A new lawsuit claims the U.S. Forest Service is breaking a multitude of federal laws by allowing current levels of motorized and mechanized recreation in its Shoal Creek and Palisades wilderness study areas.
Brought by Jackson Hole resident Rob Shaul, the litigation asks the U.S. District Court of Wyoming to suspend mountain biking in both areas, and all-terrain vehicle use in the Shoal Creek study area. Shaul aired his grievances over email months before filing suit, arguing to Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor that the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act demanded that the forest not allow motorized and mechanized activities beyond what was occurring at the time those lands were designated.
“However, mountain biking in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, especially, has exploded in recent years, to include Forest Service-approved new trail construction for the extensive and growing system accessed off of Teton Pass,” Shaul wrote O’Connor in an email included in the appendices of the lawsuit, filed Sept. 19.
“The fast-growing bikepacking activity, hard-to-detect electric mountain bikes, and rapidly increasing population in Jackson, and subsequent social media marketing, is continually pushing mountain biking deeper into the Palisades interior and down to the Shoal Wilderness Study Area, in direct violation of the ’84 act,” he wrote.
Wilderness study areas are a protected class of land used in some circumstances as a precursor to land being elevated to bona fide wilderness, or alternatively “released.” The intent of the designation was to be temporary, but in Wyoming nearly four dozen WSAs have remained in limbo ever since former Wyoming federal delegates Dick Cheney, Alan Simpson and Malcolm Wallop shepherded the Wyoming Wilderness Act through Congress some 35 years ago.
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