Forest Service turns to volunteers for trail repair

The U.S. Forest Service hopes to double the workload of its volunteer helpers as it attacks a backlog of trail maintenance largely in Montana.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex’s 3,200 miles of trail arrived No. 1 on a Forest Service priority list for trail work. So did the Continental Divide Scenic Trail; its largest segment passes through Montana. And the Central Idaho Wilderness Complex listing includes a chunk of the Bitterroot National Forest slopping across the Montana-Idaho border.

But no money was attached to any of these priority areas. Instead, the Forest Service is following the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which commands the agency “to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100 percent” within five years of enactment.

“The fundamental problem is the Forest Service is underfunded,” said Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation Director Carol Treadwell. “They’re probably frustrated too by an act passed by Congress outside of their advice, and now they need to implement it when what they need is funding to fill the gaps. Instead they get mandate from Congress to find more volunteers out there.”

BMWF does exactly that, providing volunteers for about 40 backcountry repair projects a year for the past 20 years.

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Ed. note: the same is true of national forests all across the country. If you value your favorite hiking trails on national forest public lands, look for your nearest “Friends” group and volunteer to help out. It is very rewarding.


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