Groups Urge Interior to Do Its Homework on E-bikes

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Thursday, August 3, 2023
Peter Jenkins (202) 265-4189

Groups Urge Interior to Do Its Homework on E-bikes

Better Impact Assessment Needed Before Unleashing E-bikes Across National Park System


Washington, DC —The Department of the Interior and its National Park Service have done a poor job of recognizing the consequences of widespread motorized electric bike (e-bike) usage across their lands and devising ways to avoid needless conflicts, according to a nationwide network of nine major conservation and park user groups led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  The groups are urging them to incorporate concerns lodged in public comments on a recent programmatic environmental assessment on the topic that the Park Service issued to cover the National Park System. 

The joint letter charges that the Park Service’s programmatic assessment released in June “was clearly flawed by relying on methodological errors, biased assumptions, a skimpy literature review, and inadequate analysis of user conflicts, enforcement challenges, maintenance costs, and numerous other impacts associated with e-bikes.”  It called on the agency to fully consider the critical public comments on the draft document and then issue “a revised, improved, final” product. 

The Park Service produced this programmatic assessment under federal court order after a successful lawsuit brought by PEER and allied groups.   

“It was extremely disappointing to see the shallow and perfunctory analysis that it took the Park Service two and one-half years to produce,” remarked PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, who led the litigation. “This document fails to provide meaningful guidance to park superintendents who are now supposed to fashion individualized approaches to e-bike access in their parks.” 

The PEER suit was filed in 2019 after then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt issued an order allowing e-bikes on all trails where human-powered bicycles are allowed.  The next day, “acting” Park Service Director Danny Smith issued a directive extending Bernhardt’s order throughout the National Park System. In reaction to the PEER suit, the Park Service ultimately rescinded Smith’s directive and issued a new policy allowing park superintendents to consider allowing e-bikes where appropriate.   

However, the Interior Department did not rescind Bernhardt’s Secretarial Order.  The groups ask Secretary Deb Haaland to finish the job by repealing Bernhardt’s order because it “has no legal effect due to its inconsistency with the more recent regulation” while its retention is confusing and “continuing to cause mischief in local plans.” 

“Secretarial Orders that remain on the books are supposed to be authoritative, not relics of dead policies,” added Jenkins, noting that the Biden Administration has already rescinded at least five pre-existing Interior Secretarial Orders. “Given the shifting nature of Interior’s e-bike stance, the Secretary should update and clarify the policy once and for all.”  

Joining PEER on the letter are: American Hiking Society, Back Country Horsemen of America, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Marin Conservation League, National Parks Conservation Association, Save Our Seashores, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Wilderness Watch. 


Read the groups’ letter to Secretary Haaland and NPS Director Sams

See detailed critique of Park Service’s Programmatic Assessment

Phone: 202-265-7337

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