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The National Forest Service issues new guidance for e-bikes

Bureau of Land Management

The National Forest Service (USFS) recently issued guidance on how future e-bike use is to be managed on national forests and grasslands. Currently, there are over 60,000 miles of motorized trails and thousands more miles of roadways that e-bikes are allowed to operate on nationwide. This equates to 38 percent of all the trails the USFS manages.

However, each national forest and grassland is allowed to determine where e-bikes are allowed for their respective lands. This means that trails and roads that allow for the use of e-bikes in one national forest and grassland may not allow for such use in another. E-bikes are currently classified as Class 3 by federal land management agencies.

The USFS has had directives on e-bikes for years, with the latest ones allowing for e-bikes to continue to operate on currently authorized roads. They’ve also established a process to evaluate future requests for expanded access to roads and trails currently restricted to e-bikes.

Future changes will take public input into consideration based on local conditions. Each forest or grassland has a Motor Vehicle Use Map, which may often be obtained at a visitor center, ranger station, or on theirwebsite.

“The new directives allow e-bikes to continue to operate on currently authorized roads and trails and lays out a process to evaluate future requests for expanded access,” read a USFS statement emailed to Wyoming Public Media. “The updated guidance also outlines the required environmental analysis and public input required before making future decisions to expand local e-bike access.”

There are two Forest Service regions (Rocky Mountain Region and Intermountain Region) in Wyoming comprising all or part of eight national forests and one national grassland.

Currently, there are 2,117 miles of motorized roads and trails in national forests and grasslands in Wyoming’s portion of the Intermountain Region and 7,650 miles of routes open to e-bikes in the Rocky Mountain Region (which includes roads and trails outside of Wyoming) according to the USFS.

“What we have now is this guidance, and so we could at some time in the future take that guidance and do some management changes if we see needed,” said Sara Evans-Kirol, spokeswoman for the Bighorn National Forest.

E-bikes have been gaining popularity for years, but sales during the pandemic have increased substantially, both domestically and internationally. Current analysis shows that 130 million e-bikes are expected to be sold worldwide between 2020 and 2023.

In addition to USDA managed lands, other federal agencies, such as the Department of the Interior’s (DOI)National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well as the Bureau of Reclamation also allow e-bikes on tens of thousands of miles of trails and roads managed by those agencies.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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