An Interview with Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker is an attorney and an experienced mountain bike rider who has worked to preserve trails for mountain bikers. This interview was conducted in the summer of 2010.
Bruce Reichert: As a mountain biker, what do you like about the White Clouds?
BR: What's your take on CIEDRA, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act?
My own personal view is mountain biking is a compatible activity with wilderness. And the main problem really isn't CIEDRA itself. The main problem is the prohibition – the general prohibition -- against mountain biking in protected wilderness areas like that.
Mountain biking is silent, it is human powered, and from a strictly environmental perspective, we're very respectful of trails. We don't get out there and attempt to do damage. We're not 2,000 pound horses with metal shoes on.
We're riding 26 - 27 pound bikes with soft rubber tires, and it brings people from all over the west, all over Idaho, to come ride in that area. I look at it from an economic development standpoint. There are studies after studies that show that mountain bike trails and mountain bikers create a positive economic impact for rural communities, especially places like Stanley. It is not something we should ignore, and it is certainly not something we should try to get rid of in places like Stanley.
BR: You are an attorney. You've probably had some passing familiarity with the Wilderness Act and what it would take to change it. What are your thoughts?
I think the values of mountain bikers and what mountain biking is all about furthers the interest of preservation. We're certainly not out there to damage the trails. The vast majority of mountain bikers I know are very ardent environmentalists, and I think would get behind an effort to see mountain biking opened up in wilderness. And I don't think the wilderness advocates are against that. I think they are like everybody else; they just don't know what to do with us. We get looped in with the motorized group, but at the same time we have so many more commonalities with the hikers and the backpackers than we do with the motorized groups.
BR: But not all mountain bikers are created equal. Some can really go places that no one would have imagined even a few years ago.
And so trying to get all mountain bikers on the same page sometimes is really difficult. You have organizations like the International Mountain Biking Association. They do represent a broad swath of the mountain biking community. I think they are the key group here who can really speak for the broader mountain biking community as a whole.
There really isn't one central group that can speak for mountain bikers in Idaho. You have all these separate little groups throughout the state, but there is no one unified voice for mountain bikers in Idaho. I'd love to see there be some sort of mountain bike trail association that can speak for all of us.
BR: Do you feel any sympathy for someone like Congressman Simpson who is trying to put a wilderness proposal together that everyone can buy into?
They say the most successful legal settlement is where nobody is happy. And maybe that is the answer here, is we're all going to have to give up a little bit. But man, I personally would hate to lose some of those trails, and it would be nice to see something written into the Act to preserve a corridor for just mountain bikes. If they can do that for the motorized group, why not preserve for just mountain bikes? I think they can write that into the Act. I'm not absolutely sure, but that is something I would love to see preserved in there. Just open it up to a couple of trails for just mountain bikers.
Like I said, the brass ring is getting mountain bikes out of that mechanized definition, and man, if I could work on that and get paid for it, that would really be nirvana for me!