Dear ABT Editor:
“Trail-Building: Habitat Destruction by a Different Name”
Scientists are generally honest in what they
say, but not in what they choose to study. It’s
obvious that trail-building destroys habitat. So
why has so little been written about this?
Despite a diligent search in one of the world’s
best academic libraries, I couldn’t find a single
book or article on the harm done by trail-building.
I notice that whenever I see a picture of a
trail, I think, “Oh, a trail. So what?” It takes an
effort of will to think about the wildlife habitat
that was destroyed to build the trail. And the
habitat destruction isn’t restricted to the trail
As Ed Grumbine pointed out in his book
Ghost Bears, a grizzly can hear a human from a
mile away and smell one from five miles away.
And grizzlies are probably not unique in that.
In other words, animals within five miles of a
trail are inhibited from full use of their habitat.
That is habitat destruction! If there were no
trails, we would be confronted by our own
destructiveness every time we entered a park.
It is only because the habitat has already been
destroyed for us, that we can pretend that we
are doing no harm.
By far the greatest threat to wildlife habitat
in so-called “protected” areas would appear to
be mountain biking. Motorized vehicles are
generally not allowed in natural areas. The
most destructive use of trails is mountain
biking. Knobby tires are perfectly designed to
rip up the soil. Mountain bikers, with rare hon-
esty, call their riding “shredding.” They also
have a much greater range than hikers, and
probably also equestrians. They also frequently
ride illegally where bicycles are not allowed.
For more information on the harm done
by trail-building, particularly the drive to build
more trails for mountain biking, my paper is
available at https://mjvande.info/scb9.htm. Or
feel free to contact me directly.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER LETTERS TO THE EDITOR