You may have heard that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) clarified their e-bike regulation in the spring of 2022. But what does this change mean for Boulder County and beyond?
The short answer is, the USFS considers all types and classes of e-bikes motorized and they are not allowed on non-motorized trails. The USFS added a new motorized class just for e-bikes, but to change a USFS trail to allow e-bikes takes a public process.
The long answer is… complicated. We’ve tried to break it down as simply as we could.
- The USFS released their updated e-bike regulations on March 31, 2022.
- The USFS considers all classes of e-bikes to be motorized.
- The USFS created a new class of motorized use for e-bikes that breaks out Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.
- The decision to evaluate a trail system for e-bike use resides with the local forest or ranger district. For Boulder County, this is the Boulder Ranger District within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.
- To allow Class 1 eMTBs on a current non-motorized trail, the trail designation must be reclassified from non-motorized to limited motorized: Class 1 e-bike. The trail would then be added to the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). (View North and South MVUMs for Boulder County)
- To reclassify a non-motorized trail into a limited motorized trail will require applying the Minimization Criteria in Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule which is an agency evaluation procedure to ensure appropriately sized and environmentally and fiscally responsible road and motorized trail systems.
- Should the local ranger district decide to evaluate e-bikes on a non-motorized system, they will have to update/amend the Travel Management Plan (TMP) for the system.
- The TMP would include an updated Environmental Assessment and a public comment period.
- A typical TMP takes, on average, 1-5 years to complete but it is believed that these e-bike focused TMP amendments could be expedited in some cases.
- In Boulder and Colorado, no local ranger district has yet to start a TMP to assess e-bikes on non-motorized trails.
- It will be easier to obtain e-bike access on trails within landscape areas that have authorization on the motorized end of the recreation opportunity spectrum (ie. semi-primitive motorized and roaded natural) versus seeking access in semi-primitive non-motorized areas where a higher degree of change would need to be made to the existing forest plan.
- While there is very limited BLM land within Boulder County there is some, and the above process is similar to how the BLM currently approaches e-bike access (treats them as motorized and requires public process plan amendments) with only minor procedural differences. The BLM did create an exclusion for e-bikes that would allow them on nonmotorized trails.
IMBA did a great in-depth analysis of these eMTB regulations.
The map below shows USFS non-Wilderness land in light green. This area includes Peaceful Valley, Brainard Lake, East & West Magnolia, Caribou Flats, Winiger Ridge, Gordon Gulch, the Switzerland trail and Lefthand OHV. Wilderness areas are shown in dark green. BLM land is shown in yellow.