The Sierra Club’s East Bay Public Lands Committee

(I Know, It Seems Local, But Is Actually Universal!)

Michael J. Vandeman

January 11, 2024


1. The Sierra Club's mission is to protect and enjoy our native wildlife. But in order to enjoy it, it must first be protected, so protection must take priority.

2. Wild animals don't like being around humans (with the possible exception of mosquitoes, but even they have their limits, e.g. when we drain their swamps). When we approach them, they run/fly/swim/slither away. It's the first thing that we learn about them, as a child. But then we proceed to ignore the fact.

3. Thus it's inappropriate for the East Bay Regional Park District to try to fill the parks with as many humans as possible.

4. We need to experience nature, in order to appreciate it, but at the same time, we need to stay out of it as much as possible, if we are to preserve it.

5. Being in nature doesn't necessarily turn one into a conservationist. I see that every day. When I do habitat restoration, dozens of people go hiking by, but not one offers to help. In some 30 years of observing mountain bikers, I have never seen a single one promote wildlife conservation, only access for their bikes.

6. The main problem with mountain biking, which few people understand, is that it greatly expands the human "footprint" (the distance we travel) in wildlife habitat. That drives the wildlife away, effectively destroying habitat.

7. Trail-building also destroys and fragments habitat. Mountain bikers are the primary advocates for trail construction -- witness the Wildcat flow trail and Crockett Hills's Sugar City trail, as well as the 30+ miles (!) of illegal trails that mountain bikers constructed in Briones Regional Park.

8. Mountain bikes' knobby tires are perfectly designed to rip up the soil, allowing the rain to permanently wash it away. They create ruts that are difficult and dangerous for hikers and equestrians (and mountain bikers) to negotiate.

9. Problems are always easier to solve at the source than downstream. That means preventing erosion, not trying to fix it after it has happened.

10. Thus, the only way to accomplish the Sierra Club's goals is to restrict bicycles and other machines (except wheelchairs) to pavemant. This in no way restricts mountain bikers' access to the parks, since they can all walk. It was a huge mistake for land managers to allow bicycles on unpaved trails, and they have been trying unsuccessfully ever since to fix the problems caused by mountain biking.

11. This solution is also better for mountain bikers, because riding on unpaved trails is extremely dangerous, and serious accidents and even deaths are common.

12. It's unfortunate that the wildlife can't speak for themselves, or they would agree with me.

13. E.O. Wilson recommended that half of the Earth be set aside for the wildlife. 30x30 is a step toward that end, but for it to be successful, it must be understood that so-called "protected" lands will truly be protected from excess human visitation. Some of these lands should be closed to all humans -- especially habitat for dangerous animals like grizzlies and mountain lions.

Any questions?