A policy change effective immediately allows electric bikes anywhere ordinary bicycles are permitted in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the National Elk Refuge.
That means that the increasingly popular vehicles are now allowed on the pathway network stretching north of Jackson all the way to Jenny Lake. In the late fall and springtime, e-bikes will also be permitted on roads that are closed to motorized vehicles but open to cyclists, like Teton Park Road.
“At Grand Teton, the spring and fall bicycle opportunities on Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road and Signal Mountain Road will allow e-bike use within the same parameters and conditions as traditional bicycles,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
E-bikes are now also allowed on the park’s 16 miles of pathways, she said.
In addition to Yellowstone and the National Elk Refuge, the changes announced in a Thursday press release apply to Glacier National Park. Only some types of e-bikes will be treated as bicycles under the new policy.
“The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic,” the press release says. “Motor bikes with a throttle are not e-bikes.”
The changes were expected following U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s top-down Aug. 29 policy directive to change how e-bikes are regulated on federal lands within Interior’s jurisdiction. When the memorandum surfaced, giving land managers one month to craft policies, individual parks were caught off-guard.
One government watchdog group contends the order violates federal law, and lawsuits are anticipated. Tim Whitehouse, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attorney who now directs the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said in a statement that Bernhardt’s order opens the door for improperly permitting e-bikes outside of developed zones.
“PEER is prepared to go to court to ensure that e-bikes stay off any park trail where they were previously not allowed,” Whitehouse said.
One high-ranking U.S. Department of Interior official told the Jackson Hole News&Guide earlier this month that superintendents like Yellowstone’s Cam Sholly and Grand Teton’s acting boss, Gopaul Noojibail, had the authority to leave their e-bike policies as they were.
“Superintendents can say, ‘It may not make sense for me to do it here,’ ” Rob Wallace, Interior’s assistant secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the News&Guide. “They’re going to have discretion.”
Sholly and Noojibail opted, evidently, to give e-bikes a shot. Both park superintendents’ compendiums have been modified to clarify e-bikes are to be treated as any other bicycle. That response to Bernhardt’s order could change, however.
“Right now they’re allowed anywhere where bicycles are allowed,” Yellowstone spokesman Linda Veress said, “but in the future if it becomes an issue, they do have the ability to limit or impose restrictions on e-bike use.”