The National Park Service decided last month to allow electric bicycles in national park boundaries, and administrators at Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier and the National Elk Refuge are following suit.

In a joint news release, the parks announced Thursday the motorized bikes are now allowed anywhere traditional bikes are allowed, meaning on park roads and hardened trails. They’re prohibited in designated wilderness and oversnow roads in winter.

E-bikes are defined as having small motors and usable pedals. They top out at about 28 mph.

On Aug. 30, the park service announced it had created a new policy to allow e-bikes in its parks to expand “recreational opportunity and accessibility.” It followed an order from the U.S. Department of Interior to make clear and consistent policies regarding the bikes.

P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the park service, said in a news release that national parks should be responsive to interest in new technologies like e-bikes.

“They make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience, especially at high altitudes or in hilly or strenuous terrain,” Smith said.

Not everyone is on board with the policy change.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sent out a statement Monday saying the policy violated federal law, and that it would pursue legal action against any park that implemented it. The organization argues that the park service did not use the proper channels to make the policy change and that it advised parks to evade mandatory environmental review.

The National Parks Conservation Association agrees. Stephanie Adams, associate director, said there needs to be more analysis done before the policy is put in place.

“At this point in the process, the big concern we have is that this big regulatory change was made without public input,” Adams said.

Yellowstone National Park spokesperson Linda Veress said in an email that the park will manage the e-bikes the same as normal bikes. She declined to comment on the statement from PEER and directed questions to the National Park Service.

Jeremy Barnum, a spokesperson for the park service, said administrators will use a 30-day implementation period to determine best practices for e-bike use. He said the service will take public comment, but could not provide specifics on how or when that will happen. He did not comment on the PEER statement.

{span}Shaylee Ragar can be reached at {/span}{a class=”linkified”}{/a}{span} or at 406-582-2607. Follow her on Twitter @shay_ragar.{/span}

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