Fall Advocacy Update

Bear Cieri

As the riding season winds down, autumn marks the arrival of another important time for the Vermont mountain bike community – or at least those of us at VMBA – preparations for the upcoming Legislative Session. While the Legislature itself doesn’t convene until January, committees, caucuses, and task forces will be hard at work this fall preparing for the session and crafting legislation. The House demonstrated an interest in modernizing the manner in which trail projects are regulated in passing H.926 last fall, and we – through our leadership on the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council (VTGC) – are working to help guide the next legislative effort that will create a manageable alternative to Act 250 for trails that exempts private landowners from undue regulation, eliminates unnecessary burdens on our Chapters, and protects our shared Vermont landscape. Our Executive Director, Nick Bennette, is now Co-Chairing the VTGC.

As you may have noticed, VMBA recently launched a dedicated Advocacy Section on our website, covering both the major goals of our advocacy and the current means by which we’re working to achieve them. Feedback from our Member Survey this past season suggested we could do a better job communicating our advocacy work, and we view this page as an important platform to keep members informed and share our successes and challenges as they come. Let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can make it better in the comments!

In the new Advocacy Section, you’ll find a dedicated page on the Community Conversations workshop series we co-hosted this summer with the US Forest Service and VT Forest, Parks, & Recreation. This four-part virtual series brought together leaders in the mountain bike, trail advocacy, and land stewardship communities to dive deep into how we sustainably grow mountain biking in Vermont while preserving the landscape and character of our singletrack. See the Press Release for an overview of the sessions, lessons learned, and while we collectively believe the future is very bright for Vermont mountain biking.

One of the biggest challenges identified during our Community Conversations discussions was rogue trail building, particularly on public land. The building of trails on public land without permission was the origin of some of our most popular trail systems. Today, however, we have established partnerships with the public land managers and processes in place to ensure trail building balances the many uses for and needs of public land while avoiding negative environmental impacts. Continued development and use of rogue trails harms our ability to improve those processes and ultimately have more and better trail networks on public land. Land managers have also made it clear that “ask forgiveness, not permission” will no longer be tolerated in trail development, with stricter consequences and enforcement for those who decide to shape public land to their own individual image, be it for tires, skis, or boots. Please read our Statement on Rogue Trail Building on Public Land to learn more.

We hope everyone enjoys a fantastic final few weeks to the summer riding season and will continue to provide updates on our advocacy work through our Advocacy page, blog posts, and member newsletters. Stay tuned!

Cheers,

Nick & the VMBA Office

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