Electric bicycles are now legal on federal lands in Montana, including on bike trails in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.
The Department of Interior order that classified electric bikes as non-motorized bikes gave national parks superintendents and federal backcountry mangers 14-30 days to implement the change, according to an Associated Press story from August. On Thursday, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton Nationals Parks, along with the National Elk Refuge, put out a joint press release announcing their official shift in stance.
“E-bikes are now allowed everywhere traditional bicycles are allowed,” the press release said. "Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes are not allowed in designated wilderness, in areas managed as wilderness, or on oversnow roads in the winter.”
However, the Forest Service considers them motorized and thus only allowed on Forest Service roads and trails where motor vehicles are allowed, according to Forest Service spokesman Dan Hottle.
According to the AP story, bikes are allowed on paved roads in Glacier National Park, although sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road were closed to bicyclists from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m from June 15 through Labor Day. Bicycles are also allowed on a paved trail that runs from the Park headquarters near the west entrance to Apgar Village; on the Fish Creek Bike Path from Apgar Village to the Fish Creek Campground; and on the old Flathead Ranger Station trail.
A call to Glacier National Park’s Superintendent Office was not returned Thursday afternoon.
"Biking is an important part of many people's Glacier experiences, particularly in the spring and fall, and we've received feedback over the past few years from multiple perspectives on this potential use," Glacier spokesperson Lauren Alley told the AP.
E-bikes are allowed on Department of the Interior lands, which include the National Parks, Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service. It is not clear whether BLM or FWS have implemented the rule change.
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Sean Sandau of Missoula has ridden an e-bike for about three years, mostly on hunting trips. He didn’t know there were regulations on the bicycles until around a year ago, so he stopped riding his bicycle and gifted it to his father.
“I thought that they were legal,” Sandau said Thursday. “When I found out that they were going to be, I reinvested and bought a new one.”
That bike, a Quiet Cat Apex, accompanied Sandau on a recent hunting trip near Ovando. On that trip, Sandau said a Fish and Game official approached him to tell him the e-bike wasn’t allowed.
Sandau was on checkerboard state and federal lands that weekend, and he has started researching good hunting spots on Department of Interior land only, so he can ride his e-bike, although he definitely agrees they should be legal everywhere.
“These bicycles are dead quiet. They emit no odor and there’s no wear and tear on the road,” Sandau said. “Especially (for) people that are out of shape, or older or disabled. I think it benefits them the most.”
According to the earlier AP story, however, more than 50 hiking, horse-riding and other outdoor and conservation associations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Pacific Crest Trail Association, objected to the classification in a July letter to the Interior Department. They said the administration was fundamentally changing the nature of national parks with little or no public notice or study.
"You're adding significant speed and a throttle to those trails," Kristen Brengel, a vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said earlier.