Forest Service invites public to help identify priority trail maintenance work

As part of an effort to increase the pace of trail maintenance, The U.S. Forest Service is inviting the public to help identify trails most in need of restoration.

Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributes to reduced access, harm to natural resources or trail users, or the potential of increased future maintenance costs. Trails can be near urban or remote areas, of varying sizes and lengths, and motorized or non-motorized.

To provide suggestions on priority areas, along with approaches for incorporating increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers, fill out the survey at tinyurl.com/mjhw3c6 by April 7.

The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail across 154 national forests and grasslands. It estimates that its trail network gets than 84 million visits each year, which helps support rural economies.

Tens of thousands of volunteers and partners help maintain these trails. In 2015, the Forest Service estimates they contributed nearly 1.4 million hours – a value of about $31.6 million – in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.

Nevertheless, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 aims to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100 percent at the end of 2021.

This is necessary because 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.

In the Rocky Mountain Region, there are more than 19,500 miles of trails. Last year, the Forest Service said nearly 13,000 volunteers and partner groups contributed roughly 385,000 hours to maintenance and repair of those trails.

“Connecting and working with forest visitors, volunteers and partners is an integral part of forest and grassland stewardship,” said Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Brian Ferebee. “Public feedback will determine where volunteers, partners and other innovative programs could be used to accomplish focused trail work, increase trail access, and provide a safer and enjoyable trails experience.”