The purpose of this website is to address environmental concerns in relation to the development of mountain bike trails in Australia’s natural areas

undefinedAustralia’s biodiversity (the variety of living things) is in serious decline, and human pressures increasingly affect our natural areas. There is growing community concern that escalating tourism-related developments, encouraged by all levels of government, are accelerating these detrimental impacts on natural areas and their ecosystems. There is also an increasing body of scientific literature addressing this topic.

One of these tourism-related developments is the construction of mountain bike trails, particularly the tendency to build them in relatively undisturbed natural and sometimes protected, areas.

Some examples of the detrimental impacts from mountain biking and trail construction are:

  • Cumulative impacts on ecosystems are occurring due to the sheer scale of mountain bike trails. One trail construction can be hundreds of kilometres long. These continue to be built throughout Australia, often in extremely ‘ecologically sensitive’ areas such as;
  • Steep gullies, that play a vital role as ‘refugia’ for plants and animals and fire protection, yet they are popular for mountain biking adventures and are often damaged and disturbed
  • Edge Effects can affect species when trail construction causes changes in the vegetation structure at the edges of their habitat. Edge effects also encourage weeds and can spread serious environmental threats such as Phytophthora (Phytophthora cinnamomi), which can cause permanent damage to ecosystems and landscapes
  • Disturbance from machinery during construction, maintenance and biking on trails can detrimentally affect threatened species such as Powerful Owls, Wedge-tailed eagles and Koalas as well as small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates that would be less able to avoid the rapid approach of mountain bikers
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation can lead to ‘niche reductions’ for plant and animal species. They lose their ‘homes’ and thus, ecosystems decline
  • In summary, this websites aims to add another dimension to the plethora of information available regarding tourism-related mountain biking developments.

It provides information regarding scientific reports on these impacts as well as media articles and grey literature. While we focus on environmental impacts, the social and economic costs to communities from mountain biking developments should not be ignored and information regarding those aspects is supplied.

We hope it will engender more environmental, social and economic consideration by decision-makers, land managers and recreational users of natural areas concerning the development of mountain biking trails and their associated infrastructures.

Latest news

April 1, 2020
Lawsuit Launched to Save Endangered Southern Nevada Charleston Blue Butterfly Faces Extinction From Ski Resort Expansion .The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice today of its intent to sue the Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly from a proposed expansion of the Lee Canyon Ski Area, located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area of southern Nevada.The expansion would open this ski area to increased summer recreation when the butterflies are active. It would include the construction and operation of a crisscrossing network of mountain-bike trails and a so-called “mountain coaster” in the heart of the species’ protected critical habitat.The Mount Charleston blue butterfly, which was listed as endangered in 2013, has precariously low population numbers. Fewer than 100 individuals have been observed during surveys in the past five years.“Lee Canyon’s plans to let mountain bikes bomb downhill through the sensitive habitat of this pretty little blue butterfly could be the nail in the coffin for this species,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “This is just another example of the Trump administration’s systematic dismantling of laws meant to protect our environment, and we’re not going to stand for it. We stand with the butterfly.”Because the blue butterfly is protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service must ensure federal actions don’t jeopardize its existence or cause harm to its critical habitat. But in its formal evaluation of the project, the Service arbitrarily disregarded most of the butterfly’s critical habitat as “not suitable” for the butterfly, thus allowing for large-scale disturbance of its most sensitive habitats.The Spring Mountains are one of North America’s great biodiversity hot spots, harboring dozens of plants and animals that live nowhere else on the planet. This butterfly relies on a suite of rare wildflowers for breeding and food, making it very sensitive to disturbances like those that could accompany downhill mountain-biking. The ski area currently harbors the most significant remaining population of the species, at least partially due to the lack of disturbance during the butterfly’s summer flight months. “The Mount Charleston blue butterfly faces imminent danger of extinction if Lee Canyon’s plan to turn its protected critical habitat into an a downhill-sports amusement park comes to pass,” said Donnelly. “We’re taking action to stop the Trump administration’s reckless disregard for the Endangered Species Act, which is meant to save unique creatures like this butterfly.”
Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly (Plebejus shasta). Photo courtesy of USFWS.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.