The Forest Service is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.
Nationwide, the Forest Service will select 9 to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance has contributed to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.
The agency manages the National Forest System which features a world-class trail system with over 157,000 miles of trails that provide world-class opportunities for year-round motorized and non-motorized trail use of all types, enjoyed by millions of users each year. Across the nation, thousands of volunteers and partner groups contribute hundreds of thousands of hours in maintenance and repair on National Forest System trails.
Forest Service Regions have until April 15th to submit at least three regional proposals to National Headquarters. Those proposals will be weighed against proposal submitted by other Forest Service regions.
The trail maintenance effort is outlined in the National Forest System Sustainable Trails Act of 2016 and aims to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by the end of 2018. The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act can be viewed at https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ245/PLAW-114publ245.pdf
The selected areas will be part of the initial focus with known trail maintenance needs that include areas near urban and remote areas, such as wilderness, are of varying sizes and trail lengths, are motorized and non-motorized, and those that incorporate a varied combination of partner and volunteer approaches and solutions.
The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail - the largest trail system in the nation - providing motorized and non-motorized trail access across 154 national forests and grasslands. These Forest Service trails are well-loved and highly used with more than 84 million trail visits annually, helping to support mostly rural economies.
The Forest Service receives widespread support from tens of thousands of volunteers and partners each year who, in 2015, contributed nearly 1.4 million hours - a value of about $31.6 million - in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.
However, limited funding compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations, has resulted in less than 25 percent of Forest Service trails meeting all of the agency's standards for safety, quality recreation and economic and environmental sustainability. The remaining trails meet standard to varying degrees.
To provide ideas and suggestions on potential priority areas and approaches for incorporating increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers, contact your local Forest Service Office by April 7, 2017.
To learn more about the Forest Service's national strategy for a sustainable trail system, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/trail-management/strategy/index.shtml.
The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.