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E-bikes and forests: not always a good mix

Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

E-bikes are seeing a surge in popularity, but the Forest Service wants people to be aware that there are some areas of the forest where they are prohibited.

Forest Service officials say more people are taking their E bikes out to the woods to ride. And now that hunting season is starting, the bikes are being used to get into some back-country areas because they have some real benefits.

“Number one, they're quiet. And so that's an aspect of big game hunting, right?. It's the silence or being able to creep up on game. And then it's also about being able to get back into an area that they can't drive a truck into but they could get in on an E bike. That's the thing people like and it also allows them to pack their animal out," said Patrick Lair, a spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

Lair says there are plenty of areas to ride those machines. There are 4,000 miles of roads and 1,500 miles of trails in the Panhandle National Forest where motorized vehicles are allowed.

But he stresses e-bikes are considered to be in a different class than regular bicycles or mountain bikes.

“When you put the electric assist motor on an E bike, then, according to the USDA Forest Service, that is now a motor vehicle, and must follow all the rules motor vehicles have to follow," Lair said.

He says there are 4,000 miles of trails in the Panhandle National Forest where motorized vehicles are prohibited. He says anyone violating those rules could be cited and fined.

Lair recommends contacting your local ranger district office, which has maps that designate where the restricted trails are located.

Online maps are also available by downloading the Avenza map app, which are geo-referenced PDF maps that can be used even when not connected to the internet.