Congress passes bill to improve trail maintenance and preservation

Congress sent a bill to President Obama that would improve access to America’s National Forests through better trail maintenance and preservation.

The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act would make better use of existing resources within the Forest Service to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in maintaining the usability and sustainability of the National Forest’s trail system.

The Forest Service currently maintains only one-quarter of the 158,000 miles of National Forest trails that offer hiking, horseback riding, hunting, mountain bicycling, motorized vehicles, and other outdoor activities. The act would expand the number of trails that could be maintained by requiring a national strategy to maximize the use of volunteers and partners while addressing liability concerns that restrict outside groups and individuals working on the trails.

The bill also directs a study on utilizing fire crews for maintenance work during off-seasons and a study on permits for outfitters and guides to offset some fees through work on trail maintenance.

From hikers to bikers, outdoor enthusiasts across the country utilize 158,000 miles of National Forest System trails every day for exercise, relaxation, and exploration. Though public use remains high, close to two-thirds of these trails don’t receive any maintenance whatsoever because our Forest Service simply lacks the resources to keep up.

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