D.C. Update: House Passes Bill to Increase Volunteer Maintenance on Forest Trails
The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act could increase volunteerism to maintain 157,000 miles of trails across the nation.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to increase volunteer driven maintenance on trails in our National Forests.
The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (HR 845) would give the Department of Agriculture two years to come up with a strategy to increase volunteerism and other innovative solutions to maintain more than 157,000 miles of trails across the nation.
The bill has been praised by hikers, equestrians, motorized users and other recreation enthusiasts as a much-needed step toward comprehensive stewardship of trails. The goal of the legislation is to increase volunteers on Forest Service trails by 100 percent in 5 years. The Secretary of Agriculture would also select between nine and 15 priority areas for trail maintenance and improvements.
Other benefits of the bill include:
- Address barriers to volunteerism on public lands;
- Assess opportunities to use fire crews to repair trails;
- Prioritize partnerships in areas where maintenance backlogs are jeopardizing access to National Forest lands; and
- Establishes a pilot program to offset fees for outdoor guide permits.
A report from the Government Accountability Office demonstrated this need in 2013, stating that the Forest Service is currently able to maintain just a quarter of its trails to the agency's standards. The report also found that almost two-thirds of trails receive no maintenance.
"Our region is home to some of the most beautiful recreational areas in the country, including the Alpine Lake Wilderness and Mt. Rainier National Park. It is important these areas are cared for and maintained so we can continue enjoying the many natural treasures the Pacific Northwest has to offer," Representative Dave Reichert (WA-8) told his Facebook followers in September. "I am proud my House colleagues also understand the importance of trail maintenance and passed a bill I cosponsored, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to send this bill to the President’s desk so we can keep our trails open and accessible to everyone."
Washington Representatives Suzan DelBene, Dave Reichert and Dan Newhouse co-sponsored the bill.
The bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration. Join WTA's Trail Action Network to receive updates on this and other issues impacting trails in your backyard.