Report: 3 of 4 U.S. Forest Service trails don’t meet standards

New federal reporting says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit.

Volunteer groups like the Backcountry Horsemen of America and The Wilderness Society have stepped into that gap, but they worry the backlog will drive folks out of the woods.

“We found problems with trail maintenance was undermining support for wilderness and public land in general,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns for The Wilderness Society. “They go there and find trails aren’t maintained, and they can’t access places they want to get to. That’s not what people expect when they go visit public lands. We need to get a handle on this problem and figure out some solutions. If we don’t, we’re in danger of losing the public.”

Those two groups petitioned members of Congress to look into the matter, since the last similar study was done in 1989. U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Jim Moran, D-Va., officially requested the study.

“With the important exception of maintaining forest health to combat wildfires and insect kill, there is no other activity in the Forest Service’s portfolio that is more important than ensuring the public’s access to our forests and wilderness areas,” Lummis said in a statement, where she also described the trails maintenance program as “held together by Band-Aids and bailing wire.”

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