UPDATE (2:56 PM) An email from the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society and International Mountain Bicycling Association says the bill introduced today is endorsed by all cycling groups in Northern New Mexico:
Bingaman and the Conservation Community, which includes cyclists, understand the benefits of cycling and the recreation economy it supports. Thus, a special bill was crafted that meets everyone’s needs by designating trails and protecting land from resource extraction and motorized abuse.
Sean Cassily of the Taos Cycling Coalition says that while the bill would not allow mountain biking in the Columbine-Hondo, it opens up a small section of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness that currently prevents cyclists from taking advantage of a trail in that area. He says that trail is even better for cycling than the one his coalition had been trying to protect in the Columbine-Hondo. Cassily credits Senator Bingaman and his staff with working toward a creative solution that all communities can support.
(7:30 AM) Senator Jeff Bingaman will be in Northern New Mexico today to introduce a bill designating about 45,000 acres near Taos as wilderness. The Columbine-Hondo area has been managed as a federal Wilderness Study Area for decades, but a coalition has been pushing for full designation.
The only opponents to the move thus far have been a group of cyclists who would like to see about 19% of the area designated as a National Recreation Area instead. Mountain biking is not allowed in WSAs, but a loophole in federal code has meant the Forest Service has no way of enforcing that rule until the area is fully designated as wilderness.