Bloomberg Law
Oct. 24, 2019, 9:51 PM

E-Bikes in Tahoe National Forest Draw Equestrian Group’s Ire

Porter Wells
Porter Wells

Equestrian groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over its recent decision to allow electric bikes on 132 miles of non-motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest.

The agency failed to carry out an environmental impact statement and to provide a public notice and comment period as required by law before inviting Class 1 e-bikes onto nature trails also used by hikers on foot and trail riders, the Back Country Horsemen of America told the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Class 1 e-bikes have pedal-assist motors, which means the rider’s own pedaling triggers the motor rather than a separate throttle. The bikes can achieve speeds of 20 miles per hour, the equestrian group says.

The group says it’s worried about surprise encounters with the fast-moving bikes and about the environmental wear and tear their use will have on trails maintained for non-motorized recreation.

The e-bike decision is also an inadequately explained reversal of a prior agency position that the bikes are self-propelled motor vehicles and therefore not permitted on non-motorized trails, the Oct. 23 lawsuit alleges.

The Forest Service’s own Travel Management Rule requires it to provide a notice and comment period on proposed revisions to vehicle classifications with regard to national park management, it says.

Cause of action: National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedure Act.

Requested relief: Declare that the decision to allow e-bikes on Tahoe National Forest’s non-motorized trails was unlawfully made; set aside the decision; order the Forest Service to close non-motorized trails to e-bikes; order the Forest Service to remove an online page inviting e-bike riders onto non-motorized trails; costs and fees; and other relief the court deems just and equitable.

Response: The Forest Service declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Attorneys: The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Western Environmental Law Center represent the Back Country Horsemen.

The case is Back Country Horsemen of Am. v. U.S. Forest Servs., E.D. Cal., No. 19-cv-2149, complaint filed 10/23/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at; Steven Patrick at