E-bikes in national parks challenged



WASHINGTON, D.C. — Acadia National Park visitors Phyllis Koenig and David Perel have joined a lawsuit against the National Park Service and Department of the Interior for allowing “e-bike use throughout the National Park System.”

The legal complaint was filed last week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, together with four other organizations and three individuals directly impacted by the new order.

According to court documents, Koenig and Perel, a married couple from New Brunswick, N.J., have vacationed in Acadia for 25 years.

Bicycling is one of their main activities in the park, according to the complaint, and they have concerns about safety and “environmental impacts, such as noise and habitat damage” with the introduction of e-bikes to the carriage road network.

Other National Park Service sites mentioned by name in the lawsuit are Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods National Monument.

The lawsuit, however, is not filed against the individual National Parks named in the text; it is against the National Park Service overall, as well as the Department of the Interior and three individuals in their official capacities: former acting NPS Director P. Daniel Smith, Deputy NPS Director David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

Smith was appointed in 2018 by then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who the plaintiffs claim lacked the authority to name an acting Director, because only the President has that authority.

When Smith resigned in Sept. 2019, new Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt replaced him with Vela, assigning him the title of Deputy Director. According to Bernhardt, this allowed him to act “in the authority of the Director.”

The NPS Organic Act requires Senate confirmation of the NPS Director position, and puts limits on the length of “temporary” unconfirmed positions.

Thus according to the complaint, Smith and Vela did not have the authority to impose the new rule allowing e-bikes in national parks “because they purported to be ‘exercising the authority of the director,’ despite neither having been confirmed as the NPS Directory by the United States Senate nor appointed by President Trump as the ‘acting’ NPS Director.”

The complaint also argues that the rule allowing e-bikes was passed without an environmental impact study, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or input from an advisory committee, as required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Rather, court documents state, the decision was made based on input from “private industry representatives who promoted the e-bike policies” in violation of FACA.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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