry and advocacy personnel, without previous public disclosure or opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal before it was implemented. The secretarial order called for the policy to be adopted “unless otherwise prohibited by law or regulation” within two weeks. It also called for public comment, after the fact.

photo: TAMBA

Why This? Why Now?
Many states currently have statutes and laws in place regarding e-bikes on trails but there is no continuity across states and agencies. Interior Secretary Bernhardt addressed this back in August:

“Uncertainty about the regulatory status of e-bikes has led the Federal land management agencies to impose restrictive access policies treating e-bikes as motor vehicles, often inconsistent with State and local regulations for adjacent areas. The possibility that in some cases e-bikes can be propelled solely through power provided by the electric motor, a function often used in short duration by older or disabled riders as an assist, has contributed to confusion about e-bike classification. Further, Federal regulation has not been consistent across the Department and has served to decrease access to Federally owned lands by e-bike riders.” 

What is the law of the land here?

In Wyoming, on Wyoming State Lands, class 1 e-bikes are allowed on non-motorized trails where regular bicycles are allowed (think Sinks Canyon State Park in Lander). On US Forest Service lands, e-bikes are considered motorized vehicles and are not permitted on non-motorized trails. Currently, on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, eMTBs are permitted on all motorized trails and not permitted on non-motorized trails. Please consult the BTNF office with questions HERE. No formal rule regarding eMTBs on non-motorized trails has been released through the US Department of Agriculture (USFS).

A Wyoming e-Bike Fact Sheet can be found HERE.

In Idaho, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation does not currently
have an eMTB policy. Contact the department for the most up to date
information. On US Forest Service lands, e-bikes are still considered motorized vehicles and are not permitted on non-motorized trails. Currently on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, eMTBs are permitted on all motorized trails and not permitted on non-motorized trails. Please consult the CTNF office with questions HERE. No formal rule regarding eMTBs on non-motorized trails has been released through the US Department of Agriculture (USFS).

An Idaho e-Bike Fact Sheet can be found HERE.

Already, some regions and organizations are facing challenges regarding the ruling, most recently through a lawsuit on the Tahoe National Forest (just last week).

Where does Mountain Bike the Tetons and IMBA stand on this Order?

IMBA’s stance on the Secretarial Order can be reviewed HERE. Mountain Bike the Tetons’ holds a similar stance and is currently reviewing the Order and communicating with our local land management agencies about taking steps forward. Note that this does not pertain to e-bikes on paved surface trails.

“As mountain bikers, we do our best to consult and advise our land management partners who in turn create policy. We fully support the open public process that each land management agency will undertake as a result of this Order, but believe that it is critical that the Secretarial Order as currently written does not bind land managers across the board to managing all classes of eMTBs as traditional mountain bikes.

Access to natural surface trails for traditional and adaptive mountain bikes is critical to the future of our sport here in the Tetons. We recognize our priveledge to build, maintain and ride the outstanding trail networks in our region and will continue to comply with Federal, State and local regulations as they pertain to mountain bikes. As technologies evolve, we understand the need to examine access for Class 1 eMTBs on traditional non-motorized trails here and the unique characteristics they possess compared to traditional mountain bikes and we support a common-sense path forward for Class 1 eMTBs unless they will negatively compromise the well-earned access that traditional and adaptive mountain bikers have achieved here in the Tetons due to countless years of work, stewardship and trust-building. We are not “anti e-bike” and we will continue to engage all stakeholders in our community on this issue in an effort to reach outcomes that best suit all natural surface trail users. This is a dynamic process and we are committed to pursuing common-sense management prescription solutions.”

How do I know what trails eMTBs are allowed on here in the Tetons or elsewhere?

Trailforks has a great tool to help you plan your ride. Simply open the Trailforks app or website and select “e-Bike” under the Activity Type menu. The map will immediately filter to trails where eMTBs are allowed.

Stay tuned for updates and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with ANY questions.