Letter to IMBA regarding IMBA’s position on H.R. 1349

MORE (the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, Inc.) is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) organization. TAX ID: 54-1691373

PO Box 2662 Fairfax
VA 22031

December 13, 2017
David Wiens Executive Director IMBA

Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) has received an array of comments, many frustrated or angry, many from members, in response to IMBA’s December 6th testimony and announcement not to support Sustainable Trails Coalition’s (STC) bill to reverse the restriction on mechanized vehicle use in Wilderness Areas, H.R. 1349. While we recognize that local access and advocacy organizations like MORE may not always share opinions, motives or strategy with IMBA, we do feel the need to share our feedback about the rollout of IMBA’s position on H.R. 1349. This is especially true because we are a longstanding IMBA chapter.

It is the sense of the MORE Board members that STC’s approach could be counterproductive, given that the bill is unlikely to pass, would alienate some partner user groups and may look bad in the broader public lands fight. We understand that IMBA was asked to provide testimony and was placed in a difficult position. Nevertheless, we feel that the testimony, larger communications and continued response have been handled extremely poorly.

First and most importantly, IMBA could have remained quiet or not taken a position on the legislation at hand, effectively dodging the request for testimony as another organization did in their own testimony to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. This approach would have avoided the anger from our (and your) members.

In tandem with this response, IMBA should have provided chapters, members and the broader mountain-bike community with the reasons for its response, such as:

We need more time to talk with our members and partners about the ramifications of this legislation.

The STC legislation is not politically astute and is unlikely to pass. Groups like the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and The Wilderness Society, among others, all of whom would oppose bikes in wilderness areas, are much better funded than IMBA and have millions of members compared to IMBA’s 35,000. While the number of riders has increased, unfortunately we’re still unable to mount advocacy campaigns like other actors in the outdoor recreation and conservation communities.

IMBA and its chapters have helped dramatically increase miles of trails available for mountain biking in the United States by working in tandem with other outdoor user groups. This legislation would risk ruining those relationships that have taken decades to form.

IMBA supports mountain bike access in some wilderness areas but needs to save its political capital for the right moment.

IMBA supports alternative legislation like the Recreation Not Red Tape Act that will ease roadblocks to riding and other outdoor recreation opportunities in federally managed lands.

We have read your latest blog posting and find that it still fails to articulate a rationale for your position that will resonate with our members, or that is as clear of any of the possible rationales above.

MORE has remained supportive of IMBA during its time of transition, from the original chapter program through its revised program today. We have often justified remaining a chapter with our members because we wholeheartedly believe that it’s important for mountain bikers to have a united front at the national level. That said, when IMBA makes government relations and communications mistakes of this scale, it negatively impacts our organization by driving members away. Going forward, please include the leadership of IMBA chapters in the development of major policy positions, and provide clear, concise, and convincing speaking points to chapter leaders on the ground. We do not expect to manage every policy position, but we do want to be certain that IMBA’s positions are in the interest of our members and/or won’t drive our members away. We can transform the anger and confusion we see around the Wilderness issue into an activation opportunity for our network of supporters and rally behind IMBA’s position if we are all equipped to do so. Our request is that you consider the consequences of your government relations and communications strategies in ongoing and future decisions regarding access, and use the grassroots network we have all built together on issues that impact mountain biking nationwide.

Sincerely,

Ernest Rodriguez
For MORE Board of Directors

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