Mountain biking is a sport dependent on access. And that level of access is ultimately dependent on advocates for securing permission and the land managers who grant it. In our first chapter of #whyMTB, Ibis Cycles legend Scot Nicol articulated the distinct sense of joy and identity that cycling brings to our lives. But for the second chapter in this ongoing series, we wanted to step outside our circle, outside “the industry,” and maybe even a little bit outside our comfort zone to hear from a gatekeeper of that access. Our search for this perspective led us back to Kern County to discover a dramatically different awareness to the meaning of mountain biking.
Introducing Ranger Brien Chartier: a five year veteran of the California Bureau of Land Management, and a champion for cycling advocacy on BLM lands.
If you’ve ever headed into the wilderness for an adventure somewhere in the United States, chances are you did so on a small fraction of the Bureau’s 260+ million acres of public land. And if you bumped into a BLM ranger during that time, consider yourself lucky — the agency only has 400 or so rangers to police all that territory. And yes, that’s one ranger for every 650,000 acres. If you’re not gobsmacked at the implication of how under-manned the BLM is, look at it this way: that’s like having less than two sheriff deputies for the entire state of Rhode Island.
In operation since only the late 1970’s, the law enforcement division of the BLM is a relatively new entity (and is thus still relatively small) and vital to the agency’s ability to maintain order on the frontier. But these officers also serve a greater role: educating users on how the land can be best preserved to ensure that future generations are allowed the same generous freedoms we currently enjoy. Not only must these rangers be passionate about the lands they both protect and recreate in, their small numbers mean they must also maintain an extremely diverse profile of capabilities and certifications to operate independently without the expectancy of backup. Ever the outdoorsman, Chartier is no exception. In addition to being an avid caver and rock climber, he also finds time to ride, ski, and kayak in his free time. While on the job, he is also a certified medic and fire investigator, conducting patrols or search & rescues in his vehicle, by motorcycle, on foot, or by his favorite means: on his mountain bike.
Land usage for mountain biking is an admittedly sensitive subject — especially so in California where the conversation more often than not is about “us versus them.” We found Chartier’s perspective not only eye-opening, but refreshing as it ultimately holds the key for building a more sustainable future for every type of trail user, and one that will help take mountain biking to a better place. It’s important to remember that the BLM’s mission includes policing its public lands, but is more about educating users and promoting stewardship. And given how few rangers there are for each acre of BLM land, it’s clear that this is a mission not accomplished alone — the BLM and mountain bikers (ie: a primary user group composed of stewards and volunteers) need each other. It’s the maintenance of this symbiotic relationship that will ensure preservation of these lands and the trails upon them for our future generations to enjoy. [zp]
Without further adieu, here is #whyMTB Chapter Two: The Ranger. Click here to start the high-definition full screen player.
The post #whyMTB Chapter 2: The Ranger (Mountain biking video) appeared first on Kitsbow.
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