E-bike use considered for wildlife refuges

by Lake County Leader
| April 9, 2020 9:57 AM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing new regulations that would allow electric-powered bicycles within the National Wildlife Refuge System. This includes the National Bison Range, as well as the Ninepipes and Pablo wildlife refuges.

Also known as e-bikes, these bicycles use a small motor — typically 1 horsepower — that provides power assistance while a rider is pedaling. In Class 1 e-bikes, the motor cuts off when the bike reaches 20 mph. Under the proposed regulations, the bike motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling.

A media release from the Fish and Wildlife Service says that allowing e-bikes will provide “increased options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited by fitness level, age or ability.”

The proposed rule would allow refuge managers to consider the use of e-bikes on roads and trails where traditional bicycle use is allowed, “provided it is consistent with a refuge’s statutory purpose and the refuge manager determines it to be a compatible use.”

Current rules at the 18,500-acre National Bison Range limit bicycles to the paved roads that access the visitor center and day-use areas. Bicycles are not allowed on the graveled scenic drives.

“The focus of the guidance is on expanding the traditional bicycling experience to those who enjoy the reduction of effort provided by this new technology. Refuge managers can limit or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use where necessary to manage visitor use conflicts and ensure visitor safety and resource protection,” the media release states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment through June 8. The notice is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2019-0109, and includes details on how to submit your comments.

Under a similar directive last year from Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, the National Park Service decided to allow electric bikes in national parks on roads and trails where traditional bikes are allowed. In Glacier National Park, this mean e-bikes are now allowed on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

In 2019, the Fish and Wildlife’s Refuge System had approximately 1.4 million biking visits on 197 national wildlife refuges.