What is going on with IMBA, the STC, and Wilderness? Hard Questions, Answered

When the news broke that IMBA had testified against a proposed bill, HR 1349, that would remove the blanket ban on mountain bikes in Wilderness areas, the vocal reaction of mountain bikers on social media was swift and fierce. While IMBA didn’t immediately share that testimony on their own Facebook page, many riders heard about it via other sources, including Singletracks. The comments section on a simultaneously-timed announcement of the recent IMBA Epic trail designations turned into a train wreck of negativity.
“Not going to be very many, or any, ‘Epic’ rides left if IMBA continues to support the blocking of human powered bicycling on public lands,” said Aaron Edwards in the #1 upvoted comment, with 76 reactions.
“Imagine how hikers would feel if you supported blocking their access to the mountains? That’s what you are doing in our eyes IMBA. Either have a major change of heart, or simply cease to exist. We are not asking to ride bikes on all of the trails in the wilderness. Just some, maybe just a few. How is ‘none of them’ the stance you support?
“Wilderness mountain biking is wildly compatible with other user groups and accepted throughout much of Europe, Central America, New Zealand, and our cousins to the North, Canada. Time to not fear standing up for something that matters IMBA!”
In response to the outcry, Dave Wiens, the Executive Director of IMBA, released a lengthy statement detailing IMBA’s approach to Wilderness. While some riders appreciated the response and the approach, again, all of the top-rated comments on IMBA’s Facebook page in response to Wiens’s statement took a negative turn.
“‘IMBA’s mission is to create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes. The word ‘protect’ guided and motivated us and made it imperative that IMBA not be silent on this bill,'” Brad Shelton quoted from Wiens’s statement.
“See how it says ‘protect great places to ride’? You didn’t vote to protect great places to ride, because you can’t ride there.
“Between this and the eMTBs you have completely lost your way,” Shelton concluded, in a comment that received 84 upvotes.
But as I’ve attempted to digest IMBA’s initial testimony and their subsequent statements, some issues still weren’t clear to me. Why did they testify at all? What does IMBA have to gain from this testimony? So, I reached out to IMBA in an attempt to clear up the confusion.