Last week, IMBA launched a new program, the Public Lands Initiative, to increase bike access across the United States. The announcement was made in dramatic fashion during the Bicycle Leadership Conference, as bike industry captains John Burke and Mike Sinyard (presidents of Trek and Specialized, respectively) joined Bikes Belong's Tim Blumenthal onstage to voice their support. All three companies pledged US$100,000 to help launch the initiative which will impact lands used by many mountain bike riders and racers.
"This gets us about halfway to funding the first two years of this very important work," Sinyard told the crowd, which included representatives from many of the world's largest bike companies. "I think the people in this room can double that figure - not in a year, not in a month, but right now," said Burke.
Others soon followed. "From that moment, industry leaders began stepping forward with incredibly generous pledges," said Mike Van Abel, IMBA's executive director. "Some of them, like SRAM's Stan Day, pushed the energy in the room even higher by immediately voicing support - to the tune of $100,000 in SRAM's case. The outpouring continued throughout the day, and it's still ongoing."
Pledgers for the the Public Lands Initiative total $587,000, and donors include Advanced Sports International/Fuji, Aero Tech Designs Cyclewear, B & L Bikeshop, Bicycle Dealer magazine, Bicycle Retailer & Industry News magazine, Bikes Belong Coalition, Camelbak, Campagnolo/Fulcrum, CatEye, DeFeet, Feedback Sports, FOX Racing Shox, GORE Bike Wear/GORE RideOn Cable Systems, Haro Bikes, Hayes Disc Brake, Hydrapak, Interbike, Palo Alto Bicycles, Park Tool, Pedro's, Performance Bicycle, Polar Bottle, Primal Wear, Purely Custom Cycling, Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP), Raleigh USA, Sidi America, Skip Hess, SOAR Communications, Specialized, SRAM, The Hawley Company, Thule, Trek Bicycle, Vitesse Cycle Shop, Wheel & Sprocket and Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB).
"This is going to make a big difference for mountain bikers," said Van Abel. "The Public Lands Initiative will bring new resources to our advocates that they sorely need. It will enable IMBA to offer things like professional training sessions, stronger legal resources and enhanced communications tools. The challenges are daunting. Yet we are focused on the opportunities before us: the conservation and stewardship of our public lands, and reconnecting kids and their families with nature through a healthy, low-impact activity."
IMBA's Public Lands Initiative offers new resources to promote a bicycle-friendly approach toward America's legacy of public lands protection. The strategic elements of the campaign include identifying high-priority trails across the nation and keep them open to mountain bikes; providing professional training sessions, enhanced communication tools and facilitated negotiations with stakeholder groups; tracking management plans and promote pro-bicycle policies at the local, state and federal levels; championing public land protection campaigns to protect our trails from development and resource extraction and preserve continued bicycle use; building and strengthening multi-user outdoor recreation coalitions; uniting the bicycle industry, retailers and IMBA clubs behind key land protection campaigns
Campaign launches in key states
While mountain bikers face serious access threats across the country, IMBA has seen recent successes in diverse locations - including Virginia, Oregon and Colorado - where mountain bikers have supported measures that allow for bike access while also safeguarding public lands. IMBA’s strategies helped mountain bikers gain credibility and clout while also enhancing support for the conservation of natural resources.
"Efforts in critical states will help us establish a model for negotiating bike access issues across the country," said IMBA Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice. "As our resources for this initiative grow we will continue to identify additional opportunities where IMBA can conduct effective grassroots campaigns to keep trails open for mountain biking."
"For example," said Dice, "every month public land agencies such as the US Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management conduct planning sessions that establish trail access for specific properties - sometimes for periods of 10 to 15 years. This initiative will equip our advocates to participate in these planning efforts and preserve trail access."
Former IMBA President Ashley Korenblat will direct program
Ashley Korenblat, a former IMBA president, will serve as director of the Public Lands Initiative. Korenblat was president of Merlin Metalworks before moving to Moab, Utah, to run Western Spirit Cycling, a successful bicycle touring outfit. Her experience in researching and designing trips in the backcountry has given her unique perspective on the threats and opportunities facing mountain bikers. She holds an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2003.
"As pressures from resource extraction continues to threaten both recreation and conservation throughout the country, many of our iconic public lands and trails are in need of more protection," said Korenblat. "The mountain bike community has extensive knowledge of these lands and has an important role to play in these efforts."
Earlier this year, IMBA launched the 2010 edition of the Legal Advocacy Fund campaign. The Public Lands Initiative encompasses IMBA's legal efforts, but also targets critical campaigns where public lands policies, legislation or resource extraction could close important trails to bicycles. The program will bolster advocate trainings, communications tools and other resources.