No we haven't had a change of heart, that's the title of a letter to Congress from a collection of smaller conservation organizations. Not that there was anything in substance in the letter other than taking "mechanized" out of context and claiming that see the Wilderness Act banned bikes. Any one reading this blog knows how vacuous that argument is.
Contrary to what people may think, I think there is an important discussion to had about the role of technology in wilderness. Many concerns I have heard such as, the loss blank spaces on maps, the use modern and even not so modern conveniences as a crutch that can diminish the wilderness experience, carrying capacity are valid and need to be addressed and strategies that find a workable balance need to be created. Unfortunately, running around yelling, "mechanized, mechanized" over and over again advances the conversation about as much as putting your hands over your ears and repeating, "nyah, nyah, I can't hear you."
I wasn't surprised by several of the organizations who had signed on, but I was saddened to see several Backcountry Horsemen chapters sign on, including both of the chapters from the Bitterroot. I had hoped that some of our joint trail work might have soften some hearts. One of the reasons I'm disappointed with the Horsemen is their own backstory. What many people don't realize is that in the 70s there was a push to close the Bob Marshall Wilderness to horses because in their own words, "The back country was being loved to death by the placement of permanent camps, corrals, piles of garbage, not to mention human waste, and dying trees due to stock being tied to them causing root damage. " So this group horsemen organized and used a combination of stewardship, lobbying in Washington, and litigation to assure continued access to wilderness.
I keep hearing from people opposed to bikes that they are opposed to bikes because we are bunch of trail hogging menaces. I think the example of the horsemen shows that all groups have their asshole elements, but the answer isn't in blanket bans but rather policies and education that encourage sustainable use. If the horsemen in the 70s could find a way to manage piles of garbage and human excrement, we should be able to manage the much smaller environmental impact of sharing trails with bikes today.